Video of the day

Obama comes in for some mostly-deserved ribbing from Jon Stewart, but more than worth it for the way he totally takes it to Republican hypocrisy on the ACA:

Election night losers

Chris Cilizza put together a list of winners and losers from yesterday’s election.  Reasonable enough to me.  Two “losers” though, I wanted to highlight:

* Independents: Guess what? Independents may not be the be-all, end-all of elections these days. Consider that Cuccinelli won independents by nine points while Mitt Romney won them by 11 in Virginia and by five nationwide. Both candidates lost. What’s the conclusion? That many independents may well be Republicans-in-hiding rather than true fence-sitters. Judging by Tuesday night’s results, moderates are the key swing group, not independents.

As long as we treat “Independents” as if it is some c0herent meaningful category, we’ll get stuff like this.  “Independents” is a highly heterogeneous mix of attitudinal Democrats who prefer to call themselves Independent,  attitudinal Republicans who prefer to call themselves Independent, and largely disengaged voters who have little affiliation for either party.  Clearly, the ratio of this groups within “independent” can vary significantly in any particular election.  It’s not like we don’t have ways to measure partisanship among independents and journalists should stop pretending we don’t.  Save conclusion: the “independents” on election night in Virginia contained more Republican leaners than Democratic leaners.

* White voters: The erosion of the white vote continues. In 2009, white voters made up 78 percent of the Virginia electorate. On Tuesday it was 72 percent. This not only mirrors a national trend of a shrinking white vote but also speaks to Republicans’ broader need to expand their traditional electoral coalition or run the risk of not being able to build a majority across the country.

Yep.  As for “run the risk” at this point I’d say Republican need to prove otherwise in our ever less white electorate.

Where I part ways with Ezra

Ezra Klein so rarely gets it wrong, that I feel the need to point it out when he does.  In a post entitled, “worrying signs for Democrats in Virginia exit polls” he writes:

Today’s narrative is all good for the Democrats: The tea party lost in Virginia. The Republican who hugged President Obama won a landslide in New Jersey. And a liberal won in New York City.

But the exit polls out of Virginia give Republicans some reason to cheer heading into the 2014 midterms. Though Virginia’s GOP chose a candidate who turned off moderate Republicans and motivated Democrats, and though the Democrats had vastly more money, the exit polls still showed the kind of demographic drift that could help Republicans make gains next year…

– In 2012, voters aged 18-29 — the most Democratic-leaning age group — made up 19 percent of Virginia’s electorate. In 2013, they made up 13 percent.

– In 2012, voters over age 65 made up 14 percent of Virginia’s electorate. In 2013, they made up 18 percent.

I guess if you consider entirely predicted and predictable results to be “worrying” Ezra’s got a point, but nobody would suggest that the off-year electorate would be even close to the presidential year electorate in age-based demographics.  Is this an ongoing problem for Democrats?  Of course.  But in no sense is this a “worrying sign” as I don’t think anybody would suggest young voters (certainly not at this point in time) are ever going to turn out in off years the way in presidential years.  There was no reason to expect Democrats could completely overcome this fact in 2013 or that they will in 2014.

Photo of the day

From the Quora “what is the most amazing photograph you have ever taken” page.  Lots of awesome shots.

I took this photo at Opotiki beach, New Zealand.  This dog was obsessed with chasing seagulls, and I was zoomed right in as it run up to a sitting bird, and managed to get a perfectly timed photo just as the bird took off, making it look like a flying dog! (Megan Whitely)

Professor as preacher

Super-short excerpt in the Atlantic from Tyler Cowen’s new book:

At a good teaching school, a professor is expected to run the class and, sometimes, have a small group of students over to his house for dinner. As the former function becomes less important, due to competition from online content, the latter function will predominate. The computer program cannot host a chatty, informal dinner in the same manner. We could think of the forthcoming educational model as professor as impresario. In some important ways, we would be returning to the original model of face-to-face education as practiced in ancient Greek symposia and meetings by the agora.

It will become increasingly apparent how much of current education is driven by human weakness, namely the inability of most students to simply sit down and try to learn something on their own. It’s a common claim that you can’t replace professors with Nobel-quality YouTube lectures, because the professor, and perhaps also the classroom setting, is required to motivate most of the students. Fair enough, but let’s take this seriously. The professor is then a motivator first and foremost. Let’s hire good motivators. Let’s teach our professors how to motivate. Let’s judge them on that basis. Let’s treat professors more like athletics coaches, personal therapists, and preachers, because that is what they will evolve to be.  [emphasis mine]

I must say, that’s a future I can live with.  The reason even the greatest youtube video will not replace a good, caring professor is that relationships matter.  Now, I don’t spend 1/10 the time with my best student that Coach K spends with his players, but I’ve always appreciated that he emphasizes his coaching is about building relationships, and the rest follows.  The most rewarding aspect of college teaching for me is building relationships with my students and seeing those relationships help my students grow as learners, thinkers, and human beings.  And I’d like to think that’s pretty damn good for the students, too.  Now, there is definitely a place for on-line education, but it can simply never replace the original done right.  And that’s because those relationships mean motivated students.

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