Marathon lies

Paul Ryan lying so egregiously about his marathon time is not some simple mis-statement or mis-remembering, or liberals just obsessing over some triviality, it’s the sign of somebody who thinks they can tell big lies and get away with it (which he’s long been able to do about the budget).

Look, I’ve never run a marathon, but all you have to do is know anybody who runs marathons to know that people don’t forget their times.  Likewise, I’m only the most casual of runners– I’ve run exactly one official race 20 years ago, but I know that a sub 3 hour marathon is awesome.  You don’t just “accidentally” suggest you’ve done this.  Do you remember your SAT or LSAT score?  If not, I guarantee you you don’t mis-remember it by 400 points on your SAT– which is probably the rough equivalent of Paul Ryan on the marathon.  People who scored 1020 don’t forget that they were in the 1000-range and tell people they got 1400 (unless, of course, they are bald-faced liars).

The full transcript of Ryan’s conversation on the matter shows him to just be a braggard and a liar.  If you told someone you got 1400 on the SAT, but you mis-spoke or mis-remembered, as soon as they said “holy smokes” in a tone of awe, you would say, “whoops, I mis-remembered, I meant 1020.”  You wouldn’t say, “well, I used to be really smart.”  Yet, this is basically exactly what Ryan did.

Here’s a thorough deconstruction from Nicholas Thompson:

But in another way it is important: Is the potential Vice President the sort of person who lies congenitally? In that sense it matters.

Here’s the transcript of what Ryan said to Hewitt:

H. H.: Are you still running?
P. R.: Yeah, I hurt a disc in my back, so I don’t run marathons anymore. I just run ten miles or [less].
H. H.: But you did run marathons at some point?
P. R.: Yeah, but I can’t do it anymore, because my back is just not that great.
H. H.: I’ve just gotta ask, what’s your personal best?
P. R.: Under three, high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something.
H. H.: Holy smokes. All right, now you go down to Miami University…
P. R.: I was fast when I was younger, yeah.

What’s striking about the exchange is how he responds to Hewitt’s “Holy smokes.” A four-hour marathon, for a twenty-year-old, is not something that elicits a “holy smokes.” It’s entirely average; in fact, for the race that Ryan ran, it was below average. In the marathon in question, he finished in nineteen hundred and ninetieth place, out of just thirty-two hundred and seventy-seven male runners. (A 2:55 would have had him at a hundred and thirtieth.) But Hewitt’s reaction didn’t set off any alarm. Instead, Ryan could tell that he had just impressed his host, and he reinforced it, saying “I was fast when I was younger, yeah.”

Is it possible that his memory just bollixed up the time? For someone who doesn’t run, the difference between a four-hour marathon and a two-fifty-something may seem inconsequential, and easy to confuse. But for someone who does run seriously, it’s immense. To make an analogy to an activity that Ryan is unquestionably good at, it’s like the difference between doing twenty-five pushups (not bad!) and a hundred (holy smokes!).

Runners—and Ryan says he continues to be one—also just don’t forget race times. They talk about them with their friends; they think about them when running. If they’ve just missed breaking four hours, it probably bothers them a little bit. It probably bothers them particularly if their brothers run faster. People also ask about marathon times often. Note the ease with which Hewitt queried Ryan’s time. The congressman, who talks frequently about fitness, has surely been asked the same question dozens, or hundreds, of times. When did he stop answering “four hours” and start saying “a two hour and fifty-something”?

Short version: Paul Ryan is just a flat-out liar on a personal level (all politicians lie and distort to a degree, though he’s in quite a league of his there, too).

Photo of the day

I’m actually making a daytrip to the beach for the first time ever.  Here’s a photo from my last trip to Topsail– right under the pier at the center of the island.  Who knows, there’s a decent chance I’ll be around here when this post goes up:

It’s not the income, it’s the values

Really great essay on why kids do better with middle/upper income parents.  Hint: it’s not actually the income.  Or where you go to school:

Social scientists have long tried to determine why some children grow up to be successful adults and others don’t. The causes are hard to untangle. High school dropouts tend to attend underperforming public schools and to come from poor families with unmarried, undereducated parents. Ivy League graduates more often attend good K-12 schools and come from well-educated, affluent, two-parent families. Because these characteristics cluster together so frequently, it’s hard to determine which attributes drive success or failure — and which are just along for the ride…

But Duncan and his team found almost no relationship between how students did on the test and whom they sat beside in class, whom they hung out with after school and who lived on their block. The only meaningful link they found was between siblings, and identical twins in particular.

Really, you should read the whole thing, but here’s the key nugget:

 When Susan Mayer at the University of Chicago looked at the relationship between family income and lifetime achievement, she saw that many of the character traits that allow some adults to make a lot of money — a strong work ethic, honesty, reliability, good health — also make them good parents. Mayer wondered whether it is those traits, rather than the money that results from them, that really counts…

In an influential book, “What Money Can’t Buy: Family Income and Children’s Life Chances,” Mayer put her hypothesis to the test. She ran a series of experiments that measured the relationship between family income and a range of life outcomes, such as a child’s likelihood of dropping out of high school or getting pregnant as a teenager. In one study after another, she found that such outcomes weren’t caused by income…

Mayer found that the things that make a difference are relatively inexpensive: the number of books a kid has or how often his family goes to museums. She argues that all the other stuff — summer camps, tutors, trips to Paris — are like upgrades on a Lexus. They’re nice to have but immaterial when it comes to getting from one place to another.

Love that Lexus metaphor.  I am so going to start using that.  I was summarizing the article to Kim, and her response was essentially, “duh… social science of the obvious.”  Sadly, though, not actually all that obvious to far too many people.  I.e., all those people obsessed with what pre-school their kid gets into and how they’re going to afford their elite private school tuition, etc.  Or all those fabulously enriching summer camps, etc.  If you have the money to give your child great experiences, that’s great.  Good for you.  But what is sad is all these people under the very mistaken assumption that these things are needed to help make their child a success.  Just spend some time reading with them, damnit.

On the downside, this further reinforces what I’ve been seeing from a lot of sources that it is the values of poor people rather than the lack of money, that really puts their kids behind the eight ball.  It would be easy if we could just give all poor people enough money.  Changing values is another story.  But, people are making innovative steps here, such as the Harlem Children’s Zone Baby College.  More programs like this, not more direct spending (though nobody should be hungry or homeless in a country of our wealth) are what’s needed to break the cycle.

%d bloggers like this: