Map of the day

Love this from Wonkblog:

The counties shaded blue are the 462 least densely populated counties of the nation. None of them have a population density greater than 7.4 people per square mile. In 65 of these counties, the density is less than one person per square mile.

The problem with Hillary

Just because I remain confident that Hillary will win the nomination and I prefer her pragmatic, incremental approach to our nation’s problems over Bernie, does not mean that I love everything about her.  I get a lot of what bugs people about Hillary.  Much of it bugs me.  Hillary’s absurd attacks on Bernie’s single-payer plan being a case point.  Now, Bernie’s plan is simply a non-starter (as I’ve otherwise mentioned) given where our system currently is, but that’s not how Hillary attacks it.  Rather her attacks were disingenuous in ways she surely knows are not true.  Ezra really smacks her down for it:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has spent the past few days indulging its worst instincts. It blundered into a dumb attack on Bernie Sanders, but rather than back down it raised the stakes. The result has been a reminder, to liberals, of what they like about Sanders and mistrust about Clinton. But it’s also been a missed opportunity for Clinton to make the case to Democratic primary voters that she should have been making all along.

The subject was Sanders’s support for a single-payer health care system. The policy puts Clinton in a bind: It’s popular with liberals but dangerous in a general election. Sanders’s support for it is, to Clinton, everything wrong with his campaign in miniature — it’s an idea that sounds good on the stump but really reveals a preference for ideological symbolism over the hard work of policy change…

Clinton’s view is that anyone who actually cares about insuring the uninsured needs to grapple with the power of the status quo — and Sanders hasn’t come close. He hasn’t even released a real plan, which, quite fairly, drives Clinton nuts. “The devil’s in the details when it comes to health care,” she told Rachel Maddow…

But Clinton doesn’t trust Democratic primary voters to listen to that argument. Pragmatism might win in policymaking, she believes, but inspirational fantasies win primaries. So her campaign has, instead, tried out a series of attacks on Sanders meant to confuse primary voters about where the two candidates actually stand. [emphasis mine]

[Ezra outlines a series of misleading attacks]

Here, the disingenuousness becomes farce. The idea that folding a patchwork of smaller programs into a single universal program represents “dismantling” those programs — much less giving Republicans permission to dismantle those programs — flies in the face of basically every Democratic attempt to expand social insurance ever. The 1994 Clinton health care plan, to name just one example, “dismantled” virtually every existing insurance arrangement in the country in order to create a single, unified structure that could cover more people…

Behind these attacks lurks a deeper problem that bedevils the Clinton campaign: They don’t trust voters to like Clinton the candidate for who she is…

The problem is Clinton doesn’t campaign the way she governs. She often seems scared to tell voters what she really thinks for fear they’ll disagree. Her knowledge of the painful trade-offs of governing can curdle into a paralyzing recognition of all the ways she could be attacked for taking a clear position.

And that’s a shame. Clinton’s best political quality is that she truly understands both the issues and the political institutions that mediate them. Her true, unfiltered opinions on these topics are earned by long experience and almost inhuman amounts of hard work.

Good stuff.  Alas, who Clinton really is, unfortunately, is not just this incredibly smart, pragmatic policy wonk that I love, but also the incredibly calculating politician who would rather deceive than stand behind the courage of her convictions on these matters.  That’s frustrating.  But, regardless of whether I think she’ll win the election or not (which I do, of course), I’m won over by the wonk and just accept the bad stuff as necessary baggage.

[And, just a side note, I think these problems are also revealed in her absurd pledge to not raise taxes on anybody making less than $250K a year.]

Photo of the day

From a Telgraph gallery on a UK sled dog race:

A husky waits for practice with its sledder

Organiser, Mark Squires explains: “If we have ideal condition there will be plenty of snow for teams to pull their driver – called the musher – around the course on a sled. If not, the musher will use a three-wheeled rig that looks a bit like a tricycle without a seat.

Picture: Getty

Hillary’s “problems with women”

Horrible article in the NYT today about how new attention (thanks to Trump) to Bill Clinton’s sexual scandals and Hillary’s role in defending him back in the 90’s is harming Clinton among women voters.  Now, to be fair there’s some useful ground covered here, but the main problem is this:

The conversation, relayed by several people with knowledge of the discussion who would speak about it only anonymously, captures the deeper debate unfolding among liberal-leaning women about how to reconcile Mrs. Clinton’s leadership on women’s issues with her past involvement in her husband’s efforts to fend off accusations of sexual misconduct. [emphasis mine]

Okay, interesting, but here’s thing thing… what’s the evidence for this struggle among liberal leaning women to reconcile this?  Three things– Lena Dunham (who still strongly supports Clinton), a 17-year old feminist blogger, and the fact that Hillary has been sliding among young women voters.

Sorry, but this is a story in search of evidence.  I don’t doubt that there are indeed some older feminists (I’d have to estimate at least 50 and above, for the most part) who actually remember what Hillary did during the 90’s and are troubled by it, but to actually paint a picture, as this article does, of Hillary struggling with support from liberal women over this issue is to create a narrative largely out of whole cloth.

Lena Dunham and a single blogger and anonymous “conversations” are anecdotes. To make assertions that HRC is struggling with women voters (as opposed to all voters), I expect data.  The fact that the best the author can do is cite Hillary’s problems among young women is far from persuasive.  Not only are these the women least likely to have any memory or knowledge of Hillary in the 90’s, young women are, you know, young, and therefore right in Bernie’s sweet spot of support.  Now, show me that Hillary’s support declined especially much among young women relative to young men and maybe we’re onto something.  Even, then, though, I find it highly unlikely it is because of how young women view Hillary’s actions as first lady.

Anyway, part of me feels silly writing this much about a single NYT article, but damnit, the NYT owes us better than this.  And, of course, it is more proof that all media sources– regardless of the bent of the editorial page– are interested in what they consider a good story rather than helping liberal politicians.

Yes, you should have to participate in your college class

Came upon this recent post at Ozy arguing that college classes should not include participation grades and it struck a real nerve with me.  Here’s the gist:

Teachers often grade participation to measure students’ understanding and engagement with the course material. But louder doesn’t always mean smarter. Plus, participation grades — worth more than 20 percent of the final grade in some classes — penalize and even hurt the well-being of quiet students who know the material but might be too flustered to show it. In the end, the same bold voices dominate the conversation even more, further marginalizing soft-spoken students…

Some research finds that kids who speak up tend to do better in school, especially when it comes to exams. Class discussions can also teach students how to ask questions and express opinions and other skills needed to thrive in the professional world — and in general, a Western society that overwhelmingly rewards extroversion…

But participation points can place quiet students at an unfair disadvantage, resulting in grades that don’t reflect their level of engagement, says Brian Little, a psychology professor at Harvard University. They might simply need more time to prepare a verbal response, or fear judgment from their classmates. Or they might come from a culture that values introversion. But there are other ways to evaluate engagement among these students, says Little — he asks his students to submit journal entries and post to online forums…

Likewise, gregarious students are “not necessarily the smartest,” says Keith Campbell, head of the University of Georgia’s psychology department. “They’re the most confident.” In fact, the correlation between personality and intelligence remains cloudy. And by pushing talkative students to contribute even more, participation grades might result in stale discussions that echo the same viewpoints — as quiet students struggle even harder to express themselves.

While it’s impossible to rebuild an entire education system, awareness of why some students don’t participate might make busy instructors pause before dismissing them as unengaged. “There is a norm of social participation to function in our society,” Coplan says. It’s “good for us to be aware that it poses challenges for some individuals.”

Some good points.  And, easy for me to dismiss them, perhaps, given that I am quite the extrovert who was always talking in class, but…  I typically have class participation count for 15% of the grade in the classes I teach and I am going to keep it that way.  Why?  Because I am an introvert-hating, stuck-in-his-ways curmudgeon?  No, because I think broad participation benefits the whole class– the participator, their classmates, and me.  The truth is every student has unique perspective, observations, questions, etc., and all of us benefit from hearing those.  Much more than the same students repeatedly sharing the same perspective.  My classes are going to have student participation– I really cannot imagine it any other way– and as long as students participation is expected, I will hold them accountable for it with a grade.

Now, I recognize that in-class verbal participation comes much easier to some than others.  In fact, on every first day I tell my introverts I empathize because I married one who hated talking in class.  But it is very much a useful skill to teach yourself to do something within your capabilities even if it initially makes you uncomfortable.  And again, as I tell my students, some of them really hate writing; some of them really hate taking tests, but they have to do it anyway.  The way I see it, some of them may really hate speaking in class, but they have to do that anyway.

And, of course, one of the most edifying things for me as an instructor is to see many of these introverts improve dramatically over the semester, or often in future classes, because I have expected it of them.  Oh, and lastly, so long as they show up every day and are clearly mentally engaged (that’s honestly easy to see and I hated the insinuation in the original post that I would mistake lack of verbal participation for lack of mental engagement as well as the contrary that I would mistake talking a lot for engaging with material), they are going to get a decent, just not excellent, participation grade.

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