November 2010, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
How many Students Cheat? Most of them, says "Ed Dante", who writes student papers for a living. But he isn't relying on his own experience; he is citing a New York Times article.
The extent of student cheating, difficult to measure precisely, appears widespread at colleges. In surveys of 14,000 undergraduates over the last four years, an average of 61 percent admitted to cheating on assignments and exams.(Of course, in any such survey, however anonymous, one would expect some cheaters to lie, so the 61 and 65 percents are probably floors, and the actual percentages a bit higher.)
And where is the cheating worst? Here's Dante's guess:
I, who have no name, no opinions, and no style, have written so many papers at this point, including legal briefs, military-strategy assessments, poems, lab reports, and, yes, even papers on academic integrity, that it's hard to determine which course of study is most infested with cheating. But I'd say education is the worst. I've written papers for students in elementary-education programs, special-education majors, and ESL-training courses. I've written lesson plans for aspiring high-school teachers, and I've synthesized reports from notes that customers have taken during classroom observations. I've written essays for those studying to become school administrators, and I've completed theses for those on course to become principals. In the enormous conspiracy that is student cheating, the frontline intelligence community is infiltrated by double agents. (Future educators of America, I know who you are.)That sounds, alas, all too plausible.
- 2:18 PM, 16 November 2010 [link]
Bungling The Korean Trade Agreement: The Obama administration's efforts to renegotiate the agreement signed by Bush three years ago was a "disaster", says Phil Levy.
President Obama's failure to conclude the Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) is a disaster. It reveals a stunning level of ineptitude and seriously undermines America's leadership in the global economy. The implications extend far beyond selling Buicks in Busan.And then the Obama administration didn't bother to start negotiating until September. His attempt to retrieve the agreement in a last-minute personal talks with the Korean president failed.
All this is extraordinary. Nearly always, presidents do not discuss these agreements specifically until they are concluded, until both sides have agreed to terms, and it is time to schedule a signing ceremony. Does Obama not know this? Did he somehow think that he could use his personal charm to get an agreement at the last minute? That's hard to believe, but it is even harder for me to think of an alternate explanation.
(Here's more on the agreement from a supporter and from an opponent.)
- 12:40 PM, 16 November 2010 [link]
TV And The Perils Of Early Adoption: Every year, Consumer Reports puts out an electronics issue. The products examined vary from year to year, but at least in recent years have always included TV sets.
Since I am slower about throwing out old magazines than I should be, I happen to have saved the 2005 magazine, and its advice on TV sets shows us the perils of early adoption. They are quite positive about the new "HD" TV sets and recommend them in LCD models:
Crisp detail is critical if the TV will double as a computer display. Your best bet is an HD set with 1366x768 native resolution.And in plasma models, where you had to buy a 50-inch TV to get the same resolution.
Two years later, Consumer Reports was recommending 1080p sets which have — I always have to look this up — 1920x1080 resolution. This year, there are only two reviewed LCD sets and eight plasma sets that have lower resolutions.
Someone who took Consumer Reports' advice in 2005 would probably be feeling fairly silly by now, since they would have an expensive TV set that wasn't capable of showing some movies or some TV shows in their best resolution.
(One interesting detail in the 2010 reviews: The sets vary widely in their rated efficiency, even for the same sizes. For example, Consumer Reports estimates that 42-inch Samsung LCD TV (UN40C5000) will cost you about $20 in electricity each year, while a similar-size Magnavox model (42MF439B/F7) will cost you about $62 per year. In general plasma models use more electricity for the same size than LCD models, but not in every case.)
- 9:46 AM, 16 November 2010 [link]
News Beast? David Carr is skeptical about the latest media merger.
Putting together The Daily Beast and Newsweek makes little financial sense, includes not much in the way of editorial synergies — is it The News Beast or The Daily Week? — and marries two properties that have almost nothing in common other than the fact that they both lose lots of money.Though he does think that having Tina Brown back in print will be a plus.
I have my doubts about this merger, too, but there is no reason that you should pay any attention to my opinions on the subject. After all, I also thought that Katie Couric would not be a great success as CBS news anchor. And we all know how that turned out.
- 7:10 AM, 16 November 2010 [link]
Are There Good Earmarks? Atmospheric scientist Cliff Mass thinks Washington state received one.
Please note: I am not endorsing — or rejecting — Mass's argument; I am simply presenting it for you to think about. Without good estimates on lives saved, and a quantitative estimate on how this would enhance our lives, I can't even tell whether this is a good project that should have been funded in the regular way.
I would add that I am suspicious about it because our junior senator, Maria Cantwell, comes from the Green superstition wing of the Democratic party, and our senior senator, Patty Murray, comes from the "no rocket scientist" wing of the Democratic party. I don't trust either senator's judgment, especially on scientific matters.
(I do agree entirely with Mass's thought that bureaucracies may not always understand local problems; in fact I consider that true, more or less by definition.)
I am presenting his argument because I think responsible citizens should look at arguments from both sides. (For a similar reason, I think Mass should have explained why the National Weather Service did not want this radar. Assuming he could do so, without offending some of his sponsors, that is.)Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 3:39 PM, 15 November 2010 [link]
Gerrymandering Has Less Effect Than Many Believe: That's one of the conclusions in this Wall Street Journal article.
A pair of studies analyzed the extent of gains the redistricting party can expect. A 1994 paper examining state-legislature pickups suggested the party in control gains 6% more seats than it would have if the opposing party were in control. A study published later in the decade found a similar partisan advantage in House races. Applying this estimate to the next round of redistricting—when Republicans are expected to control the shape of between 120 and 150 more congressional seats than Democrats, according to the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures—translates into an edge of seven to nine seats. Historically, that generally wouldn't have been enough to flip control of the House of Representatives.Seven to nine seats sounds about right to me, maybe even a little high.
One thing that gerrymandering tends to do is create safe districts for both parties. And that, in my opinion, is a very bad thing. We want voters to choose legislators, not the other way around.
(Here's an early post of mine, which explains how gerrymandering works abstractly, and here are a pair of posts from "zombie" on gerrymandering. The second post has an entertaining collection of gerrymandered districts.)
- 2:21 PM, 15 November 2010 [link]
The ACLU Stands Up For Freedom Of Speech: Even when it comes from a pro-life women's group.
The ACLU Ohio's client here is the Susan B. Anthony List, or SBA List, a political action committee whose top goal is to elect pro-life women of either party to Congress. The group is run by a D.C. friend of mine, Marjorie Dannenfelser. In this year's races, she targeted 20 House Democrats who voted for the health-care bill. Fifteen of these 20 lost their seats, which makes Mrs. Dannenfelser Public Enemy No. 1 in certain circles.It's great to see the ACLU doing what it should do, fighting for freedom of speech — even when it disagrees with that speech.
(Incidentally, if this account is correct, Dannefelser could be sent to jail under the Ohio law.
Driehaus lost to Chabot 52.4-45.1. That solid margin should please supporters of free speech, and should discourage similar attempts to game the system.)
- 1:35 PM, 15 November 2010 [link]
Gail Should Call Paul: Or maybe Paul Krugman should read Gail Collins' latest column, where she says this:
The people of America made it clear in the election that they want something done about the deficit. The president's responsibility is to show them he's going to heed their orders, and then follow through without making the economy worse or cutting critical services.It sounds like Gail Collins believes that at least one person cares about the deficit, contrary to what Krugman wrote in a post in the same newspaper.
It would be fun to see the two of them discuss the question.
(The column is typical Collins, lots of snark but no coherent argument. Like Krugman, she seems to be losing faith in Barack Obama, though she is showing her doubts in a more entertaining way.)
- 8:28 AM, 15 November 2010 [link]
Most Alaskans Can Spell: (Especially if they are allowed to use cheat sheets.) So Lisa Murkowski will probably remain senator from Alaska.
Alaska law says write-in votes will be counted if the name or last name is written "as it appears" on the candidate's declaration form. But state election officials, citing legal precedent in the state, said they would count all votes in which they could determine "voter intent," misspellings aside.Which would not be enough to make him the winner.
(For the record: Neither candidate impressed me, so I don't feel particularly sad about this outcome.
Fun fact: The last senator to win office with a write-in vote was . . . . Strom Thurmond.)
- 7:45 PM, 14 November 2010
For some numbers and some details, see this Nate Silver post.
- 8:09 AM, 15 November 2010 [link]
The Latest Call Of Duty Game Has A Nice Extra: The Castro regime really hates one of the scenarios.
State-run media denounced video game makers Activision Blizzard Inc.'s "Call of Duty: Black Ops" Wednesday, for an option in the game that lets players target a young Castro for assassination.That review is almost enough to make me want to go out and buy the game.
But I won't because I am a little too slow to enjoy first-person shooters, like Call of Duty. (I am still quite fond of turn-based strategy games, though.)
(For those who do play first-person shooters, here's a very positive review from the New York Times, and a collection of mixed reviews from Amazon. There are enough one-star reviews there to make me think that someone who plans to play it on a PC might want to wait until some of the bugs are worked out.)
- 7:24 AM, 14 November 2010 [link]
Sheriff Deputies First: Those familiar with the standard ploys in budget fights will not be surprised to learn that King County is planning to lay off sheriff deputies, in order to balance its budget.
They are standard ploys, because they often work. The county was unable to persuade voters to approve a tax increase, and so the county's leaders are threatening to punish the voters by taking away the services that are most important to those voters.
(The county is also, I would guess, continuing to negotiate with the deputies by threatening to lay them off.)
It's an even better ploy here than it would be in most places, because it hits the unincorporated parts of King County hardest — which is where the opposition to tax increases is the strongest, and where you find the most opponents of the county executive, Dow Constantine, and the Democratic majority on the council. (Technically, they are now nonpartisan, but no one else pays any attention to that, so I won't either.)
And, just to make the ploy a touch better, people in law enforcement are more likely to support Republicans and conservatives, so those deputies have probably been voting for the wrong candidates — from the Democrats' point of view.
Is King County really that short of money? It's hard to say without taking a closer look at their budgets than I have time for today, but I haven't heard that Dow Constantine, or the members of the council, have offered to give up part of their pay. And, they have just committed the county to buying land for a new park, in a location where you won't find many poor people.
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(This ploy is often called the "fireman first" ploy, since cities will threaten to get rid of firemen in order to squeeze more taxes out of the taxpayers. King County has no firemen, or they would be in danger, too.)
- 1:15 PM, 12 November 2010 [link]
"Nobody Cares About The Deficit" So says Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, in a post in which he also tells us that nobody cares about earmarks, process, civility, bipartisanship, and parliamentary maneuvers.
Paul Krugman is a smart fellow — though you can't always tell that from his columns and his blog posts — so he must know that you can disprove any of those claims by finding one person who cares about the deficit, or earmarks, or whatever.
And it isn't hard to find that person; in my case, I was able to find one by asking the fellow who is now typing these words whether he cared about those things. He does, which means that Krugman is wrong.
But he also wants to be fair, and so he suggested that we not take Krugman's argument literally. (Even though he is quite unhappy about Krugman's extreme language, he thinks that we should be fairer to Krugman than Krugman usually is to his political opponents.)
If you read the whole post, Krugman seems to be saying that worries about deficits and all the rest made no significant difference in the election results.
We have two ways to evaluate that claim, opinion polls and elections results.
I had been thinking about collecting some of the polls on the deficit; luckily for me, Mark Blumenthal did so before I got around to it. You may want to read his whole piece, but here, I think, is a fair summary
First, the percentage of likely voters that rank "the deficit" as the most important issue (19%) is only slightly bigger than among all registered voters (17%; and keep in mind that the final Pew Research likely voter results provided a near perfect estimate of the national House vote). Second, when they tabulate both the first and second choices, the number that choose "deficit" grows (to 37%, not far from the 40% offered on the exit poll question), but then so does concern about other issues. The "job situation" (62%) and "health care" (53%) still rank higher.The deficit was not the most important issue for most voters, but it was important enough so that any good election analyst would conclude that it provided the winning margins in some races.
We can also look at past elections to see whether deficits matter to voters, and, as it happens, we had what amounted to an experiment on the question in the 1992 election. Remember Ross Perot? In 1992, he received nearly 19 percent of the popular vote by campaigning, mostly, against the deficit. (People had other reasons to support him, but there is no doubt that the deficit was his most important issue.)
So both polls and election results tell us that deficits do matter to many voters. Someone should tell that to Paul Krugman.
- 12:29 PM, 12 November 2010 [link]
It's Not What He Said About Obama: It's who said this, that makes it interesting.
No one, however, is more haughty than Obama in his made-up history, in his Saidist attitudes to facts, in his disdain for true and tested allies, in his ignorance of economics, in his indifference to the West (and to Christianity, for that matter) as an ideal and a reality, and finally, in his allergy to the thought that lui-même might be limited in wisdom, experience, instinct, even—as we have seen—in the power to persuade. Yes, we can? No, we can't.Those sentiments could come from almost any conservative talk show host (though none of them would say it in quite the same way).
But they actually come, in fact, from Martin Peretz, the editor of the the liberal New Republic. Who must be more than a little disappointed in Barack Obama.
(The "made-up history" phrase is especially devastating. Peretz is implying that Obama tells lies about history, including, I suppose, Obama's own history — and that Obama does so arrogantly.)
- 8:09 AM, 12 November 2010 [link]
64 House Seats: That's how many the Republicans will gain — net — if the leaders in all the undecided races keep their leads. (And, glancing through the results, I don't see any reason to expect lead changes.)
Republicans gained at least 59 House seats in last week's election, but they are positioned to win more. While Democratic incumbents hold leads in three of the still-contested races, they trail in five others, with thousands of ballots still to be counted.I suppose I could claim a little credit, since on election day I said that Republicans could gain 62 or 63 seats, but I won't, because that was just a wild guess, one that took me approximately 30 seconds to make. (But I do enjoy being that close, even though I can't take any credit.)
(I suppose I should add this reminder for my fellow Republicans. Even if the party does gain 64 House seats, their majority will still be smaller than the one that Nancy Pelosi just lost.)
- 7:08 AM, 12 November 2010 [link]
Armistice Day: On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice ended the fighting in World War I. (Though not without difficulty. Some American troops, having spare shells and wanting the glory of having the last shot, competed with each other, for a time, after the official end.)
For many European countries, the war was a disaster from which they have never completely recovered. The casualties they suffered were so immense that, even now, they astonish. They were so large that, from the very beginning, the combatants lied about them on a grand scale. This Wikipedia article gives some of the common estimates of the casualties. The almost 1.4 million French military dead are more than all the deaths the United States has suffered in all our wars, combined. More than 1 million of them were from France itself, with the rest coming mostly from the French colonies. Since France then had a population of about 40 million, more than 1 in 40 died in the war; for us, now, the equivalent loss would be about 7.5 million deaths.
After World War II, we renamed Armistice Day to Veterans Day, to honor the soldiers of all our wars. When we honor, as we should, especially today, the American soldiers who served, and sometimes died in our wars, we should also spare some thought for those who fought at our side and who suffered far more than we.
(This is an edited version of a post I first put up in 2002.)
- 4:13 PM, 11 November 2010 [link]
Student Riot In London: The BBC story is subdued. (And quotes the organizer of the protest, Aaron Porter, saying: "This was not part of our plan".) The Daily Mail story is sensational. The Telegraph's coverage is the closest to comprehensive. "Guido Fawkes" is covering it in real time and passing on stories, including this one.
Reports of serious glass and concrete injuries and that medics can not get through. The woeful planning and incitement by the NUS President Aaron Porter is going to make his position very tricky. MI5 have shut down Thames House and the red flag has been raised above CCHQ:(NUS = National Union of Students, CCHQ = Conservative party headquarters. As I have said before, I reject red as a color symbolizing the Republican party. Here's another reason why.)
And Janet Daley is full of contempt for the protesters.
- 1:38 PM, 10 November 2010 [link]
5 Myths About George W. Bush: This op-ed by historian Julian Zelizer was published on the 7th, but is still in the top ten most popular pieces at the Post.
Here's my favorite of the five:
Many critics dismiss Bush's talk about "compassionate conservatism" as nothing more than a cynical ploy to win over moderate voters in 2000. Liberals never believed that Bush truly wanted to bring racial and ethnic diversity to the Republican Party or that he accepted the need for the federal government to deal with entrenched social problems. The administration's bungled response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster, along with regressive fiscal policies that disproportionately benefited wealthier Americans, also seemed to contradict the promise of compassion.Bush's strong Christian faith helped make him a compassionate conservative, as Zelizer goes on to say. That kind of faith is uncommon in newsrooms and faculty lounges, so it is hard for our journalists and academics to appreciate it.
(Bush did not campaign against California's Proposition 187, but he opposed it because it cut off education for illegal immigrants. I think he was right, both morally, and, in the long run, politically.)
- 1:11 PM, 10 November 2010 [link]
Poppies Mean One Thing To The British: And something very different to the Chinese.
- 10:11 AM, 10 November 2010 [link]
The "Twinkie Diet" Reminds Us Why We Do Experiments: Sometimes we get results we didn't expect. Professor Mark Haub got one result he expected:
For 10 weeks, Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, ate one of these sugary cakelets every three hours, instead of meals. To add variety in his steady stream of Hostess and Little Debbie snacks, Haub munched on Doritos chips, sugary cereals and Oreos, too.And one result he didn't expect:
But you might expect other indicators of health would have suffered. Not so.Most likely, we are missing something. In fact, I would go a little further and say that, in understanding nutrition, we may be missing a whole lot.
- 10:00 AM, 10 November 2010 [link]
I am no expert on journalism, but I thought almost every story should include answers to the standard five (or often six) questions, especially the first. Perhaps, I speculated, our local monopoly newspaper, the Seattle Times, was trying to save money by leaving out the first "W", was trying to save money by leaving out the "who" from their stories.
Last week, I got a little bit of confirmation for that speculation. Editorial columnist Lynne Varner wrote a column that began by decrying campaign dirt.
So Varner thinks that we had a dirty campaign here. (She's right.)
But does she blame any politicians in particular? Nope, not one. She does criticize a campaign volunteer (who was fired after he tried too hard to protect his candidate) and "anonymous campaign donations". (I don't believe she made the same criticism during the 2008 presidential election.)
But that's it. Varner is sure we had a dirty campaign — but is unwilling to name any dirty campaigners. She doesn't even describe any specific dirty ads.
You may want to speculate on Varner's motivation for leaving out the "why". Feel free to do so. But I think it would be more productive if instead we tried to fill in the gap she left, if we try to identify some of the dirty ads, and dirty campaigners.
So, what ads did you see that were especially dirty? What campaigns did you follow that spent too much time throwing mud? (As always, links would be helpful, both to ads and to critiques of ads. You might even find something interesting in Varner's newspaper.)
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(Oh, and if you know any journalism teachers I could contact, let me know. I'd like to know whether they think that leaving out the "who" is now accepted practice.)
- 12:44 AM, 9 November 2010 [link]
Election Snark from Dennis Prager.
OK, riddle fans, here's a toughie: What's the difference between California voters and the passengers on the Titanic?And from Allysia Finley.
Listen up, California. The other 48 states—your cousin New York excluded—are sick of your bratty arrogance. You're the Lindsay Lohan of states: a prima donna who once showed some talent but is now too wasted to do anything with it.I have relatives in California. Since they didn't vote to hit the iceberg, they have my sympathy. Those who did vote for hitting the iceberg, or changing the metaphor, another binge, are urged to get help. And not to expect the more sober parts of the country to bail you out.
(Those as out of touch with pop culture as I am may want a refresher on Lindsay Lohan.)
- 8:44 AM, 9 November 2010 [link]
Election Analysis From Sean Trende: With particular emphasis on Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Colorado.
(I would agree with almost all of it.)
- 8:17 AM, 9 November 2010 [link]