There’s evidence, not just “his word”

In an overly “bipartisan,” but otherwise spot-on critique, Slate’s John Dickerson takes Republicans to task for failing to properly “refudiate” the ridiculous Obama is a Muslim idea:

Sunday on Meet the Press, Mitch McConnell was asked about the Pew poll that showed 31 percent of Republicans believe Obama is a Muslim. He said, “The president says he’s a Christian. I take him at his word. I don’t think that’s in dispute.”

If McConnell wasn’t trying to stir the pot, he also wasn’t trying to lower the boil. What you didn’t hear McConnell say was that the whole notion that Obama is a Muslim is ridiculous because by any standard we use to evaluate the religious beliefs of our leaders, President Obama is a Christian. Nor did he go on to say that any politician who tries to benefit from this urban legend—by courting either Islamophobes or conspiracy nuts who think Obama is engaged in some kind of systematic deception—should be ashamed of himself.

Jon Chait explains exactly what is so disingenuous about this formulation:

To say that you “take him at his word” means two things. First of all, it suggests that the president’s word is the only information we have to go on here. Of course, that is absurd. Second, if further suggests that, the evidence being weak or inconclusive, McConnell is taking the high road by accepting Obama’s testimony.

Soft core tennis porn?

Bill Boettcher directed me to this pretty cool video feature of women tennis players hitting the ball in Super Slo Mo.  The accompanying article is about the “power game” in women’s tennis and how the players are more like men now.  The videos are pretty cool, but there is something a little off about them.  The thing is, it’s supposed to be focused on the muscle and power of these female athletes, but it’s got them all with their hair down and make-up on.  There’s little doubt that this sexualizes them in a way that I think is quite inconsistent with the larger message.  Can’t we appreciate the power and skill of these tremendous athletes without mascara?

Chart of the day

I’ve made the point before and I’ll surely make it again.  But as long as people (i.e., Republicans)  keep pretending the stimulus didn’t work, it’s important to point out that it did.  Via Dylan Matthews at Ezra Klein’s blog:

The blue line is the actual unemployment rate, the red is unemployment without the stimulus under the CBO’s lower estimate of the stimulus’ effectiveness, and the yellow is unemployment without the stimulus under the CBO’s higher estimate:


Watch this

Maybe someday WordPress will allow me to embed Daily Show videos.  Until then, do yourself a favor and click through to see this brilliant skewering of Fox news and the “terror Mosque.”

Why good government matters

So you don’t eat eggs filled with Salmonella, of course.  I’m sure you’ll be shocked, shocked to learn that Bush era policies against regulation helped set the stage for the massive egg contamination.  Jon Cohn explains:

The next time you hear a conservative ranting about big government, ask him how he likes his eggs–plain or with a side of salmonella.

The answers are long and complicated, so, for the moment, let me focus on just one element: The new standards for egg production. Based on what several sources, including former FDA officials, tell TNR, the saga of these standards seems like a case study in how conservative politics and conservative politicians have weakened federal regulation, exposing the public to greater health risks

About that kindergarten teacher

First day of school for my kids today.  David’s now a 5th grader, so now I can definitely claim that I am “smarter than a 5th grader” (though he does pretty damn good).  Alex is “repeating” 2nd grade so he can stay in the same great Autism class he’s been in (they run K-2 and 3-5).  Even though he’s nowhere near grade level academically, it does still feel a bit weird that he’s “held back.”

Anyway, on that scholastic note, a few weeks ago, I posted on a really interesting study that shows for the life-long benefits of a good kindergarten teacher that do not show up in better standardized test scores down the road.  Yesterday, Kevin Drum posted excerpts from an interview with one of the authors of the study that tries to explain this paradox.  Sounds pretty good to me:

Why do you think that is?

One explanation for this fadeout and then reemergence of the impact of kindergarten is through non-cognitive channels. […] For a limited subset of the students we have measures of non-cognitive ability in eighth grade. So what that means is measures like, they ask teachers to evaluate whether the students are being disruptive in class, whether the students are putting in a lot of effort, whether they’re motivated and so on. Now, we find persistent effects of your kindergarten class on these non-cognitive measures. There’s no fadeout, or very little fadeout on the non-cognitive stuff.

So one potential explanation of all of the findings together is, a good kindergarten teacher teaches you the material that you’re tested on in kindergarten, and so you do well on kindergarten tests. That same good teacher also imparts non-cognitive skills, like they teach you how to be a disciplined learner, how to put in a lot of effort, how to be patient….It’s quite intuitive that these non-cognitive skills matter when you’re an adult. It helps to get a good job and to do well in general if you’re a disciplined person, if you’re perseverant and so on.

I think part of the lesson in here is that schools should probably focus more on these “non-cognitive” skills.  They, more than how well you know your fractions, are going to mean an awful lot for future success.   Of course, there’s no standardized tests for self-discipline.  (I also wonder how this bodes for David’s future– he’s definitely better on cognitive than non-cognitive skills.  Time will tell).

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