The scale of the solar system

Thanks to Vox, I discovered this site with some of the coolest images I’ve seen.  A whole series of images by John Brady showing the scale of objects in our solar system.  Here’s two– definitely check them all out.  So, so cool.  Can’t wait to show this to my boys.

Jupiter

North America and Canada is dwarfed by the immensity of Jupiter

Size of Mars

How the United States and Canada would measure up to Mars

 

Teachers on the Common Core

Gallup also took a look at what teachers specifically think about the Common Core.  As it turns out, they are pretty split.  But just to show how damn important partisanship is, Republican teachers (presumably, regardless of classroom experiences) are far more negative than Democratic teachers:

U.S. Public School Teachers' Impressions of the Common Core State Standards -- by Party ID

That’s really pretty amazing to presumably see political ideology trump actual experiences in the classroom.  What I also find quite interesting (and encouraging) is that the teachers most familiar with the Common Core are the most supportive:

U.S. Public School Teachers' Impressions of the Common Core State Standards

Finally, it is also interesting to see the strong support for actual national standards:

Teachers were given an opportunity on the poll to state what they consider to be the most positive aspect of the Common Core, as well as the most negative aspect.

These open-ended responses paint an unambiguous picture of what teachers consider to be the most positive aspect, as 56% of all public school teachers say that sharing the same standards across states is the main advantage. This is followed by 12% saying the Common Core fosters critical thinking, and 10% saying it sets higher standards or is more rigorous.

So, regardless of the actual nature of the standards, teachers seem to feel quite strongly that national standards are very much a good idea.  Alas, the Republican party has made it quite clear it feels differently.  Because, you know, algebra functions so differently depending upon what state you are in.

Photo of the day

Really cool photo from the Chicago Tribune’s twitter feed of the Antares rocket explosion.  And, if you haven’t watched the video yet.

Embedded image permalink

Mid-week quick hits

The quick hits queue is piling up fast and furious this week, so I’m going to do an extra-special bonus early version.

1) How billionaires are becoming political parties unto themselves.

2) Back when I went through my phase of reading classic Sci-Fi I hit A Canticle for Leibowitz.  One of those books you appreciate on an intellectual level far more than on an emotional one.  I really enjoyed this essay about it, though.

3) How a heroic Nigerian doctor was essential in preventing an outbreak in her country.  And she died for her trouble.

4) Really terrific Post story about the front-lines of trying to stop the spread of Ebola in Liberia.

5) Don’t know that I agree with all of this, but interesting piece on Reza Aslan, and the Bill Maher Islam flap.

6) Could non-citizens decide the November election?  Unlikely.

7) Age is a mindset.  And the physical deterioration of your body.  But also a mindset.

8) The link between terrorism and mental illness.

9) Advocating for feudalism among Iowa Republicans.

10) Yes, Walmart.com really did have a “fat girls costumes” section for Halloween.

11) Note to PS professors, when doing field experiments try not to mislead voters and/or break state law.  Though it is a shame this will hurt the ability to do election field experiments which really tell us so much.

12) How Iceland’s history of feminism may lead to a ban on violent and degrading pornography.

13) I’ve started trying to re-learn the Chopin Prelude I recently linked.  It’s hard, but do-able, I think.  That said, I wanted to show Evan what was probably the most difficult piece I ever learned.  I do not think I will be re-learning Chopin’s “Military” Polonaise, Opus 40 anytime soon.

One case of voter fraud is too many

Of all the absurd arguments for voter suppression under the guide of preventing voter fraud, this idea that preventing even a single case of voter fraud is of paramount importance is about the most absurd.  It pretends that we do not live in a world of trade-offs.  E.g., imagine how many crimes could be prevented if we allowed the police to install cameras in every single person’s home.  Of course, that’s a trade-off that we won’t make.  Nor, should we make the trade-off of preventing a tiny amount of actual voter fraud when we know for a fact that it will prevent legitimate voters from having the opportunity.   Wonkblog’s Emily Badger:

Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, makes the argument in Politico this week that voter ID laws hardly cause the harm their critics claim (hat tip to Jonathan Chait, who has written a thorough response to Lowry here). He questions conflicting research on whether these laws depress minority voter turnout. He disputes Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s assessment that Texas’ voter ID law — cleared last weekend by the Supreme Court — is“purposefully discriminatory.”

And he argues that voter ID laws don’t have much impact on people who bother to show up and vote anyway. Few of them actually have their ballots thrown out when it turns out they don’t have the right ID required by law:

According to the GAO, in Kansas in 2012, 1,115,281 ballots were cast. There were 38,865 provisional ballots, and of these, 838 were cast for voter ID reasons.

In Tennessee, 2,480,182 ballots were cast. There were 7,089 provisional ballots and of these, 673 were cast for voter ID reasons.

In both states, about 30 percent of these voter ID-related provisional ballots were ultimately accepted. That means in Kansas and Tennessee, altogether about 1,000 ballots weren’t counted (and perhaps many of them for good reason), out of roughly 3.5 million cast. There you have it ladies and gentlemen, voter suppression! It is of such stuff that Jim Crow was made.

What stands out about this argument is the idea that anydisenfranchisement would be OK, when a central rationale for voter ID laws in the first place is that any voter fraud is not.

Researchers have repeatedly documented that voter fraud — especially of the kind that might be caught by ID laws — is exceptionally rare. The supporters of ID laws don’t always dispute this. But they often say, as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker does here, that the scale of fraudulent voting is irrelevant:

It doesn’t matter if there’s one, 100, or 1,000. Amongst us, who would be that one person who would like to have our vote canceled out by a vote that was cast illegally?

Here is Pat Mullins, the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, on the same topic:

Even one instance of fraud is too many…

If you’re absolutist about elections and feel that a single case of voter fraud averted by ID laws justifies their existence, then it doesn’t add up to also argue that any number of people disenfranchised by the creation of those laws is just the cost of protecting democracy.

Meanwhile, why Republicans are so hung up on rooting out something about as common as two-headed cows, there are lots and lots of real people who are having their right to vote taken away by a modern day poll tax. And if you doubt that, read the story of Texas’ Eric Kennie.

Video of the day

Time lapse of braces at work:

The polarization of Common Core

Gallup has a piece out looking at declining support for Common Core:

U.S. Public School Parents' Overall Impressions of Common Core Standards, 2014 trend

A pretty good increase in negatives in just half a year.  If you are like me, you are screaming, “yeah, but what’s the breakdown by party?!”  Fear not, Gallup provides that, too:

Republican and Republican-Leaning Public School Parents' Impressions of Common Core, 2014 trend

Wow!  The intellectual bankruptcy of the Republican party in a single chart.  The Democratic views didn’t really move all that much (I’m not going to bother given the +/- 6 margin of error).  It’s not as if all these Republican parents experienced bad stuff in their kids education in half a year.  No, they just learned from Fox et al., that Common Core is bad.  I know Common Core is perfect, but if we cannot have a bipartisan consensus behind the idea that consistent high standards, agreed to on a state-by-state basis,  that stress more critical thinking and greater depth of learning is a good thing what hope do we have for the future.  Seriously, stuff like this just depresses me so.  The good news, what little there is, seems to be that plenty of people don’t actually object to the concepts, just “Common Core” because they “know” it’s Obama’s evil doing.  Of course, it remains to be seen how much/whether they try and dumb it down here in NC.

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