Charts of the day

Via Media Matters.  Top chart is what actually ran on Fox News.  Lower chart clearly indicates just how wrong Fox got this:

Now, it’s entirely possible this was an honest mistake.  And if you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.  How do you even get a graphing program to graph 8.6 higher than 8.8 without going in and manually altering it?  It’s not exactly the first time Fox has made a “mistake” like this either.  Of course, it’s possible that they are also making mistakes in Obama’s favor and nobody’s catching it, but somehow I doubt that.

Photo of the Day

Great series at In Focus on Russian democracy protests.  Really hard to pick a favorite:

Participants shout and play musical instruments during an opposition protest in central Moscow, on December 5, 2011. Several thousand people protested in central Moscow on Monday against what they said was a fraudulent parliamentary election, shouting “Revolution!” and calling for an end to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s rule. (Reuters/Anton Golubev) #

In the end, I’m a sucker for people with crazed looks on their faces.

Gingrich: the Republican Intellectual

Nice piece by Paul Waldman on why so many Republicans are so enamored with Newt Gingrich.  It actually has a lot to do with Barack Obama:

Ross Douthat made what I think is animportant observation about the latest not-Mitt, Newt Gingrich:

… But Newt Gingrich’s recent rise in the polls is being sustained, in part, by a right-wing version of exactly the impulse that led Democrats to nominate Kerry: a desperate desire to somehow beat Barack Obama at his own game, and to explode what conservatives consider the great fantasy of the 2008 campaign — the conceit that Obama possessed an unmatched brilliance and an unprecedented eloquence.

If you aren’t tuned in to conservative media—the radio shows, television shows, and websites where the base Republican voter lives—you might not be aware of how powerful this impulse is. Many conservatives are positively obsessed with the idea that contrary to all appearances, Barack Obama is kind of a dolt. ..

So many conservatives have a fantasy that if they nominate their own smart guy, he’ll show the world that they’ve been right all along, that Obama is really a numbskull whom people only believe is smart because the liberal media sing his praises. Gingrich himself is well aware of this, which is why he’s happy to play into it by challenging Obama to a zillion debates and saying, to the laughs and cheers of the crowd, “If he wants to use a teleprompter, that would be fine with me.”

Newt may be, as Paul Krugman recently said, a stupid person’s idea of what a smart person sounds like. But to many Republicans, Newt offers the opportunity to not just defeat Obama but to expose him as a fraud. In truth, he’s probably capable of doing neither. But don’t tell his new supporters that.

It’s actually pretty interesting when you think about how anti-intellectual, anti-elitist, the Republican party can be that so many have embraced Newt for these qualities.  Then again, it seems fair, as John Dickerson has dubbed him, to consider Newt, “America’s greatest Attack Politician.”  I think that’s what they are really after.

Tattoos and sneetches

I’m so not a fan of tattoos.  Though I’m sure many of you reading this sport one or more.  Actually, though, my feeling is that as long as you’re going to have one, it should say something meaningful about who you are.  Whenever I see somebody with the barbed wire around the upper arm of a generic butterfly or even stars all I can think is that what it says is this person doesn’t actually have anything interesting to say with their tattoo– they just want to go along with the crowd.

How nice then, that this article about the increase in tattoo regrets and the lucrative field of tattoo removal makes a nice sneetches analogy:

Part of what made tattooing cool was its outlaw vibe: the Harley biker, the heavy-metal drummer, the ex-con. Part of what makes tattooing uncool is its ubiquity. Newman recently went to Rehoboth Beach, Del., for the weekend, and “every Tom, Dick and Harry had a tattoo, and it looked ridiculous. I started the removal sessions right after that.”

It’s a little like Dr. Seuss’s “The Sneetches.” In the children’s classic, Sylvester McMonkey McBean sells the Sneetches a star machine for $3. Once there are too many star-bellied Sneetches, he tells them about his “star-off” machine, which costs $10.

And, if you are not familiar with it, The Sneetches and Other Stories is, in my humble opinion, easily Dr. Seuss’ best work.


Poverty and education

Interesting piece in the Times yesterday about the problem that so much of educational outcome is determined by poverty (or the lack thereof), but policy-wise, we largely pretend that this is not the case:

NO one seriously disputes the fact that students from disadvantaged households perform less well in school, on average, than their peers from more advantaged backgrounds. But rather than confront this fact of life head-on, our policy makers mistakenly continue to reason that, since they cannot change the backgrounds of students, they should focus on things they can control.

Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that more than 40 percent of the variation in average reading scores and 46 percent of the variation in average math scores across states is associated with variation in child poverty rates…

Yet federal education policy seems blind to all this…

So why do presumably well-intentioned policy makers ignore, or deny, the correlations of family background and student achievement?

Actually, my guess is that well-intentioned policy makers are not blind, but simply politically constrained as to what they can realistically accomplish.  The truth is that education policy is made differently and via a different people and mechanisms than social welfare policy.  That doesn’t make for optimum policy, but it is life in a democracy.  NC State is over-stuffing classes at the same time they are always putting the latest (and totally not necessary) computers in the computer labs.  But these are different budgets, with different sources, made by different people.  A major theme in my criminal justice policy class is that many of the best policies to reduce crime may very well come from areas that have nothing to do with criminal justice.  But people making those other policies have no incentive to think about the criminal justice effects.

Anyway, we damn well ought to take poverty more seriously and the evidence is quite strong that this would have very real and very cost-effective benefits in education and criminal justice.  But the simple fact is education policy is always, by necessity of our democratic institutions, going to be about teachers, schools, etc.  Rather than lamenting the lack of concern for educational outcomes in policy areas that are traditionally focused on education, the authors would be better off suggesting how we can re-think our institutions so that those making anti-poverty policy are rewarded for outcomes in other policy areas.

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