Good media sources– a visual guide

This is pretty nice.  Also sharing this with my son.  But what happened to CBS?

A decent breakdown of all things real and fake news.

What the Russians really hacked

Had a good conversation with a friend at lunch about this today.  The thing that really gets me about this is that there was really nothing all that damning in the hacks and wikileaks dumps.  Headlines could have been stuff like “DNC favors candidate with long history of support for Democratic party over non-Democratic candidate” or “Intr-staff emails during campaign have mean things to say about other people.”  That’s simply not newsworthy and serves essentially no public purpose.  Throw in that these were stolen documents and it really is hard to make the page A1 case for this stuff that it got.  And, throw in that we reached the point anytime people heard “Hillary” and “emails” in the same sentence they were primed to think malfeasance, you’ve got a bad situation.

So basically, as much as hacking emails the Russians hacked the stupidity of our electorate (i.e., Hillary + emails = bad) plus the “exclusive!” “mean stuff said!” nature of our political press to have the impact here.  Oh, and why they were at it, they were working on House races as well.  And, the key was relying on media that just couldn’t resist:

But there was never anything quite like the 2016 election campaign, when a handful of Democratic House candidates became targets of a Russian influence operation that made thousands of pages of documents stolen by hackers from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington available to Florida reporters and bloggers…

The document dump’s effectiveness was due in part to a de facto alliance that formed between the Russian hackers and political bloggers and newspapers across the United States. The hackers, working under the made-up name of Guccifer 2.0, used social media tools to invite individual reporters to request specific caches of documents, handing them out the way political operatives distribute scoops. It was an arrangement that proved irresistible to many news outlets — and amplified the consequences of the cyberattack. [emphasis mine]

There’s the key, damnit.  Russia could not have had an influence on our elections without the willing, credulous cooperation of the media.  And here’s the big NYT rundown on how Russia pulled this all off (would appreciate a little more on the media angle in this one).

Now, of course, 1st amendment and all, the press had the right to publish this stuff.  But absent any information that actually served a public purpose they did not have to let themselves essentially be duped into being pawns of the Russian government.

Chart of the day

Will Jordan with the polarization on Putin.  I’ve already shown something with this before, but it has even grown since a few months ago.  Pretty amazing to see this embrace of a former-Communist/KGB agent/authoritarian dictator by many on the right all in obeisance to Trump.

If we had any sense as a society

We would so invest more in high-quality pre-school.  The return on investment is just amazing.  All of us benefit when a person who might have been incarcerated, on welfare, etc., ends up being a healthy, productive member of society.  And we know high-quality pre-school can help make that happen.  NPR with an interview with the guru on these matters, James Heckman:

What if the investment is in children, and the return on investment not only makes economic sense but results in richer, fuller, healthier lives for the entire family?

That’s the crux of a new paper out Monday, The Life-Cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program, co-authored by Nobel laureate James Heckman, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the director of the Center for the Economics of Human Development

Your study found enduring positive effects of quality pre-K on a lot of things, including future earnings, health, IQ and crime reduction. Is the bottom line here stronger, fuller, richer lives?

Yes it is, but it’s more than just stronger, richer, fuller lives for the children. It’s also stronger, richer, fuller lives for the mothers of the children. Let me explain why. In America today we have a lot of single-parent families. We have a lot of mothers who are working.

What was the (annual) per-pupil spending while these children were in the program?

Per-year it’s probably about $16,000 to $18,000. It depends on what (year) dollars you use. It’s expensive.

That is pretty high. You’re saying you get what you pay for?

Well, yes, it’s a lot. But what are you getting in return? You’re getting hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Seven to eight hundred thousand dollars back for what is essentially an $80,000 to $85,000 expenditure. Yes, it costs more but we can go back and think: In its time the transcontinental railroad that Abraham Lincoln launched, the Hoover Dam, the transcontinental highway system that Eisenhower launched. These all were very costly, but they also led to enormous social benefits.

These programs have enormous social benefit. They help to solve a lot of social problems. The way public policy is discussed frequently in this country is through silos. People say, “We want to reduce crime. We want to promote health.” We do what is, I think, a very limited kind of notion: looking at one problem at a time and one solution very closely linked to that problem. I would encourage people who see the price tag to also look at the benefit tag. They’re well-documented. [emphasis mine]

Oh, I so love that part.  So much obviously smart policy is utterly hamstrung by these silos or what I call, “the tyranny of separate budgets.”  Big problems we need to approach in a big way– and that means holistically.

I also really like this part at the end when he gets into teaching and parenting:

As you know there’s been a big emphasis on what constitutes high-quality child care centers. What elements are vital to create these great early learning centers?

There’s this enormous body of evidence talking about parent-child interaction. The structure of a successful [center] would be one that encourages those interactions, that fostered those.

Are we talking about empathy?

Well, yes, we’re talking about empathy, and we’re talking about the structure of engagement with the child, and at the core of successful programs is parenting. It’s not so much having a pretty building. There’s a whole mentality out there that says, “We have a textbook notion about what constitutes a good school. The teachers must have a certain level of educational attainment.” There have been a lot of studies, serious studies, that show that many of these so-called guides to what makes a good teacher — in terms of things like number of degrees or number of teacher credits and on and on and on — are really worthless in terms of predicting who’s a good teacher. What is important is finding this empathy, this ability to work with people, the engagement.

By empathy all I really mean is, you work with a child, you stay with a child, a child asks questions, you answer the questions. You don’t discourage the questions and you promote them. At the same time you have a firm line where you say, “Yeah that’s a mistake. You could go do a little better,” and so forth.

We need a national empathy project, Professor Heckman.

Probably could use it across the board and not just in early childhood!

Amen to that.  Good stuff.


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