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Funding

Posted by Ogged
on 07.29.14

Another really well-reported story from the Times, this time about ransoms paid to Al Qaeda (affiliates) by European governments (who deny that they do it).

In its early years, Al Qaeda received most of its money from deep-pocketed donors, but counterterrorism officials now believe the group finances the bulk of its recruitment, training and arms purchases from ransoms paid to free Europeans.

Lots of good detail in the story. I would not want to be the person deciding whether to pay ransom for someone's life, no matter how clear the right decision seemed.



 

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Michael Robbins

Posted by Ogged
on 07.29.14

I read Michael Robbins' lovely poem Country Music and went looking for more of his stuff. He is a clever, funny dude, who is craftsman enough to work some genuine emotion into the laughs. But I think he and I are around the same age and have lived in some of the same places. I wonder if his stuff will make a lick of sense to anyone not precisely of his cohort.

(He's also a smart critic. Here, to pick one at random, on black metal. And another on Piketty. Or, if you're truly a king geek masochist, on postmodern poetry anthologies as a genre.)



 

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Cheap labor

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.29.14

So if being an inmate firefighter is strictly on a volunteer basis, is it a problem? Maybe it is exhilarating to fight fires, but it's not very exhilarating to earn $2/day.

(I remember reading elsewhere how prisoners and their families are being sacked with all sorts of fees and fines to cover their stay, which seems much more straightforwardly awful, and thus less interesting to argue about.)



 

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Lady Parts

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.29.14

Oh this is stupid:

Despite my support for all of the issues Lady Parts Justice stands for, I have one big problem with Winstead's new project: Its name. I understand that Winstead and her colleagues are using the term "Lady Parts" as a playful euphemism for much more clinical-sounding terms like "uterus," "vagina," and so on. The problem with this name--and with use of terms like "lady parts" or "lady bits" more generally to refer to reproductive organs that have been typically associated with women--is that it reinforces biological essentialism, tying gender to genitals. Not all women are the owners of a uterus, and not all owners of a uterus are women.

First, "Lady Parts" isn't exactly a playful euphemism: it's a faux-conservative euphemism which is supposed to be super gender-essentializing and biologically hand-wavy. Which is central to their point, that conservative men are making decisions that about biology that they find grody, based on old-timey gender roles.

So the article - on the wild off-chance you don't click through - is a tirade on behalf of transmen with uteruses and ladies without, and good grief, let's just focus on how those groups are marginalized by actual conservatives and not by activists who are co-opting conservative euphemisms.



 

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Guest Post- Ray Rice

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.28.14

J, Robot writes: Bombastic, self-righteous correspondents, and even Upworthy, have their place. Am I banned now?

Heebie's take: I'd seen that meme about how Football Player #1 beat his wife into oblivion and got a two game suspension, whereas Football Player #2 tested positive for pot and was suspended for the entire season. I don't think we talked about this here, yet, have we?

I have no idea how to troll this thread and generate a discussion, but perhaps you can?



 

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Piketty Reading Group: Chapter 11

Posted by LizardBreath
on 07.27.14

Chris Y is scheduled for Chapter 12, and we need volunteers for 13 and later. Fake accent -- you want one of those?

I flounder my way through Chapter 11 below -- it's one of the central chapters of the book, as well as being long as hell, which means I hope the quality of the summary doesn't hold back discussion too badly.

Prior reading group posts:

Piketty Reading Group Setup
Initial Scheduling Post
Introduction and Chapter One -- Robert Halford
Chapter Two -- Minivet
Chapter Three -- Essear
Chapter Four -- Unimaginative
Chapter Five -- X. Trapnel
Chapter Six -- Conflated
Chapter Seven -- LizardBreath
Chapter Eight -- Lw
Chapter Nine -- Bave D
Chapter Ten -- Rob Helpy-chalk


read more »



 

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New Math

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.27.14

From what I understand, this article is exactly right, on math teaching reforms at the K-12 level:

In fact, efforts to introduce a better way of teaching math stretch back to the 1800s. The story is the same every time: a big, excited push, followed by mass confusion and then a return to conventional practices. The trouble always starts when teachers are told to put innovative ideas into practice without much guidance on how to do it. In the hands of unprepared teachers, the reforms turn to nonsense, perplexing students more than helping them.

Sometimes it's phrased as whether or not you get buy-in from the teachers - stubborn teachers are sick of being told how shake up their teaching, and under duress they follow the letter of the implementation but not the spirit. I assume that there are a very wide range of reasons why teachers fail to implement each wave of teaching reform, but the basic point is that we do know how to teach math - it's slow, requires depth over breadth, requires budgeting large amounts of time for students to wrestle with ideas and work out for themselves why certain ideas are faulty. We don't necessarily train the teachers in how to implement this discussion-idea-wrestling part very well whatsoever.

The article doesn't get into the other reason that our reforms fail - even if a teacher understands how to implement the reform, they're hamstrung by the size of the curriculum. Curricula grow and they are never, ever reduced. Not only is that obviously unsustainable, implementing most of these teaching reforms require reducing the amount of content to levels beyond most people's comfort zone. You actually have to have dedication to the idea that not all important topics should be covered - that it is crucially important to omit key ideas, because there are too many key ideas to cover them all effectively.

(This particular example seems absurd, though:

On the same multiple-choice test, three-quarters of fourth graders could not translate a simple word problem about a girl who sold 15 cups of lemonade on Saturday and twice as many on Sunday into the expression "15 + (2×15)."

Yeah, I'm pretty sure I would not have been able to do that in fourth grade, either. You could certainly teach a fourth grader how to understand that kind of equation, with some work, but it's not standard fourth grade curriculum by far, as far as I know.)



 

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Special Snowflakes

Posted by Ogged
on 07.26.14

Drum wonders why doctors don't personally buy generics more often. The assumption in his piece is that "the 'store brand' is genuinely identical to the name brand." This assumption is false. As I said to him in an email, a lot of doctors realize through clinical practice that some versions of the "same" drug work for some patients and not others. And if you talk to someone in the pharmaceutics biz, they'll tell you that there's quite a bit of variance in formulations for what are nominally the same drug. This is all explained in the linked article. The upshot isn't "use the name brand," but start with the generic, and don't give up on the drug if that particular generic doesn't work (although your doctor is about a million times more likely to use a different drug than to have you try versions of the same drug).



 

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Who Put These Lucky Duckies In My Boat?

Posted by Ogged
on 07.26.14

Some buildings have gone up in NY that have integrated affordable housing. The developers have seen fit to have separate entrances (which people are calling "poor doors") for those who live in affordable units and those who don't. Someone smart might have tried to justify this based on some bogus logistical/architectural argument. David Von Spreckelsen is not a smart person.

"No one ever said that the goal was full integration of these populations," said David Von Spreckelsen, senior vice president at Toll Brothers. "So now you have politicians talking about that, saying how horrible those back doors are. I think it's unfair to expect very high-income homeowners who paid a fortune to live in their building to have to be in the same boat as low-income renters, who are very fortunate to live in a new building in a great neighborhood."

And by "boat" of course he means "place."



 

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Band geeks are horny pervs? no way!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.25.14

And they're geeky about their elaborate horny perviness.

Via Jammies



 

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