October 01, 2014

Do Cats Have Elbows?

Perspective, again:

Let’s imagine that Republicans swept the 2012 elections and were now in control not merely of the House but of the presidency and the Senate, too.

Now let’s take it one step further and say that by using the filibuster the Democratic minority in the Senate had successfully blocked President Romney’s appointments to federal district and appellate court judgeships.

What if, faced with this Democratic intransigence, the conservative Federalist Society helped devise a strategy to revamp Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster so that judicial nominees could be confirmed by a simple majority instead of the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster?

The elimination of the filibuster has allowed President Romney to appoint three judges to the critically important United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, establishing a decisive 7 to 4 conservative majority on that bench. What’s more, two of the the three judges newly appointed by President Romney are members of the Federalist Society and the new conservative majority on the D.C. Circuit is now positioned to rule Obamacare unconstitutional.

The Koch brothers — recall we are still in an alt-hypothetical universe — reward the Federalist Society by directing 100 loyal billionaires to contribute to the group.

Would these developments provoke liberal outrage?

They certainly would.

But it’s not only the right that uses secretive organizations to keep rich donors anonymous while it seeks to influence elections and policy. Liberals do the same, and the press in large part gives them a pass.

As you no doubt realized while you were reading, the hypothetical described above did not take place, but something approximating it did. Instead of Republican offenders, the players were President Obama, a Democratic Senate, the progressive American Constitution Society, and the Democracy Alliance, a network of very wealthy liberal donors.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:58 AM | Comments (5) |TrackBack (0) |

Valuable Perspective on False Rape Accusations

Have been meaning to link to this excellent piece on false rape accusations for some time now. Here are the two strongest points:

False rape accusations are a lightning rod for a variety of reasons. Rape is a repugnant crime—and one for which the evidence often relies on one person’s word against another’s. Moreover, in the not-so-distant past, the belief that women routinely make up rape charges often led to appalling treatment of victims. However, in challenging what author and law professor Susan Estrich has called “the myth of the lying woman,” feminists have been creating their own counter-myth: that of the woman who never lies.

More than a quarter-century ago, feminist legal theorist Catharine MacKinnon wrote that “feminism is built on believing women’s accounts of sexual use and abuse by men”; today, Jessica Valenti urges us to “believe victims en masse,” because only then will we recognize the true prevalence of sexual assault. But a de facto presumption of guilt in alleged sexual offenses is as dangerous as a presumption of guilt in any crime, and for the same reasons: It upends the foundations on which our system of justice rests and creates a risk of ruining innocent lives.

Here's the second, which is just outstanding:

...official data on what law enforcement terms “unfounded” rape reports (that is, ones in which the police determine that no crime occurred) yield conflicting numbers, depending on local policies and procedures—averaging 8 percent to 10 percent of all reported rapes. Yet the truth is even knottier than these statistics suggest. The answer to “How common are false allegations?” depends largely on how false allegations are defined. Do we count only cases in which a police report—or a complaint to some other official authority, such as a college administrator—is shown to be deliberately false? Do we include informal, word-of-mouth charges like the one against Oberst? What of he said/she said cases in which the truth is never known?

Not all reports classified as unfounded are necessarily false. In some cases, women who were victims of rape were disbelieved, pressured into recanting, and charged with false reporting only to be vindicated later on—the kind of awful story that adds to people’s skittishness about discussing false accusations. Some police departments have been criticized for having an anomalously high percentage of supposedly unfounded rape charges: Baltimore’s “unfounded” rate used to be the highest in the nation, at about 30 percent, due partly to questionable and sometimes downright abusive police procedures, such as badgering a woman about why she waited two hours to report a street assault. By 2013, an effort to provide better training and encourage full investigation of all complaints reduced that rate to less than 2 percent.

On the other hand, “unfounded” statistics do not capture all false allegations—only cases rejected at the earliest stage (correctly or not) because of what investigators believe to be strong proof that no crime was committed. This does not include cases in which charges are filed but rejected for prosecution (between a quarter and nearly half of all cases), or the relatively small number of prosecutions that end in dismissal or acquittal. Of course not all such cases involve innocent defendants—probably not even most; but surely some do.

A similar pattern can be found in a recent study often cited as evidence of the rarity of false accusations: a 2010 paper by psychologist David Lisak, which examined all 136 sexual assault reports made on a northeastern university campus over a 10-year period. For 19 of these cases, the files did not contain enough information to evaluate the outcome. Of the 117 cases that could be classified, eight—or 6.8 percent—were determined to be false complaints; that conclusion was reached when there was substantial evidence refuting the complainant’s account. But does it mean that 93 percent of the reports that could be evaluated were shown to be truthful?

More than 40 percent of the reports evaluated in Lisak’s study (excluding the ones for which there was not enough information to classify them) did result in disciplinary or criminal charges. However, 52 percent were investigated and closed. Lisak told me that the vast majority of these complaints did not proceed due to insufficient evidence, often because the complainant had stopped cooperating with investigators. His paper also mentions another type of complaint that did not proceed: cases in which “the incident did not meet the legal elements of the crime of sexual assault.”

Both sides of the political spectrum are prone to hyperbole, exaggeration, and moral panics. Last week we read something that seems particularly on point:

...why then do 69% of Americans believe that the NFL suffers a "widespread epidemic of domestic violence problems"? The answer is rooted in how we think. Humans are prone to rely on examples and experiences that can be easily recalled. The idea is that if we can remember it, it must be important. This mental shortcut is termed the availability heuristic. A key drawback of the heuristic is that it leads us to overestimate the prevalence of memorable events. Here, you can legitimately blame popular media. Because plane crashes are widely covered, many erroneously view flying as more dangerous than driving. Thanks to Shark Week, people are wearier of sharks than deer. Because 91% of people have seen, read, or heard something about Ray Rice's domestic violence, they overestimate the problem of domestic violence in the NFL.

But it's not just the media - it's also the new media: bloggers, Tweeters, Facebook posts, anything that goes viral. Exposure does not suggest relative frequency. Last week Grim made an interesting point whilst rebutting an unusually idiotic (and that's a high bar) op-ed by Jessica Valenti:

...the figure for frat boys who admitted to rape or attempted rape is nine percent. Now one way of expressing that is that 91% of frat boys are not rapists. That means that 97% of the general population of college men are not rapists. That's a pretty substantial percentage. We may not be all the way to where we want to be, but we've still established that the overwhelming majority of these men don't commit rape.

Now apply that same logic to false rape accusations and think about that for a moment.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:33 AM | Comments (4) |TrackBack (0) |

Wednesday Inflammatory Debate Topic

From time to time, the Editorial Staff have a tradition of throwing out what we only half-jokingly refer to as "inflammatory debate topics". Often we do this as a means of testing a position or stance we have always pretty much assumed was valid on the merits. That doesn't mean we've already decided to reject the position, nor does it necessarily mean we've already decided what we think. The outcome is not decided ahead of time - hence, the debate: an opportunity to hear what you all think and critically examine our position to see how well it holds up to closer inspection.

Today's debate question reached out and grabbed us (WITHOUT AFFIRMATIVE CONSENT, MIND YOU!!!!) whilst we perused an article on California's new affirmative consent law for colleges and universities receiving government funding. The point we wish to examine is this one, taken from the law:

The California bill, SB 967, makes clear that silence, a lack of resistance or consent given under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs does not equal consent to sexual activity.

“Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time,” the bill states. “The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.”

The inflammatory debate question is, "As a standard of behavior, which part of this do you think is wrong?" To help focus the discussion, let's break the standard down into its constituent parts:

1. Do you believe that "silence, lack of resistance, or consent given under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs" ought to be viewed as sufficient evidence of consent?

This is a harder question than it may seem at first. First of all, there are both legal and moral duties involved (and they're not necessarily the same). It may help to separate your responses into the legal duty/moral duty framework. Here, the Blog Princess will happily climb out on the limb of bloggy bloviation and provide a preliminary, not terribly well thought out response that you are encouraged to rebut:

Is silence consent? Not necessarily. It depends on the context.

Is lack of physical resistance consent? Not necessarily. It depends on the context.

Has a person who is clearly drunk/drugged/asleep consented to sex by virtue of being incapacitated/unconscious? Absolutely not.

Continue reading "Wednesday Inflammatory Debate Topic"

Posted by Cassandra at 07:48 AM | Comments (9) |TrackBack (0) |

September 30, 2014

Caption Contest

Alright, villains. Here is your next picture to snarkify.


Have at it.
And may the Farce be with you.

Posted by DL Sly at 10:03 AM | Comments (7) |TrackBack (0) |

When Empathy Leads to Scapegoating

A study points out that empathy can make those who feel it more willing to hurt third parties who have done nothing wrong:

A paper just published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin provides evidence that feelings of empathy toward a distressed person can inspire aggressive behavior. For some people, at least, feeling another’s pain is insufficient: You also experience the urge to harm the person they are in conflict or competition with.

University at Buffalo psychologists Anneke Buffone and Michael Poulin found empathy can provoke such behavior even absent “traditional predictors of aggression” such as feeling threatened, or a tendency to act impulsively.

Participants were, to a surprising degree, willing to inflict pain on a second person to help a distressed individual they felt empathy for.

What’s more, it can be activated even “in the absence of wrongdoing or provocation from the target of aggression.” That party doesn’t have to be doing anything wrong; he or she simply has to pose a problem for the person you empathize with.

Kind of puts a whole new spin on the "us vs. them" rhetoric of the income inequality debate, doesn't it?

... participants were, to a surprising degree, willing to inflict pain on a second person to help a distressed individual they felt empathy for. This occurred in spite of the fact that (a) both were total strangers, and (b) the second person had done absolutely nothing wrong.

The results should put a damper on what the researchers call “recent enthusiasm for interventions that involve administering caregiving-related neurohormones or empathy training.”

“Just as the self-esteem movement was not a panacea leading to happy, successful, and well-adapted children,” the researchers write, “oxytocin and/or empathy interventions may not stop problems such as bullying and other forms of aggression and violence, because aggression itself may result from empathy.”

There's a reason justice is traditionally depicted wearing a blindfold.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:45 AM | Comments (2) |TrackBack (0) |

Interesting Infographics

First up, what kind of blog princess would we be if we selfishly refused to share the hate?


Whilst we heartily agree that the Cards suck, we have two questions:

1. Where are the Yankees, Red Sox, and Braves?

2. No rating for the Most Annoying Mascot? Seriously???

Next up, anything to make that caption contest move down the page:


Continue reading "Interesting Infographics"

Posted by Cassandra at 07:32 AM | Comments (14) |TrackBack (0) |

September 29, 2014

Let The Judgement Begin

I have to say, villains, you did well keeping the commentary at least PG rated. I'm sure the Blog Princess appreciated that after seeing what the Dark Side had to offer this week for snarktillery. heh I like jolting her like that every once in a while. Keeps her on her toes, yanno. If only to get the picture off the top of the page.
But, enough with pickin' on the boss, though, she might take away my ration of beer, and those damn itinerant eskimos keep finding and stealing my stash. So, it's time to get down to old business and the Judgement. And because I can it's tradition to give a small reminder of the last pic...(and shirley not because I'm taking advantage of the convenient opportunity to put the pic back on the top of the page...because, I'd never do that.)

Eyes up here, too.png

And we're off like a prom dress!

Kicking off the top ten this week is frequent flyer, his Illudium Q36 Explosive Space Modulator Captionator firmly in hand, dropping the first of many bombs in a vain attempt to stuff the ballot box, "Doctor, I may have to give up gymnastics. Whenever I do a forward somersault, my breasts hurt."

Next up, at number nine, is Capt Mongo's date-night make-up tips, Maybellines new makeup line--guaranteed to get men to look you in the eyes while having those meaningful discussions.

htom enters the top ten at eight with a product review, A rash of repetitive motion medical complains from men threaten the new product; they are having both neck strain and eye muscle strain injuries from the new device.

Seizing the seventh spot this week is frank Karl for Sheila, refused to comment further than, “I’m sorry I rejected that Shaman’s advances, but it does get me a seat in restaurant in Hollywood.”

And rounding out the first half is frequent flyer zipping blindly back through with more ballot bombs for the box, "WOW! Would you look at the 'HEADlights' on THAT GIRL!"

Continue reading "Let The Judgement Begin"

Posted by DL Sly at 09:59 PM | Comments (0) |TrackBack (0) |

Who Says the Economy's Not Growing!

Well, at least the part that's subsidized by your hard earned tax dollars:

645,000 Maryland residents had so-called Obamaphones in 2012 — one hundred times as many people as there were in 2009, and double the number in that state who are supposed to be eligible for the program based on their income.

The program, officially called Lifeline, is run by the Federal Communications Commission and imposes hefty fees on every paying phone company to give free phone service to low-income Americans.

The profits to telecom companies from the free, government-provided phone service are so great that in Nebraska alone, 51 corporations, many of them who are not even traditional phone companies building infrastructure and attracting paying subscribers, fought for a piece of the pie.

That structure allows advocates to argue that it’s not a tax and doesn’t affect the budget, and lessens the extent to which the FCC is beholden to Congress.

Officials admitted Maryland's 10,000 percent increase over three years in a little-noticed hearing before the House's Subcommittee on Communications and Technology in April last year.

"By the third quarter of 2012, the number of Lifeline subscribers in Maryland had risen almost 100 fold to 645,000" compared to three years prior, industry consultant Billy Jack Gregg told Congress.

"Moreover, the current number of Lifeline subscribers in Maryland is almost double the number of low income households in the state" who are eligible.

The FCC says it has since instituted some reforms to put a damper on fraud. Until recently, applicants could self-certify their eligibility, and the FCC found millions of dollars of abuse when it finally checked.

But it only sent letters saying “don’t do it again, or you might be fined” to people who lied on their forms to obtain multiple phones or obtain them even though they had high incomes, it said at the hearing.

And it used the money recovered not to shrink program costs or refund fee-payers, but as free bonus funds that were reinvested to provide free Internet for the poor, with no authorization from Congress.

And then there's this delightful nugget. How do you solve the problem of students borrowing more in federally subsidized student loans than they can afford to pay back? If you guessed, "Shift the cost to taxpayers, and pay no attention to that whole perverse incentive thingie", a stuffed marmoset is on its way to you by parcel post:

Last week we told you about the $20 billion annual rise in Department of Education outlays, due to an increase in student-loan borrowers using income-based repayment programs. Today the Journal reports the disturbing details for taxpayers.

"Enrollment in the plans has surged, thanks in part to a continuing administration publicity campaign. As of June, the number had swelled to 1.91 million Americans holding more than $101 billion in student loans—nearly a 10th of all outstanding federal student debt. The number of borrowers and debt covered roughly has doubled in the past year," reports the Journal.

These plans allow borrowers to reduce monthly payments to just 10% of discretionary income. The loans can then be forgiven after ten years if borrowers work in government or for a non-profit—basically any job as long as it doesn't involve a profit-seeking business.

...So the government is spending taxpayer dollars to encourage young people to avoid repaying loans to taxpayers, while at the same time encouraging these young people to work for outfits that don't pay taxes.

We were told that, come the Revolution, there would be no math.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:49 AM | Comments (1) |TrackBack (0) |

Once More Under the Bus, Dear Friends!

Once more under the bus, dear friends, once more;
Lest blame descend upon thy sovereign's head.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a Prez
As boastful taunts and sharp-edged mockery:
But when reality rears its ugly head,
Then imitate the action of the ostrich!

Bury thy face, claim troubles to be inherited,
Obscure past inattention with sur-prised rage;
Then lift the chin with distainful sulk;
Let blameshifting fly from the imperial maw
Like the Nerf cannon; lower thy displeased brow
At fearful minions and questioners of authority alike
O'erwhelming the confused base with ever-shifting statements.

On, on, you noblest Scribblers.
Whose purpose lies in shielding us from reproof!

On “60 Minutes,” the president faulted his spies for failing to predict the rise of ISIS. There’s one problem with that statement: The intelligence analysts did warn about the group.

Nearly eight months ago, some of President Obama’s senior intelligence officials were already warning that ISIS was on the move. In the beginning of 2014, ISIS fighters had defeated Iraqi forces in Fallujah, leading much of the U.S. intelligence community to assess they would try to take more of Iraq.

But in an interview that aired Sunday evening, the president told 60 Minutes that the rise of the group now proclaiming itself a caliphate in territory between Syria and Iraq caught the U.S. intelligence community off guard. Obama specifically blamed James Clapper, the current director of national intelligence: “Our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that, I think, they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” he said.

Reached by The Daily Beast after Obama’s interview aired, one former senior Pentagon official who worked closely on the threat posed by Sunni jihadists in Syria and Iraq was flabbergasted. “Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting,” the former official said.

Clapper did tell The Washington Post’s David Ignatius this month that he underestimated the will of the ISIS fighters in Iraq and overestimated the ability of Iraq’s security forces in northern Iraq to counter ISIS. (He also said his analysts warned about the “prowess and capability” of the group.)

Still, other senior intelligence officials have been warning about ISIS for months. In prepared testimony before the annual House and Senate intelligence committees’ threat hearings in January and February, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the recently departed director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the group would likely make a grab for land before the end of the year. ISIS “probably will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria to exhibit its strength in 2014.” Of course, the prediction wasn’t exactly hard to make. By then, Flynn noted, ISIS had taken the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, and the demonstrated an “ability to concurrently maintain multiple safe havens in Syria.”

The ability of ISIS to hold that territory will depend on its “resources, local support, as well as the responses of [Iraqi security forces] and other opposition groups in Syria,” Flynn added. He noted that while many Sunnis likely opposed ISIS, “some Sunni tribes and insurgent groups appear willing to work tactically with [ISIS] as they share common anti-government goals.”

Flynn was not alone. Clapper himself in that hearing warned that the three most effective jihadist groups in Syria—one of which he said was ISIS—presented a threat as a magnet for attracting foreign fighters. John Brennan, Obama’s CIA director, said he thought both ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, al Qaeda’s formal franchise in Syria, presented a threat to launch external operations against the West.

You knuckledraggers remember Mike Flynn, don't you?

The terrorist ideology behind al Qaeda is expanding significantly—contrary to President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign theme that declared the Islamist terror threat in decline, according to the outgoing director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

“It’s not on the run, and that ideology is actually, it’s sadly, it feels like it’s exponentially growing,” DIA Director Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn said during a security conference Saturday.

Flynn was asked about the controversy over Obama’s statements during his 2012 reelection bid that al Qaeda had been “decimated” by the U.S. war on terrorism, and that the group was “on the run” as a result.

Flynn challenged use of the term “core al Qaeda” to identify the group once led by Osama bin Laden and now headed by his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri.

“My belief—so this is Mike Flynn—core al Qaeda is the ideology,” he said.

The list of people who have warned of the consequences of announcing withdrawal dates and pulling out of Iraq prematurely goes on and on and on. And yet somehow, we're always caught napping.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:40 AM | Comments (5) |TrackBack (0) |

Why The Long Face???

And don't pretend you people don't do things like this all the time.

neigh.pngDress up like a horse and cart people around, we mean:

When I'm in the pony gear, I feel freer,' she explains. 'It's about who you are, it's about expressing yourself. I become me.'

...'There's something about the way she must feel in her pony finery with her mane and her tail and her ears and her beautiful bridle, the whole nine yards, that liberates her and gives her a more fabulous field in which to gallop.'

And Leanne certainly isn't shy about getting out and about in her pony ensemble, despite the full look including a rather revealing rubber jumpsuit.

From a trip to the shops, a gallop around the yard or even a day out at the races, nowhere is off limits for Leanne's pony persona.

Ah well, as long as everyone involved has signed a consent form in triplicate, who are we to quibble with alternative lifestyles?

Posted by Cassandra at 07:21 AM | Comments (14) |TrackBack (0) |

September 26, 2014

This is Awesome

CWCID: a co-worker, via this site :)

Posted by Cassandra at 11:12 AM | Comments (2) |TrackBack (0) |

Things That Terrify Us

Egad! Is your brain being told what to do by microscopic bugs in your GI tract???

In an article published in the September issue of BioEssays, scientists Joe Alcock, Carlo C. Maley, and C. Athena Aktipis reviewed the research on how microbiota affect the brain, and believe there's a strong case that bacteria influence overall eating behavior. It seems that the bacteria in our guts don't simply wait for whatever leftovers we have to offer. They actively seek out their preferred meals through tricksy deception.

“Microbes have the capacity to manipulate behavior and mood through altering the neural signals in the vagus nerve, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make us feel bad, and releasing chemical rewards to make us feel good,” Aktipis says.

Around 100 million neurons are stationed in the gut, collectively forming the enteric nervous system, also called the "Second Brain." The enteric nervous system is connected to the human brain via the vagus nerve. Thanks to this setup, bacteria are granted streamlined pass to the brain, and they're equipped to take advantage. For example, microbes have genes that allow them to produce hormones like serotonin and dopamine.

Studies in humans have shown that probiotics can improve mood. In mice, the affects are even more pronounced. When a team transplanted the gut bacteria from fearless mice into more anxious mice, the anxious mice began displaying markedly bolder behavior. The behavioral change worked in reverse, too.

"Like microscopic puppetmasters, microbes may control the eating behavior of hosts through a number of potential mechanisms including microbial manipulation of reward pathways, production of toxins that alter mood, changes to receptors including taste receptors, and hijacking of neurotransmission," the researchers write.

Basically, bacteria will send positive signals to the brain when you eat foods that they like, and negative signals when you eat foods they don't like.

They haf vays of makink you pig out on purloined Heath bars.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:15 AM | Comments (10) |TrackBack (0) |

September 24, 2014

On Grading, A Sensible Compromise

For many moons, the Editorial Staff have labored mightily to point out the many and diverse bad arguments put forward by the WARONBOYS!@!!ELEVENTY!!! crowd. First, there was the "But.... but... we musn't expect boys to work hard in school because it's so.... BORING!" meme:

Note to parents: the world, whether it manifests itself as a prospective employer, a boss, a professor, or a spouse, is under no obligation to rearrange itself to keep your child amused and entertained.

Our own job contains many tedious and even unpleasant tasks, and the notion that one needn't complete assignments unless they are designed to be personally fascinating (or worse, that we need only do things we "see the point of") is about as good a recipe for a lifetime of chronic unemployment and failure as we can imagine.

Adults are - or ought to be - capable of drawing the line between spineless obedience and entitled narcissism. What gets most of us to the point where we're able to make such choices wisely is a lot of experience (much of which involves having our own stupidity and lack of foresight pointed out to us by older and wiser humans).

Children, on the otter heiny, rarely have the wisdom or experience to see the point of most things adults ask them to do. If they did, kids would be running the world and adults would be going to their 10 year olds for pocket money.

As bad arguments go, this one is particularly destructive. It's right up there with the equally preposterous notion - sadly prevalent when we were just a rosy-cheeked little Editorial Staff - that girls won't read unless they are fed a special diet of Things Girls Like to Read. It must be nice to live in a fantasy world where people seriously believe the world exists to make them feel important and valued, employers will cater to their every whim, and workers will only have to perform tasks that amuse and entertain them.

Then there was the chorus of folks who clamored that boys were doing worse in school over time. This is true only if you magically change the definition of "worse" to make improvements over time look like something bad:

1. More young men (both in absolute numbers, and as a proportion of all men) going to college than before.
2. Half as many boys dropping out of high school.
3. Boys/men are getting better grades than they used to.
4. Math SAT scores for boys have risen over time.

The debate got so silly that people were seriously suggesting that boys - apparently because "fairness" demands that we lower expectations for anyone carrying a Y chromosome - should not be expected to show up for exams or meet deadlines because they are special snowflakes whose every whim must be catered to by the educational establishment:

The solution:
Woodward supports the contention that grades should not be based on behavior unrelated to learning and knowledge.

Grades should not be based upon attendance, punctuality, or behavior in class.

Grades should not be used to reward or to punish students. The purpose of the grade is to represent what students have learned.

Homework completion should not be a part of the grade. For many reasons homework completion is not an indicator of what was learned.

Based on this seminal (pun fully intended) research, the Editorial Staff have decided to eliminate all deadlines from the workplace... but only for male co-workers, who cannot be expected to follow rules, complete assignments on time, or - apparently - even be at work during normal working hours. The poor dears - one must make allowances...

All of these arguments had previously been put forward by feminists looking to redress gender-related disparities in educational outcomes. They were bad arguments then, and they're still bad arguments when the opposing side uses them. We on the right should know, having dismissed them as worthless just a few years ago.

So imagine our delight to see (finally!) a sensible suggestion that (we think) would help both boys and girls become better students and more well rounded adults:

Teachers realized that a sizable chunk of kids who aced tests trundled along each year getting C’s, D’s, and F’s. At the same time, about 10 percent of the students who consistently obtained A’s and B’s did poorly on important tests. Grading policies were revamped and school officials smartly decided to furnish kids with two separate grades each semester. One grade was given for good work habits and citizenship, which they called a “life skills grade.” A “knowledge grade” was given based on average scores across important tests. Tests could be retaken at any point in the semester, provided a student was up to date on homework.

Here's why the Editorial Staff like this suggestion.

The purpose of grading is to provide information about a student's level of performance, subject matter mastery, and preparedness to move to the next level. Having tutored college algebra, stats, and calculus in college, we often saw students who had passed tests at the previous level - but who had not mastered the material, nor the skills needed for more advanced math - fail Calculus. As a wee lass (and up until her 30s) the Editorial Staff were - in matters academic, at least - far more like a boy than a girl. Put simply, we aced tests (often getting the highest grade in the class on exams) and were terrible about doing homework or turning in what we considered to be "boring" or "pointless" assignments.

A student like that may have memorized the material, but he or she has serious deficits in the skills study after study has found are crucial to long term success:

What Drs. Seligman and Duckworth label “self-discipline,” other researchers name “conscientiousness.” Or, a predisposition to plan ahead, set goals, and persist in the face of frustrations and setbacks. Conscientiousness is uniformly considered by social scientists to be an inborn personality trait that is not evenly distributed across all humans. In fact, a host of cross-cultural studies show that females tend to be more conscientious than males. One such study by Lindsay Reddington out of Columbia University even found that female college students are far more likely than males to jot down detailed notes in class, transcribe what professors say more accurately, and remember lecture content better. Arguably, boys’ less developed conscientiousness leaves them at a disadvantage in school settings where grades heavily weight good organizational skills alongside demonstrations of acquired knowledge.

The thing is, conscientiousness can be taught. That may well be the primary task for parents and teachers: passing a test is like having a fish. Mastering the skills needed to succeed across the board is more like knowing how to fish. Guess which one is more predictive of life success?

Having raised two sons to adulthood, the Editorial Staff are pretty sure that lowering expectations for boys (and worse, failing to teach them self-discipline and self-control) is not the answer. The military knows this - that's why the armed forces consistently turn around lives and produce so many successful men and women:

When video of Adm. William H. McRaven's 2014 commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin was posted online, the speech went viral. Millions of viewers will remember the core message summed up in his memorable line: "If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed."

The Navy SEAL veteran recalled that "if you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can't do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better."

Attention to detail counts, and conscientiousness - widely poo-poohed by conservatives when doing so supports the WARONBOYS message, but lauded by them when it comes in handy for explaining disparate outcomes in other areas of life - is a trump card, beside which most other traits pale in comparison.

The real world demands that adults pay attention to their surroundings, pay their bills on time, perform boring tasks well and thoroughly. A grading system that allows students to take credit for skills they've mastered (taking tests, completing assignments on time, or hopefully both) is more accurate and informative than one that makes it impossible for employers or colleges to correctly assess a student's strengths or weaknesses.

We've often thought that most girls may need coaching to test up to their potential and most boys probably need help with following directions and completing tasks on time. Wouldn't it make sense for grades to explicitly track performance in both areas?

Discuss amongst your ownselves, haters.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:59 AM | Comments (58) |TrackBack (0) |

September 23, 2014

Caption Contest

Alright, villains. Here is your next picture to snarkify.

Eyes up here, too.png

Have at it.
And may the Farce be with you.

Posted by DL Sly at 05:15 AM | Comments (32) |TrackBack (0) |

September 22, 2014

Let The Judgement Begin - Two-Fisted Drinking School Daze Edition

Alright, y'all, I finally got to sit down and get the Judgement done. (And there was much rejoicing, I know.) So with a quick reminder of the first picture...


...it's time to take care of old business.

Kicking off the first top five is YAG with After so many humiliating defeats and the hands of James Bond, Jaws had such a difficult time finding high paying Henchmen jobs that his daughter had to rent out her forehead as a billboard.

In fourth place, frequent flyer drops out of the clouds to give us "After posting this 'selfie' on Facebook, Cynthia couldn't figure out why her social life took a sudden downturn..."

Grabbing the first brass ring is OBH (aka IGotBupkis) and "Wait? That was... LSD?"

Taking the silver of this first edition for what will shirley come to be yet another nom de snark is afe and Come join me in worshipping my unholy master, Satan, Lord Host of the Hoary Netherworld! I look forward to consuming your SOOOUULLLL! On Tuesdays, we get to chew gravel.

Which brings me to number one for number one and Don Brouhaha's And this week at the Tokio Hotel Dinner Theater, "The Shining" as performed by West Monkton Teenage Tumbling and Dance Team!

Continue reading "Let The Judgement Begin - Two-Fisted Drinking School Daze Edition"

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In July, a Druid priestess representing Mr. Pendragon sat at a square table at the Round Table Meeting ....

Mr. Pendragon is a former British army soldier and biker gang leader, who used to be called John Rothwell and later went by several names including "Mad Dog." In 1986, believing himself to be a reincarnation of the legendary King Arthur, he legally changed his name to Arthur Uther Pendragon. He then founded a Druid order and bought a long sword that featured in the 1981 movie "Excalibur." Some modern Druids say that King Arthur—who is said to have lived in 5th and 6th century England—was the first Druid king.

Mr. Pendragon sees his order as the political faction of the Druid movement, promoting a largely libertarian and green agenda. For him, the resemblance to the original King Arthur is clear. "He rode around on a horse and fought people," Mr. Pendragon says. "I bang Druids' heads together and fight English Heritage."

We cannot believe Grim isn't all over this one. Slacker.

Posted by Cassandra at 12:09 PM | Comments (4) |TrackBack (0) |

Well Played

And here we thought we'd seen the last of the Hating Haters Who Hate when The Shrub left office....

The man who was the top Marine general from 2006 until his retirement in 2010 says President Barack Obama’s strategy to defeat the terrorist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is doomed to fail.

“I don’t think the president’s plan has a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding,” retired Marine General James Conway, who served as the 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps during the end of the Bush administration and the beginning of the Obama administration, said at the Maverick PAC Conference in Washington, D.C. Friday, according to a source in attendance.

...Obama’s strategy to degrade and destroy ISIS has come under fire in recent days for other reasons as well, especially for preemptively taking off the table the possibility of using American combat troops to achieve the mission.

“You just don’t take anything off the table up front, which it appears the administration has tried to do,” retired Gen. James Mattis, who served as head of Central Command from 2010 until his retirement in 2013, told the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

“Specifically, if this threat to our nation is determined to be as significant as I believe it is, we may not wish to reassure our enemies in advance that they will not see American ‘boots on the ground,’” he added. “If a brigade of our paratroopers or a battalion landing team of our Marines would strengthen our allies at a key juncture and create havoc/humiliation for our adversaries, then we should do what is necessary with our forces that exist for that very purpose.”

Won't *someone* please step up to the plate and support Our President's enlightened and uber-inclusive policies?

We urge President Obama to immediately and publicly recognize that Mr. Omar J. Gonzalez, an oppressed migrant, was merely looking for a better life when he entered the White House after going over the classist, divisive and needless fence.

In the interest of White House diversity and what will surely result in adding to the rich tapestry of love and community, we further demand that the President reform the mean-spirited laws regulating access to the People's House. For justice and peace, upon his next return from the back-nine, Mr. Obama must award permanent lawful WH residency to Mr. Gonzalez and his family, along with a permit to work there. Because.

Act now. Add your voice to the throngs of huddled masses, yearning to breathe free (or something like that).

We can't wait for Congress to act. It takes a village. Be the change we seek.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:24 AM | Comments (4) |TrackBack (0) |

At Last, Our Long National Nightmare is OVER

I do not know how you peoples have been living with the suspense.

I really don't. Shockingly, he's not even a Rethug:

For days, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has refused to reveal which male colleague called her "chubby," an anecdote she's used to demonstrate problems facing female politicians.

Now, the New York Times reports that it was the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii.

Inouye allegedly squeezed Gillibrand's waist and said, “Don’t lose too much weight now. I like my women chubby!”

I wouldn't read too much into this, peoples. After all, when a Rethuglican misspeaks, I think we can all admit that's some kind of Freudian slip that inadvertently reveals a putrid, seething mass of intolerant HomophobicRacistOtheristSexistPiggery. But when a Democrat says the same thing, hey, it just shows he's human:

The vice president's gaffe history is legendary; mistakes are expected. But three slips in the space of a mere 24 hours? That's a Biden record.

In a Tuesday speech, the vice president referred to people who sold bad loans to service members as "Shylocks," a Jewish slur derived from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.

[But unlike the entire Republican Party...] Biden doesn't have a history of antisemitism or racism toward Asian people. "Clearly, there was no ill intent here," said Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, of Biden's Shylock comment. "There is no truer friend of the Jewish people than Joe Biden."

He does, however, have a storied history of blunders. One of the most memorable came in 2007, when he called Obama "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." That didn't prevent the two from teaming up for the Democratic ticket.

Leave Joe Biden alone. HE'S A HUMAN!!!!

Posted by Cassandra at 08:03 AM | Comments (2) |TrackBack (0) |