Obama the destroyer!

I really, really need to come back to this great Ezra Klein post, but for now, here’s a chart.


The Tea Party people really are nuts and just not living in reality.  More on that later.

10 shutdown facts

Busy today, I’m just going to borrow this Kevin Drum post.  It’s a good one.

Here are the 10 facts worth remembering past all the obfuscation:

1. Democrats have already agreed to fund the government at Republican levels.

2. Despite what you might have heard, there have only been two serious government shutdowns in recent history, and both were the result of Republican ultimatums.

3. Democrats in the Senate have been begging the House to negotiate over the budget for the past six months, but Republicans have refused.

4. That’s because Republicans wanted to wait until they had either a government shutdown or a debt ceiling breach as leverage, something they’ve been very clear about all along.

5. Republicans keep talking about compromise, but they’ve offered nothing in return for agreeing to their demands—except to keep the government intact if they get their way.

6. The public is very strongly opposed to using a government shutdown to stop Obamacare.

7. Contrary to Republican claims, the deficit is not increasing—it peaked in 2009 and has been dropping ever since, declining by $200 billion last year with another $450 billion drop projected this year.

8. A long government shutdown is likely to seriously hurt economic growth, with a monthlong shutdown projected to slash GDP in the fourth quarter by 1 percentage point and reduce employment by over a million jobs.

9. No, Democrats have not used debt ceiling hostage taking in the past to force presidents to accept their political agenda.

10. This whole dispute is about the Republican Party fighting to make sure the working poor don’t have access to affordable health care.

Photo of the day

I love a good “daily life” gallery.  This is a really, really good gallery– worth clicking through.  I did limit myself to two.

A giant yellow duck sits at the Glory Pier in the port of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Sept. 19. Despite the heat, thousands flocked to the port of Kaohsiung, the first leg of the Taiwan tour, to see Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s famous 18 meter (59 foot) yellow duck, a gigantic version of the iconic bathtub toy used by children around the world. (Wally Santana/Associated Press)

Five-year-old Julia Polhans has a determined look on her face after taking top prize as the 2013 Pumpkin Princess winner while chairperson Marissa Hough directs her to the front of the stage at the Morton Pumpkin Festival in Morton, Ill. on Sept. 11. (Ron Johnson/Journal Star, via Associated Press)

I feel like a five-year old capable of that look will go far in life.

Gender and student evaluations

At its new home a the Post, the Monkey Cage is running a really intersting series of posts about gender bias in academia.  I was especially intrigued by this one on gender bias in student evaluations:

Based on accumulating evidence in the psychology literature on implicit associations and role congruity, I propose that bias does exist, but that it is conditional: Students see women as effective teachers in more intimate settings such as seminars, but women teaching larger classes face barriers to receiving high ratings…



As the results in the figure show, the expected interaction effect between instructor gender and course size does obtain.  The substantive size of the effect is larger in the Southern university (although those data cover only three semesters and the results are not statistically significant).  The Western university exhibits a slightly smaller substantive effect, but it is statistically significant and still noteworthy.  SETs are identical in seminar-size courses for men and women.  In a moderately-sized lecture course of 100 students, a gap of about a 10th of a point (on a 5-point scale) emerges.  For the biggest classes of about 400 students, a gap of 0.4 points appears.  For the Southern university, with smaller class sizes, a gap of 0.6 points appears in a 200-student class.

I.e., women seem to be punished as instructors in large classes but not small classes.  Interesting indeed.  To be honest, though, I found some of the next paragraph about amusing:

Do these gaps matter?  I think so.  The negative feedback that women often receive when they offer large lecture courses creates a self-fulfilling cycle, in which women self-select into teaching smaller classes; those responsible for course coordination tend to favor men to teach larger classes; and students lean toward taking large courses that are taught by men.  In the two political science departments I have studied, women do on average teach smaller courses than men.  These patterns, in turn, mean that women are more often passed over for the rewards that accrue to celebrity teachers – teaching awards (which sometimes have substantial cash attached to them), opportunities to teach MOOCs  and even sometimes promotion to leadership roles within departments and universities.

Ohh, how I would love to know what these universities are in which there such great rewards for being a “celebrity teacher.”  Promotion to leadership roles?  Please.  And how many people in the whole country even actually teach the infamous MOOC’s?  Okay, there’s something here, and it should be addressed, but let’s not overdo it.  The colleges that actually value and reward good teaching are, for the most part, small liberal arts colleges that don’t even have the very large sections.  And getting a 4.6 instead of a 4.2 in your Intro class evaluation does not exactly a “rock star” make.   Snarking aside, this is really interesting research and I would love to see a broader look at this issue.

And, okay, I wasn’t going to write this, but I might as well be provocative.  What if men actually are better teachers in large classrooms.  Not because they are innately better teachers, but because men are more socialized to be a “performer” in such an environment.  Or because, due to gender bias, the students show more respect, deference, attention, that allows a man to perform better than an otherwise equally qualified female teacher.  I guess, that’s a clear gender bias, there, but it is different than interpreting an equally high quality teaching performance differently because it was delivered by a man than a woman.  My guess?  It’s all of these to a degree, but that I’m plenty open to being persuaded otherwise.

Both sides

1) I haven’t seen Dan Froomkin’s byline in a long time, but he used to write the best anti GWB columns back in the day.  Nice to see him again.

2) If this is indicative of the new Al Jazeera America, I’ll definitely be back.  Really interesting NYT article on them in August:

“Viewers will see a news channel unlike the others, as our programming proves Al Jazeera America will air fact-based, unbiased and in-depth news,” said Ehab Al Shihabi, the channel’s acting chief executive, on a news conference call last week. He was explicit about what will be different, saying, “There will be less opinion, less yelling and fewer celebrity sightings.”

Mr. Al Shihabi and other Al Jazeera representatives say proprietary research supports their assertions that American viewers want a PBS-like news channel 24 hours a day. Originally the new channel was going to  have an international bent; now its overseersemphasize how much American news it will cover and how many domestic bureaus it will have, which some see as an effort to appease skeptics.

That said, if they don’t think they have a branding problem in their name, they are beyond clueless:

Al Jazeera America officials rebut questions about whether its brand name will hurt its chances on cable by invoking other foreign brands, like Honda, that are now viewed favorably in the United States.

For now, some big sponsors appear to be skittish; Al Jazeera declined to name any major advertisers.

I certainly support what they say their mission is as a news organization, but rightly or wrongly, lots and lots of Americans will never even give them a chance due to the name.

Okay, long preface, here’s Froomkin:

U.S. news reports are largely blaming the government shutdown on the inability of both political parties to come to terms. It is supposedly the result of a “bitterly divided” Congress that “failed to reach agreement” (Washington Post) or “a bitter budget standoff” left unresolved by “rapid-fire back and forth legislative maneuvers” (New York Times). This sort of false equivalence is not just a failure of journalism. It is also a failure of democracy.

When the political leadership of this country is incapable of even keeping the government open, a political course correction is in order. But how can democracy self-correct if the public does not understand where the problem lies? And where will the pressure for change come from if journalists do not hold the responsible parties accountable?

The truth of what happened Monday night, as almost all political reporters know full well, is that “Republicans staged a series of last-ditch efforts to use a once-routine budget procedure to force Democrats to abandon their efforts to extend U.S. health insurance.” (Thank you, Guardian.)

And holding the entire government hostage while demanding the de facto repeal of a president’s signature legislation and not even bothering to negotiate is by any reasonable standard an extreme political act…

But the political media’s aversion to doing anything that might be seen as taking sides — combined with its obsession with process — led them to actively obscure the truth in their coverage of the votes. If you did not already know what this was all about, reading the news would not help you understand.

What makes all this more than a journalistic failure is that the press plays a crucial role in our democracy. We count on the press to help create an informed electorate. And perhaps even more important, we rely on the press to hold the powerful accountable.

That requires calling out political leaders when they transgress or fail to meet commonly agreed-upon standards: when they are corrupt, when they deceive, when they break the rules and refuse to govern. Such exposure is the first consequence. When the transgressions are sufficiently grave, what follows should be continued scrutiny, marginalization, contempt and ridicule…

So, no, the shutdown is not generalized dysfunction or gridlock or stalemate. It is aberrational behavior by a political party that is willing to take extreme and potentially damaging action to get its way. And by not calling it what it is, the political press is enabling it.  [emphasis mine]

Amen.  If only WP, NYT, CNN, and all the usual suspects could figure this out.

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