Friday Links

Building a politics around the idea that a college degree is a precondition for dignified work and social esteem has a corrosive effect on democratic life. It devalues the contributions of those without a diploma, fuels prejudice against less-educated members of society, effectively excludes most working people from elective government and provokes political backlash.

Governing well requires not only technocratic expertise but also civic virtue — an ability to deliberate about the common good and to identify with citizens from all walks of life. But history suggests little correlation between the capacity for political judgment and the ability to win admission to elite universities. The notion that “the best and the brightest” are better at governing than their less-credentialed fellow citizens is a myth born of meritocratic hubris.

"An intensely religious person, she once said that “to understand God’s thoughts we must study statistics, for these are the measure of His purpose.”

For hundreds of years, mandatory isolation has been the go-to strategy for stemming the spread of contagious outbreaks. Despite this, the psychological impacts of such a traumatic and destabilizing event are understudied.

Over the last couple of decades, the humanities have often been defended. Too often. Those defenses have been most useful when they have segued into what has also become a thriving field over the same period, a field with much to tell us still: the history of the humanities.

Gordon Reid, president of Stop & Shop, a grocery chain owned by Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize NV, said he expects price to be a challenge for consumers in the last quarter of the year and into next year. While Mr. Reid hasn’t seen a direct connection to reduced unemployment checks, he said customers have become more price-conscious….

Saturday Links

A line of discussion began in the group after Linda L. posted a screenshot of some caribou crossing the road in Finland - In all these miles of driving and recording by the Street View car, had it ever hit anything? Street View Roadkill? In theory you'd be able to see the entire story: a poor creature running into the road in front of the car and then left on the road out the other side. I had never seen anything, had others?

I had a friend once who claimed it was his special ability to be able to tell exactly when it would start raining. Like he’d look up at the sky and say “in 90 minutes, it will be raining”.  This is not the most useful of talents in the age of meteorology but nevertheless I thought of him as I read this study, appearing in JAMA Internal Medicine, which found that ED visits for respiratory complaints spiked before a thunderstorm.

“Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better.”

Pearson, the world’s learning company, today released the results of its second Global Learner Survey, an annual study capturing the voice of learners worldwide. The findings show learners believe there is little likelihood of ever returning to the pre-COVID world of fully in-person work and learning, with more than 75% saying the pandemic has fundamentally changed education as we know it. While learners come to terms with this new reality, they also are pushing for schools and government to address inequity and rushing to gather the digital skills that will help them adapt to the new economy.

Theirtube is a YouTube filter bubble simulator that provides a look into how videos are recommended on other people’s YouTube. Users can experience how the YouTube home page would look for six different personas. Each persona simulates the viewing environment of real YouTube users who experienced being inside a recommendation bubble through recreating a YouTube account with a similar viewing history. TheirTube shows how YouTube’s recommendations can drastically shape someone’s experience on the platform and, as a result, shape their worldview.

It seems that, with a representative sample, when you throw grit into a regression along with measures of intelligence, grit just explains very little on its own. Grit just doesn’t contribute much at all to educational outcomes and has limited application in job-market success. In fact intelligence “contributes 48–90 times more than grit to educational success.” 1 More study is needed etc etc and I’ll wait for a good metastudy but still, it really isn’t looking good.

But I have been a teacher for 20 years, despite not yet turning 40, and every day it became clearer and clearer that not all students had the same gifts. Yes, of course, some of this variation is environmental. Of course it’s complicated. Of course I’ll never be able to understand all the science. But the realities of teaching and of having grown up in a school system where some students were so similar in so many ways but had such vastly different outcomes just wore me down every day. And then I discovered the behavioral genetics research and its description of how, for example, adopted siblings growing up in the same house and family would go on to totally different academic outcomes. I did not celebrate. I did give in. Because life’s not fair, and neither is school. And pretending like everyone has an equal shot at succeeding in either is the greatest cruelty I know.

Many ingredients combine to give U.S. soft power its strength and reach, but entertainment and culture have always been central to the mix. Film and television have shaped how the world sees the United States—and how it perceives the country’s adversaries. Yet that unique advantage seems to be slipping away. When it comes to some of the great questions of global power politics today, Hollywood has become remarkably timid. On some issues, it has gone silent altogether.

The most glaring example is the growing wariness of U.S. studios to do anything that might imperil their standing with the Chinese government. China’s box office is as large as the American one, and entertainment is above all a business. So Hollywood sanitizes or censors topics that Beijing doesn’t like. But the phenomenon is not limited to China, nor is it all about revenue. Studios, writers, and producers increasingly fear they will be hacked or harmed if they portray any foreign autocrats in a negative light, be it Russian President Vladimir Putin or North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Today, audiences can take their pick: there is no shortage of jingoistic U.S. films or televisions series, nor of material that challenges pro-American foreign policy orthodoxies. When it comes to how other great powers are portrayed, however, some hot-button topics are now off limits. American films dealing with the history and people of Tibet, a popular theme in the 1990s, have become a rare sight. There has never been a Hollywood feature film about the dramatic—and horrific—massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The 2012 remake of Red Dawn initially centered on a Chinese invasion in the United States but was later rewritten to make North Korea the aggressor instead of China. And Variety called the 2014 blockbuster Transformers: Age of Extinction “a splendidly patriotic film, if you happen to be Chinese.”

Nothing has happened to change the fact that after ten years, riders have always been fundamentally unwilling to pay prices that would cover Uber’s actual costs, that Uber was always less efficient than the traditional taxis it drove out of business, that its only “efficiency improvement” was to push driver compensation to minimum wage levels, and that its growth depended entirely on unsustainable predatory subsidies.

There needs to be discussion about how to best restructure airlines, tourist and entertainment industries because they have contributed to overall economic welfare in the past, and clearly can in the future. Uber has only served to reduce overall economic welfare. Society has nothing to gain from “saving” Uber.

When James Baldwin visited San Francisco in 1963 to film a documentary  about U.S. racism, he encountered neighborhoods in turmoil: the city was seizing properties through eminent domain, razing them, and turning them over to private developers. Part of a massive, federal urban renewal program, nearly 5,000 families—no fewer than 20,000 residents, the majority of them people of color—were being displaced from rental homes, private property, and businesses in the Western Addition neighborhoods. Baldwin spoke to a Black teenager who had just lost his home and watched as his neighborhood was destroyed. He told Baldwin: “I’ve got no country. I’ve got no flag.” Soon after, Baldwin would say:  “I couldn’t say you do. I don’t have any evidence to prove that he does.”

Friday Links

All private schooling engineers class inequality in an active kind of way over the long term, but in the short term, the effects are more subtle, and can be psychological: A number of studies have shown that living around kids who attend private schools entrenches an awareness of class difference among children from lower-income families before they are old enough to think critically about how money shapes our opportunities and even our emotional lives.

No amount of free scholarships can fix the flaws built into the private educational system; they are ethical camouflage in the form of human children. 

And education is not exactly a normal market, since no sane government would ever let it be fully privatized: That way lies straightforward plutocracy, as those familiar with European social history will know

At some point in this process, Bill became one of the advocates of what’s called Modern Monetary Theory, which makes the point that taxes don’t (directly) “fund” public expenditure. Rather, they ensure that the total demand for goods and services (for consumption and investment) don’t exceed the productive capacity of the economy, thereby generating inflation.

This reframing raises the question: does a Job Guarantee require higher taxation? The answer, using MMT reasoning, is “Almost certainly, yes”.

That doesn’t mean a Job Guarantee is a bad idea. The newly employed workers would be better off, and those already employed would get additional services in return for their higher taxes. But this isn’t a free lunch. As Oliver Wendell Holmes put it, taxes are what we pay for civilised society.

Friday Links

Already, more people live outside of their countries of birth than ever before, and according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration, as many as 200 million people might need to leave their homes for climate-related reasons by 2050.

Despite these projections, no legal framework exists to help such migrants relocate, let alone to protect them in their most vulnerable moments. Instead, governments worldwide have neglected and exploited this new class of “climate displaced”—exposing them to both climate shocks and the abuse that often follows. Governments and international organizations can pursue a better course by enabling vulnerable populations to migrate before and after disaster strikes. The benefits of such a policy far outweigh the short-term costs.

“It might be too late to avert a climate crisis,” says the climate migration expert Jane McAdam, who directs the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at the University of New South Wales. “But we can avert a displacement crisis if we start to act now.” To do so will require casting climate migration in a new light: not as a burden to be repelled but as a shared global reality to collectively manage.

Both battlefields are now under the care of the National Park Service. This past Fourth of July, few people visited either, but when travel becomes easier, if you're within range, I suggest you visit whichever park is closer. Both parks are beautiful, especially in mid-summer. However, do not ask the question several NPS rangers submitted to me as their nomination for the dumbest query ever received from a visitor: "How come they fought so many Civil War battles in parks?" Instead, if you're at Vicksburg, suggest to the ranger that Gettysburg was the more important victory; if at Gettysburg, suggest Vicksburg. Probably you and your fellow tourists will be informed as well as entertained by the response. 

In Gettysburg, don't fail to take in the South Carolina monument. It claims, "Abiding faith in the sacredness of states rights provided their creed here" — a statement true about 1965, when it went up, but false about 1863. After all, in 1860, South Carolinians were perfectly clear about why they were seceding, and "states rights" had nothing to do with it. South Carolina was against states’ rights. South Carolina found no fault with the federal government when it said why it seceded, on Christmas Eve, 1860. On the contrary, its leaders found fault with Northern states and the rights they were trying to assert.

The vaccine trial that Vice President Mike Pence kicked off in Miami on Monday gives the United States the tiniest chance of being ready to vaccinate millions of Americans just before Election Day.

It’s a possibility that fills many public health experts with dread.

For too long, a culture of American exceptionalism has been a barrier to the implementation of policies that have improved public safety around the globe. Now, the United States’ capacity to heal as a nation could very well depend on its willingness to listen and learn from the rest of the world.

In 2014, ProPublica published one of the most comprehensive analyses to date of racial disparities in deadly police encounters. Its examination included detailed accounts of more than 12,000 police homicides between 1980 and 2012, drawn from the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports. During this three-decade period, ProPublica found that young Black men were 21 times as likely to be fatally shot by law enforcement as were their white peers. 

On rare occasions, typically after a city has been embroiled in years of scandal, the federal government and a municipality might enter into a consent decree, which allows the Department of Justice to monitor the activities of a particular agency and shepherd any necessary reforms. Such oversight is considered an exceptional step in the United States; in the safest countries in the world, it is the norm.

“Simpler times” stated Cobargo farmer Keaton Gray (55).

“At least this time we don’t have to palm off handshakes from the Prime Minister and identify our dead cattle by the melted tags on their ears.” 

Learning with myths manifests in many ways. Redundant development to accommodate learning styles, or generations. Shortened to be appropriate for millennials or the attention span of a goldfish. Using video and images for everything because we process images 60K faster. Quiz show templates for knowledge test questions because they’re more engaging. And all of these would be wrong.

Instead, mythless design starts with focusing on performance. That is, there’re clear learning outcomes that will change what people do that will affect the success of the organization. It’s not about knowledge itself, but only in service of achieving better ability to make decisions.

As the United States faces a long, uphill recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, it would do well to consider a measure that could put its people to work, at a living wage, for the benefit of all. But a job guarantee is not a crisis measure: it must be a permanent policy, because unemployment devastates communities even when economies are relatively strong.

One thousand women on horseback: these were the roving New Deal librarians who, starting in 1935, brought books and set up libraries in some of the most remote areas of Kentucky. The women rode across 29 counties, sometimes more than 100 miles a day. And where the terrain was difficult, they dismounted their horses and carried the books on foot. Their impact was far-reaching. As one recipient put it: “Them books you brought us has saved our lives.”

Friday Links

In a national survey conducted this spring, one in six high-school seniors who before the pandemic expected to attend a four-year college full time said that they will choose a different path this fall. A majority expected either to take a gap year or enroll part time in a bachelor’s program (35 percent each), while smaller percentages planned to work or attend a community college.

Long before Donald Trump or Covid 19, the eerie resemblance of American higher education to the old Habsburg Empire was hard to miss. At the top a handful of vintage institutions continued to glitter. They exercised a magnetic attraction on the rest of the world that even intellectual disasters on the scale of the economics discipline before the 2008 financial crisis hardly dented. But most every institution below the royals was at least fraying around the edges. Long before the pandemic hit, many showed clear signs of distress.

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the Obama administration was reluctant to help states out of their budget shortfalls, while national Republicans were openly opposed. State support for higher ed plunged to new lows. In most states, it never really came back. In 2017, for example, the largest governmental source of revenues for public higher education, state general appropriations, amounted to $87 billion – $2.2 billion below the level of 2007.

Brave talk about innovating through various testing regimes is common. Some institutions promise tests to assure safety via robots or other devices that have never been tried on a large scale. Or they talk grandly about how students will agree not to congregate in groups in or out of class. The comparison to US states in the south and west which reopened too early is uncomfortable.

The notion that affirmative action in a handful of brand name institutions could substitute for serious efforts to broaden higher education for citizens in the twenty-first century is absurd. For minority students and poor whites alike, state universities and colleges, including community colleges, are indispensable as pathway to the middle class in a globalized context. If hundreds of colleges close or scale back over the next few years, then higher education in our New Gilded Age will go right back to where it was in the original Gilded Age.

In 2013, Bishin and his colleagues went looking for backlash in public opinion about LGBTQ rights in light of political decisions permitting same-sex marriage. They looked at what happened when study participants heard about the political advance of same-sex marriage rights. They also used the natural experiment created by pro-same-sex marriage Supreme Court rulings in the summer of 2013. They found no significant differences in participants’ opinions about same-sex marriage, or the intensity of those opinions, in the face of victories for LGBTQ rights. Looking at national public opinion polling, they found the same thing—major victories for same-sex marriage had no apparent impact on attitudes toward gay rights.

In April, the most recent month available, almost 6 million people were added to the food stamp rolls, reversing the long decline after the 2008–2009 recession. In percentage terms, that’s the biggest monthly increase since 1970, when the program was young and participation was just taking off. This surge is a thing unto itself.

The average monthly benefit per person was $181.60 in April, which works out to a rather tight $1.98 per meal. (All the SNAP stats are here.) That benefit level is about two-thirds of what the Agriculture Department calls a “thrifty” food budget for a non-elderly adult—a diet that, by the Department’s own accounting, doesn’t provide the recommended daily allowances of vitamin E or potassium; sadly, as they declare in cool bureaucratic prose, “a solution could not be obtained.” 

Back in February — phew, remember February? — Jeffrey Moro, a PhD candidate in English at the University of Maryland, wrote a very astute blog post "Against Cop Shit" in the classroom.

"For the purposes of this post," Moro wrote, "I define 'cop shit' as 'any pedagogical technique or technology that presumes an adversarial relationship between students and teachers.' Here are some examples:

  • ed-tech that tracks our students' every move
  • plagiarism detection software
  • militant tardy or absence policies, particularly ones that involve embarrassing our students, e.g. locking them out of the classroom after class has begun
  • assignments that require copying out honor code statements
  • 'rigor,' 'grit,' and 'discipline'
  • any interface with actual cops, such as reporting students' immigration status to ICE and calling cops on students sitting in classrooms.

Friday Links

Cut to a couple of days ago, when I come across this article in Nature – the first deep dive attempting to answer the question of just how protective those coronavirus antibodies are.

And, at first blush at least, the news isn’t great.

On July 28, 1932, President Herbert Hoover dispatched federal troops and tanks to disperse the “Bonus Army,” tens of thousands of jobless World War I veterans and their families who’d been protesting in the nation’s capital. The troops used tear gas. Two men and two infants were reported dead. As one of the first major protests in which the American government used tear gas—which is considered a weapon of war—on its own citizens, the Bonus Army incident created public outrage, ruining any chance of Hoover’s reelection. For the chemical companies trying to sell tear gas to law enforcement, however, the Bonus Army was a successful demonstration of their product.

It’s one of the more important things in game theory that a signal has to be a costly signal.... A reputation in deterrence theory is something that is worth having, but not worth getting.

ZEIT: Der ehemalige schwedische Staatsepidemiologe Johan Giesecke hat gesagt: “Der Unterschied zwischen Schweden und Deutschland ist, dass Deutschland seine Wirtschaft ruiniert.”

Angner: Johan Giesecke ist so viel in den Medien, weil er sehr selbstbewusst ist und einfach sachen raushaut. Ein klarer fall von Selbstüberchätzung.

Before looking at the impact on New York City and other dense urban centers in the US, the fact that work from home has worked at all calls into question many heretofore unquestioned norms of office like, like the true utility of having workers on premises. How much of formal and informal information-sharing is actually productive, as opposed to gossip and political jockeying? For instance, the pre-Carly-Fiorina Hewlett Packard was cognizant of the potential for meetings to be time-wasters, and required that they be held with all participants standing up.

Caveats: data is really limited.  Studies are sort of trickling out in pre-print form and in various esoteric journals. But I’ll point out a couple that hold water for me. The first, a pre-print out of China, looked at just over 2000 COVID-positive individuals and reported that there was a higher infection rate in people with Type A blood.

Friday Links

With a background in indexing, I like to compare the index of a book with the taxonomy-enhanced search capabilities of a website, whereas the table of contents of a book is like the navigation scheme. A table of contents or navigation scheme is a higher-level, pre-defined structure of content, that guides users to the general organization of content and tasks. It helps users understand the scope of the content available, provides guidance on where and what content to find, and aids in exploration. An index or search feature, including faceted search, on the other hand, enables to user to find specific information or content items of interest. A taxonomy, regardless of its display type, serves the function of an index, not the table of contents.

The people we see are, by definition, those who are outdoors and thus who are disproportionately likely to be breaching the lockdown. What Mr Hannan isn’t seeing are the countless thousands of us staying indoors and observing the lockdown.

The social sciences are, as Jon Elster said, fundamentally a collection of mechanisms. But many of these are unseen. It is the role of social science to expose these mechanisms, and to show us that what we see is not all there is. As Marx said: "If there were no difference between essence and appearance, there would be no need for science."

On June 20, 1917, Lucy Burns, co-founder of the National Woman’s Party (NWP), and Dora Lewis gathered with other suffragists in front of the White House. They held a banner criticizing President Wilson’s opposition to women’s suffrage: “We, the Women of America, tell you that America is not a democracy…. President Wilson is the chief opponent of their national enfranchisement.”

About Me

Developer at Brown University Library specializing in instructional design and technology, Python-based data science, and XML-driven web development.

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