Math is hard, let’s go visit sex workers

I don’t usually read Nick Kristof, I’ve grown tired of his political naiveté and his obsession with sex workers, but I saw people tweeting about his new column — about how academics should get more involved with public debate — and thought I’d like and agree with it. (I think everyone should get more involved with public debate, FWIW, but as an academic, I’ve thought about the issue more with regard to academics, though many things about colleagues make me think they wouldn’t contribute much.)

Corey Robin sums up Kristof’s (via) criticism of academics: “the usual volumes of complaint: too much jargon, too much math, too much peer review, too much left politics”. In fact, Kristof twice criticizes academics for being “too quantitative”.

There was a very quantitatively inclined (non-academic) fellow who used to work for the Times and who drove as much as 1/4 of the Times internet traffic in the lead-up to the election. Thus, the argument that readers are turned off by quantitative arguments doesn’t hold much water. There was one group that didn’t like Nate Silver and his numbers much though:

A number of traditional and well-respected Times journalists disliked his work. The first time I wrote about him I suggested that print readers should have the same access to his writing that online readers were getting. I was surprised to quickly hear by e-mail from three high-profile Times political journalists, criticizing him and his work. They were also tough on me for seeming to endorse what he wrote, since I was suggesting that it get more visibility.

Kristof’s criticism of academics for being too quantitative is part of a turf war. Establishment media types are innumerates who got where they got by kissing the right asses, and they’re threatened by numbers and, more broadly, by specialized knowledge of any kind.

Kristof readily admits that he likes to absorb research via TED talks. At least David Brooks reads books and research papers, even if he doesn’t understand them.

89 replies
  1. 1
    gogol's wife says:

    I wonder which three of the Times’s political reporters complained to her. Of course Silver messed up their narrative of how Romney was about to turn around the whole race.

    I found Kristof’s use of his op-ed platform to insert himself into the Allen-Farrow situation to be quite distasteful.

  2. 2
    gogol's wife says:

    I was trying to figure out what band you were quoting in the post title, but I think it’s Barbie who said, “Math is hard.”

  3. 3
    aimai says:

    I can’t stand Kristoff. The other thing which is wrong with his analysis is the assumption that there is some such free standing thing as a “public intellectual/academic” who can gain access to the public on his/her own hook. That person hasn’t existed for a very long time, if ever. In the major media there are people who are in journalistic rolodexes and there are people who aren’t. If you aren’t on the list to be called for a quote–you won’t be.

    So: who gets called for a quote? Who gets asked to write op eds? Well–there’s a pretty extensive network on the right for stovepiping people from college to pundit status without detouring them through academia at all. There are think tanks galore which will actively seek out and pay people with no academic credentials, or fake ones, to pose as experts. Didn’t it recently come out that the Hoover foundation had been shopping around a middle eastern expert who was no such thing? And what is Krauthammer but a guy who no respectable school would employ but who has occupied prime real estate on tv and print for decades?

    On the left/liberal end of things theres…Krugman? And the Times fought and fought against employing him at all. He balances non academics like Friedman and Dowd.

    This is not the fault of “Academics.” How can they get heard at all if the Universities won’t pay them to be heard–in fact Larry Summers went after his AA department at Harvard for being too out there in the public eye–and the Newspapers won’t phone them and Fox News and the rest of the TV stations won’t call them to appear?

  4. 4
    DougJ says:

    @gogol’s wife:

    Yup, that’s right.

  5. 5
    gogol's wife says:

    @aimai:

    Oh, come on now, they’ll always quote good old Cornel West whenever he has a criticism of Obama to offer.

  6. 6
    Brian R. says:

    Kristoff is annoying, but the underlying point is right — academics need to engage with the bullshit coming from the right.

    Scientists need to engage climate change deniers, historians need to smack down the David Bartons of the world, religious scholars need to speak up on the “creeping sharia” bullshit, and of course policy wonks in any field need to be front and center in the relevant debate.

  7. 7
    Joey Maloney says:

    @gogol’s wife: Just mentioning his name makes my eyes water. I don’t know how some of the recipients of his supercilious “my brother” restrain themselves from punching him in the neck.

  8. 8
    DougJ says:

    @Brian R.:

    Yes, that is why I think too, but that wasn’t how he made his point. His advice was stop being lefty number-crunchers, and start making TED talks.

  9. 9
    ppcli says:

    @DougJ: Though the message would have been OK if the it just had a few more words: “Math is hard. That problem set on the Stone-Čech compactification took me most of the weekend.”

  10. 10
    Cervantes says:

    @aimai:

    The other thing which is wrong with his analysis is the assumption that there is some such free standing thing as a “public intellectual/academic” who can gain access to the public on his/her own hook. That person hasn’t existed for a very long time, if ever. In the major media there are people who are in journalistic rolodexes and there are people who aren’t. If you aren’t on the list to be called for a quote–you won’t be.

    Interesting. I don’t know that NBC News (say) ever calls James Meek or Katha Pollitt or Michael Woods or Jenny Diski or Michael Tomasky or Jerome Groopman or Mark Danner or Christopher Ricks — or Zombie Stephen Jay Gould or Zombie Tony Judt or Zombie Howard Zinn — but do you not (and did you not) think of these people as public intellectuals?

    Conversely, can you name public intellectuals who are in those journalistic rolodexes?

    (Thanks.)

  11. 11
    KS in MA says:

    Anecdotal evidence here: A friend who is an academic and who gets asked to do a fair number of interviews tells me that, when she doesn’t give the tendentious replies the interviewer is looking for, the interview/article often ends up getting spiked.

    That kind of thing might tend to complicate Kristof’s line of reasoning a bit.

  12. 12
    DougJ says:

    @ppcli:

    I was actually going to talk about his anti-jargon stuff and mention that I’ve spent the last week trying to figure out in what generality this simple fact about extensions of fields of finite type over fields of fractions of noetherian integral domains holds….and realized that, unfortunately, I did need to understand all the Grothendieck jargon in order to come up with the simplest proof. So you need jargon sometimes.

  13. 13
    Cervantes says:

    @ppcli: Maybe they were saving that for Ken.

  14. 14
    NotMax says:

    There’s nothing wrong with numbers and numerical analysis.

    There’s also nothing totemic about them. They’re a tool, not a solution.

  15. 15
    Suffern ACE says:

    @KS in MA: If your explanation can be summarized as “the issue is complicated”, your interview will probably be dropped.

  16. 16
    Corner Stone says:

    @Brian R.:

    Scientists need to engage

    I disagree completely. Scientists will never master the art of the sound byte, nor the ability to look right at someone and just flat out lie about something they know is a lie. So why lend any of these charlatans any hint of credibility by “engaging” them.
    Unless the idea of engagement is full on smackdown, with no nuance, then the liars and paid for conmen will always be elevated through the debate. And we know these specific topics don’t shrink down well, because, hell, they are freakin’ huge, complex, and detailed. Exactly what no one wants to hear.
    Rational people can evaluate their lies, but rational people are not their target audience.

  17. 17
    srv says:

    My gut tells me that facts and reality are for losers.

  18. 18
    aimai says:

    @Cervantes: I don’t understand the question–Katha Pollitt is an actual journalist. So is Tomaskey. Tony Judt is dead and so is Howard Zinn (god bless him). I’m quite familiar with Public Intellectuals as my grandfather was, famously, both a Journalist and a public intellectual. Kristoff is complaining that academics can’t get in touch with “the public” in a world in which “the public” gets reached by fewer and fewer journalistic sources, through a very limited number of tv shows, and occasionally through public hearings which are, themselves, very badly covered by journalists/news organizations and tv shows.

    How is this the fault of academics? If MSNBC or Meet the Press wants to call up academics and put them on instead of John McCain they can do so. But they won’t. This isn’t because Academics don’t know what they are talking about or even because they crunch numbers too much but because the public and the producers want point/counterpoint along a far right/center right continuum so you will never see someone who muddies that distinction by being too far to the actual left or too complicated in their viewpoint.

  19. 19
    Corner Stone says:

    Math is hard, let’s go visit sex workers

    Didn’t we just tackle this topic in the previous thread?

  20. 20
    doug r says:

    Math is not hard. Not if we teach it.

  21. 21
    beltane says:

    A couple of weeks ago Kristof also posted a somewhat bizarre Woody Allen screed that prompted many of his readers to suggest he get a job with the National Enquirer.

  22. 22
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @KS in MA:

    Ah, failure to support the narrative.

    There is no greater crime against journamalism than that.

  23. 23
    DougJ says:

    @aimai:

    They Sunday shows sure do like Doris Kearns Goodwin, though.

  24. 24
    Corner Stone says:

    I love those BirdsEye frozen vegetable commercials with the talking animals.
    “Pa-pa-pa-potatooooeeesss!!”

  25. 25
    Baud says:

    Everyone has a right to engage in public debate, of course. I think there is an open question about how useful it is to have academics engage as academics. Depends how it’s done, I think.

  26. 26
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @aimai:

    Again, the academics have the temerity to not support the narrative. Which is why they don’t get invited on the show.

  27. 27
    Suffern ACE says:

    Camille Paglia is a public academic. I’m not certain what problem she solves.

  28. 28
    🎂 Martin says:

    Shorter Kristof: Facts have a liberal bias.

    I’ve heard that before. Somewhere…

  29. 29
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Suffern ACE:

    The teevee does not do nuance. Explaining things means you’re losing. The target audience is not interested in being educated, they’re interested in being entertained.

  30. 30
    Corner Stone says:

    @DougJ: A clip of the recent RealTime with Maher has him say something like, “In 1983 we had 50 media companies, in 1990 we had 23, in 1997 we had 10. Now we have 6.”

  31. 31
    Sly says:

    Kristof readily admits that he likes to absorb research via TED talks.

    I’ll just leave this here.

    The brand of placebo-politics promoted by TED is tailor-made for the likes of Kristof.

  32. 32
    beltane says:

    @aimai: For an example of this, look at Corey Robin himself. I am a non-academic who happens to find his writing thought-provoking and lively. But his views on several issues (e.g. the I/P conflict) stray too far from the mainstream as narrowly defined by the media for him to ever receive a NYT column. With few exceptions, the only public intellectuals our elite deems fit for general consumption are clowns like Thomas Friedman or frauds like David Brooks.

  33. 33
    Bill Arnold says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Unless the idea of engagement is full on smackdown, with no nuance,…

    Nothing wrong with this. It is also a skill that can be learned.
    As far as scientists not engaging, why isn’t ceding the public debate to charlatans (by not engaging) worse?

  34. 34
    Just Some Fuckhead, Thought Leader says:

    Apparently, there are at least 100 academics already trying to influence the public discourse.

  35. 35

    @Cervantes: I know, I know, Michael Ignatieff!! But seriously, the New York Review is no doubt public, but with a circulation of 135,000 (huge by current standards) it’s not exactly reaching a Walter Lipman–sized audience. Another concerning thing is the number of people doing intellectual-y things on TV and such that never went to grad school.

  36. 36
    MikeJ says:

    He thinks economics is the most empirical science, and he says he believes it because there are Republicans in that field.

    Economics is dismal, but it ain’t science. It’s a religion. Ask any economist what happens when the minimum wage goes up. Every single one will tell you employment goes down because that’s what the equation says happens. When you look at actual real world data it looks an awful lot like more people are employed when the minimum goes up. Economists will tell you that it was going to happen anyway, and employment would have gone up x% more without the increase in wages. Starting with the conclusion is the textbook book definition of begging the question (a phrase most people don’t understand either, but that’s a different rant.)

  37. 37
    🎂 Martin says:

    @Corner Stone:

    I disagree completely. Scientists will never master the art of the sound byte, nor the ability to look right at someone and just flat out lie about something they know is a lie. So why lend any of these charlatans any hint of credibility by “engaging” them.

    Further, it undermines scientists to engage, because then it will become political.

    We need an electorate that is scientifically literate, one that understands the machinations of science, why peer review works (and where it doesn’t) and what scientific consensus means. The previously mentioned survey suggests that Americans are actually pretty scientifically literate – roughly as much so as anyone else. The punchline is that too many Americans will elevate belief over science, and that’s what kills us. If the science goes against your interests, you can just work back up through the political religious community and form a message that the public will accept over the science.

    But scientists can’t win that battle. The only ones who can change that are religious leaders. Catholics don’t disbelieve the sun-centric model because the Catholic church threw in the towel on that one. That’s the only avenue out of this.

  38. 38
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @🎂 Martin: So that’s why facts are stupid things. Duh.

  39. 39
    Anoniminous says:

    Adsorbing research via TED talks is like adsorbing all one’s nutrition via candy; yes it is possible and if that’s what is done you’ll end up with diabetes.

  40. 40
    NotMax says:

    One reason Brian Lamb of C-SPAN, before he for all intents and purposes retired, is a national treasure was his willingness and ability to sit down with academics, authors, intellectuals, scientists, etc. for an extended period and dispassionately, with an informed curiosity, coax out answers and information in layman’s terms rather than fishing for sound bites.

  41. 41
    Anoniminous says:

    @Suffern ACE:

    Since we can’t get broadcast TV she, and others of her ilk, solved our problem of whether to purchase cable.

    We didn’t.

  42. 42
    Corner Stone says:

    @Bill Arnold: I think engagement by scientists/academics needs to be better defined.
    Do we mean Bill Nye debating Ken Ham? Krugman doing a roundtable on This Week? A guest going on a Fox News TV show?
    Massive media publications, dissemination through filters to wider but select audiences (like blogs, for example)? Grass roots aka town hall meetups?
    I’m not including some combination of all as an answer because they are very different engagements with different hopes of outcomes. (to be utilized by very different actors) *

    *Edited there

  43. 43
    kc says:

    I think everyone should get more involved with public debate, FWIW,

    I thought you had given up on trying to reason with the Others.

  44. 44
    Baud says:

    @Bill Arnold:

    It is also a skill that can be learned.

    But like all skills, it takes time and commitment to learn. How many academics are willing to take time away from their day jobs to do that?

  45. 45
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @beltane:

    It’s really stretching it to call blockheads like the Moustache of Understanding and BoBo “intellectuals”.

    But that’s the Village for you.

  46. 46
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Suffern ACE:

    I really think we should link up Camilla Paglia and Victor Davis Hanson, and watch the resulting black hole of pompous stupid destroy the universe.

  47. 47
    🎂 Martin says:

    @MikeJ:

    Ask any economist what happens when the minimum wage goes up. Every single one will tell you employment goes down because that’s what the equation says happens.

    Here’s your mistake – that’s not what every economist says. That’s what every Chicago school economist says. That’s not what other economists say. It’s not what Keynesians say. You won’t hear that out of Krugman, or Stiglitz, or Bofinger, or Yellen. You will hear it out of every guest on CNBC and every economist that the GOP trot out. But that’s a very different thing.

    Lots of economists believe that raising the minimum wage won’t hurt jobs. The group that will give you the consistently wrong answer is politicians. They’re the ones not willing to take the political hit for advancing an idea that, even if the data supports it, is counterintuitive to the conventional wisdom the electorate has adopted.

  48. 48
    Suffern ACE says:

    If the academics actually wanted to participate, they should probably make their expertise into a form of secret knowlegde that they heretofore have been forbidden to speak about by a conspiracy. It doesn’t take years of study or hard electives. No, it’s those insiders who make things hard for the public to find out.

  49. 49
    Anoniminous says:

    Take GLBT rights.

    How is it possible to have a rational discussion when the scientist/academic talks about Gender Dysphoria rising – in some manner not completely understood – from variants of the CYP17 gene and the response is, “ARRgley-bargelty JESUS!!!”?

  50. 50
    Brian R. says:

    @DougJ:

    They Sunday shows sure do like Doris Kearns Goodwin, though.

    Not a trained historian though. See also: Michael Beschloss, Robert Caro, Tom Brokaw, and Jon Meacham.

    These aren’t the best trained people in the field. They’re just the best at getting on talk shows and crafting digestible sound bites for media narratives.

  51. 51
    RSA says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Explaining things means you’re losing. The target audience is not interested in being educated, they’re interested in being entertained.

    That’s approximately the conclusion I’ve come to as well.

    A few years ago I had a thought: Over the past 50 years or so the world has been transformed by computers. Maybe people would be interested in the big ideas that underlie computer science. So I wrote a popular science book, at a level that I think a high schooler would find understandable. I’d expected that there might be some pushback from other computer scientists–“Those aren’t the most important ideas; these are.”–but I’d hoped that it might start a useful public conversation of some sort.

    Of course, that didn’t happen. Technology is interesting to read about, abstract ideas (even without hard math) not so much. The media outlets I contacted said, “No thanks.” Reviews appeared in only the tiniest venues. It could be due to my writing skills, or Oxford’s limited publicity efforts, but I think it’s more than that. Some ideas take a bit of work to understand, and the process isn’t always easy or entertaining enough to take hold.

  52. 52
    Cervantes says:

    @aimai:

    I don’t understand the question

    OK, sorry, my fault, I’ll try again. What I did not say before is that I have no interest whatsoever in Nicky Kristof’s article. I’m only interested in something you wrote, which is why I quoted only it (and now quote only it again):

    The other thing which is wrong with his analysis is the assumption that there is some such free standing thing as a “public intellectual/academic” who can gain access to the public on his/her own hook. That person hasn’t existed for a very long time, if ever. In the major media there are people who are in journalistic rolodexes and there are people who aren’t. If you aren’t on the list to be called for a quote–you won’t be.

    I took this to mean that you think public intellectuals can only exist if they are invited into mass media. If you did mean that, then my question follows (and is obvious). Here’s an expanded list of people: James Meek, Katha Pollitt, Michael Woods, Jenny Diski, Michael Tomasky, Jerome Groopman, Mark Danner, Christopher Ricks, Noam Chomsky, E. O. Wilson, Garry Wills — plus Zombie Stephen Jay Gould, Zombie Tony Judt, Zombie Howard Zinn, Zombie Edward Said, Zombie Milton Friedman, Zombie Chris Hitchens, Zombie Gore Vidal. My contention [C] is that few of these people ever got invitations from (say) NBC News — and yet would you not agree that they are (or were) public intellectuals?

    Oh, and conversely, can you name public intellectuals who are in those journalistic rolodexes?

    In other words, I’m interested in your idea (not Kristof’s). And I’d be perfectly happy to hear you respond that my contention [C] is wrong, or that I misunderstood your point, etc.

    As for the rest of your comment:

    –Katha Pollitt is an actual journalist. So is Tomaskey. Tony Judt is dead and so is Howard Zinn (god bless him). I’m quite familiar with Public Intellectuals as my grandfather was, famously, both a Journalist and a public intellectual.

    Pollitt and Tomaskey being journalists? Sure, I agree. Tony and Howard being dead? Not relevant.

    Your grandfather? Let’s just say that I am well aware.

    Kristoff is complaining that academics can’t get in touch with “the public” in a world in which “the public” gets reached by fewer and fewer journalistic sources, through a very limited number of tv shows, and occasionally through public hearings which are, themselves, very badly covered by journalists/news organizations and tv shows. How is this the fault of academics? If MSNBC or Meet the Press wants to call up academics and put them on instead of John McCain they can do so. But they won’t. This isn’t because Academics don’t know what they are talking about or even because they crunch numbers too much but because the public and the producers want point/counterpoint along a far right/center right continuum so you will never see someone who muddies that distinction by being too far to the actual left or too complicated in their viewpoint.

    Again, I’m not interested in Kristof’s argument.

  53. 53
    DougJ says:

    @Brian R.:

    Caro isn’t on the shows much.

  54. 54
    Brian R. says:

    @DougJ:

    No, he’s not on the shows, but his work on LBJ is influential in those same corners while actual historians’ work on him is never discussed or even acknowledged.

    There was a piece this morning or yesterday in the NYTimes over LBJ’s legacy, and I don’t think they cited a single historian in it. LBJ’s daughter, LBJ’s museum head, LBJ’s critics were all quoted, but not an historian.

    Because fuck the experts, right?

  55. 55
    Cervantes says:

    @Suffern ACE:

    Camille Paglia is a public academic. I’m not certain what problem she solves.

    She’s (sort of) made a career out of extreme narcissism and Tourette’s syndrome.

    One can admire that, I suppose.

  56. 56
    Botsplainer says:

    Do the TED talk dorks realize what a fucking parody of themselves they’ve become? Here’s a perfect example – AOL Digital Prophet David Shing, spouting platitudes about nothing while getting overpaid at the expense of AOL employees and shareholders.

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=A.....Q8cpjEdpmI

  57. 57
    mai naem says:

    Any news on Betty Cracker’s mom?

  58. 58
    Cervantes says:

    @Yastreblyansky:

    @Cervantes: I know, I know, Michael Ignatieff!!

    Please do not get me started on Ignatieff, or Ferguson, or …

    But seriously, the New York Review is no doubt public, but with a circulation of 135,000 (huge by current standards) it’s not exactly reaching a Walter Lipman–sized audience.

    OK, aimai offered one criterion (I think) and here you offer another: one can’t be a public intellectual if one’s direct audience is not large enough? How would you figure this out?

    Another concerning thing is the number of people doing intellectual-y things on TV and such that never went to grad school.

    Not sure about the “grad school” thing but, yes, quality would be another criterion. Hence my question: can one name “public intellectuals” who are in those journalistic rolodexes? (Other than Paul Krugman, I suppose.)

  59. 59
    Botsplainer says:

    LOL – Steve King is ranting on about how the House GOP leadership is in the pocket of billionaires.

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/l.....ration-gop

  60. 60
    Aimai says:

    @Cervantes: oh. I was responding to kristoffs argument. I have no idea what you are arguing about.

  61. 61
    Cervantes says:

    @Aimai:

    I have no idea what you are arguing about.

    Should be obvious that I was not arguing anything (or, if you prefer, about anything). I was just seeking your definition of “public intellectual.” I thought you were (indirectly) offering one criterion: access to mass media. Apparently, I was wrong! (Anyway, even if your comment implied this criterion, you might not have intended it to.)

  62. 62
    Gene108 says:

    @doug r:

    No.

    Math is hard.

    I will never understand math beyond basic Algebra. My brain does not grok it.

    Not everyone has to be good at math.

  63. 63
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Botsplainer:

    What happened? Did he fall down a flight of stairs and open his eyes, at long last?

  64. 64
    Brian R. says:

    @Gene108:

    Not everyone has to be good at math.

    Of course not. But the rest of us used to be willing to trust the experts.

    Not anymore. An army of internet sleuths is out there to doubt the scientifitc data, to examine the kerning, to adjust the job numbers, and to unskew the polls.

  65. 65
    Suffern ACE says:

    Cross country skiing just goes on and on.

  66. 66
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Brian R.: his work on LBJ is influential in those same corners while actual historians’ work on him is never discussed or even acknowledged.

    I don’t understand your point here. So Robert Caro doesn’t have a PhD in history. He has spent over three decades researching, interviewing and writing about one historical subject. Does the fact that his BA was in English half a century ago and not history, or that he has not written articles for publication in journals read by hundreds of people make him not an actual historian?

  67. 67

    How does the Times decide, who gets to be a columnist? With the exception of Gail Collins and Paul Krugman, I don’t find any one worth reading. Nick Kristoff seems pretty stupid, a younger version of Richard Cohen. Aren’t there many law and econ professors who are also right wing bloggers? They are not better than your average mouth breathing wingnut as far as I can tell. As for TED I haven’t heard a single talk. Are they any good?

  68. 68
    Cervantes says:

    @Brian R.: OK, can you offer or point to a critique of Bob Caro’s work that you find compelling?

    Thanks.

  69. 69
    flounder says:

    From the classic on the topic:

    I confess to be one of those people who hate math. I can do my basic arithmetic all right (although not percentages) but I flunked algebra (once), barely passed it the second time — the only proof I’ve ever seen of divine intervention — somehow passed geometry and resolved, with a grateful exhale of breath, that I would never go near math again. I let others go on to intermediate algebra and trigonometry while I busied myself learning how to type. In due course, this came to be the way I made my living. Typing: Best class I ever took.

  70. 70
    NotMax says:

    schrodinger’s cat

    Some of the speakers can be informative, entertaining and/or witty, perhaps even lead one to ferret out more knowledge or data.

    But any of the talks, even the best, is a canape of information in the buffet of learning.

  71. 71
    Corner Stone says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    As for TED I haven’t heard a single talk. Are they any good?

    Sure, if you’re a Venture Capitalist looking for the next snake oil idea to sell to the rubes.
    I’ve been hating on TED talks for a number of years, so I may not be the right person to respond to this one.

  72. 72
    catclub says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: “As for TED I haven’t heard a single talk. Are they any good?”

    Andrew Tobias pushes one that talks about the great middle class being the real job creators.

    Andrew is always nice to go to because he is almost unfailingly optimistic about the (long) future.

    He is (was?) the treasurer of the Democratic Party.

  73. 73

    @Corner Stone: When I want to learn something I prefer books, papers and if possible talking to real life experts, attending talks/seminars in person. TED talks seem to to be like the fast food of learning. I am not a huge fan of NOVA either for the same reason. Too superficial.
    Real learning takes effort and time, NK wants easy-to-digest stuff so he can appear learned, without any real understanding.

  74. 74

    @flounder: If he cannot calculate a percentage, he does not know basic arithmetic.

  75. 75
    NotMax says:

    @schrodinger’s cat

    Here’s a link to one TED talk (15 minutes) which is pretty decent and occasionally thought-provoking.

  76. 76
    Corner Stone says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: I stopped watching after 4 or 5 of the sessions in a row all followed the same pattern/style of presentation. It didn’t matter what the topic was about.
    They all were breathless and what I characterize as evangelical in their delivery. Like if you just believed enough in their idea/solution then things would automatically be better.
    And honestly, this just killed them off for me:
    TED: The Future We Will Create
    Watching Al Gore’s contribution in this documentary just about ruined any vestige of respect I had for him as well.

    ETA – Although, I will say that a few have actually given me pause. There’s one from a while back, and it may be featured in that documentary above, where the guy was developing a screen that could handle multi-point input. Instead of the two finger pinch and grab like an iPad, it could take different points and know what to do with them. I remember thinking at the time of several ways I could use that technology, if it had mass market availability at the time.

  77. 77
    Kay says:

    @gogol’s wife:

    I wonder which three of the Times’s political reporters complained to her. Of course Silver messed up their narrative of how Romney was about to turn around the whole race.

    But there was more going on there than that. Some very wealthy and powerful people had plowed huge amounts of money into Romney’s race. It was supposed to run like a well-oiled machine, because they don’t back losers and they don’t hire losers. Some of that stuff was just crazy. The “campaign buses” that went into “swing states” like Michigan where there would be maybe a county chair and Romney campaign hire hire passing out bumper stickers. I heard they had four of them, but maybe there were more. They thought people would come out to see a bus. Why would anyone do that? What was the point? Romney can’t be in the fake swing states like MI because he has to be in the real swing states like FL but the dopes in the trenches won’t notice that he’s sent a bus in his stead?

    How much did they spend on the gambit where they went wherever Obama was and drove a bus around in circles? It had a name, “mirroring” or something. They paid people hundreds of thousands of dollars to come up with these ideas.

    They were willing to believe the unskewed polls guy because NOT to believe the unskewed polls guy means the members of America’s business brain trust that were backing that campaign are dopes who got ripped off.

    The political media actually have a small “d” democratic reason for keeping the race “close”. If they call it weeks ahead of time, they are actually suppressing turn out, affecting the real numbers. Romney’s backers had no excuse other than their gigantic egos.

  78. 78
    Chris says:

    @Kay:

    They’ve definitely gotten much, much lazier and more out of touch in their campaigning.

  79. 79
    Corner Stone says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    and if possible talking to real life experts, attending talks/seminars in person

    I will also say that a few years ago I attended a conference and in about 15 minutes I got every bit of my money – and time’s – worth.
    It was a four day event and after one session I walked up to the presenter, a CIO of a major concern based in CA, just chatted with him for 15 or so minutes. He was polite, engaging and locked in for that 15 minutes. I probably could’ve extended it a bit but felt he was so gracious to answer my specific questions/concerns, that it was more polite to thank him and move on.
    I went back and wrote a 30 page whitepaper based roughly on what I pulled from that conference, and that 15 minute conversation featured prominently in the material and direction.

  80. 80
    Kay says:

    @Chris:

    I didn’t understand it, because while I understand the fiction of swing states that are not swing states, I don’t get why they would send people to Michigan as “optics”. To fool…who? The media are already playing along, so it wasn’t for their benefit.

    That’s like a bridge too far from reality. It’s disconcerting, because sending a bus to Michigan doesn’t somehow make this fiction real. It’s just a bus sitting in Michigan. The whole campaign was like that, from my perspective.

    I watched “Mitt” and maybe it’s understandable because he’s like that. He’s an odd duck.

  81. 81
    Gene108 says:

    @Brian R.:

    Being good at math and trusting science are not the same thing. Some of the staunchest Global Warming deniers I have encountered are engineers and physicists.

    Why?

    Early global warming models were off. They did not take into account the role oceans play in storing the CO2 out industrial society pumps into the air. They can argue on how the models do not match observation, therefore the underlying science of “CO2 is a greenhouse gas. More CO2 means stronger greenhouse effect which will warm the planet,” somehow gets brushed aside in the discussion over something they can understand: math (broadly speaking to include stats and such).

    At bottom of it is the fact people are not rational and use a set of biases to trust or distrust people for what seem like arbitrary reasons, such as race, gender, age, religion, etc.

    To trust scientists over your pastor or “what your eyes tell you about the weather outside” will take more than just exposure to mass media, because at some very basic level our trust / distrust issues are highly irrational and know one really knows how to wedge empirical evidence into people’s minds as being more valid than personal biases.

  82. 82
    gowner says:

    Your last line about Brooks made me think of this exchange from “A Fish Called Wanda,” is that where you pulled it from?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f.....hzMSI#t=15

  83. 83
    Ian says:

    @Botsplainer:
    You have to have calves the size of cantaloupes for those pants

  84. 84
    DougJ says:

    @gowner:

    Yeah, I think that’s why it was in my head.

  85. 85
    brantl says:

    At least David Brooks reads books and research papers, even if he doesn’t understand them. I don’t think deliberately mistnterpreting should ever be qualified as misunderstood.

  86. 86
    Hazel Stone says:

    Am I missing something where sex trafficking kids and the brutal industry that is prostitution becomes OK because Kristof doesn’t like it? I mean, of all the things to criticize him for that’s a pretty piss poor one.

  87. 87
    brantl says:

    @Cervantes: Nothing can be limplied that wasn’t intended, The on’y person who can tell you what was implied, is the person who said it, or penned it.

  88. 88
    brantl says:

    @flounder: The highest level Cohen ever reached , either, stenographer.

  89. 89
    sharl says:

    @Hazel Stone: To the extent Kristof brings attention to a huge problem like sex trafficking and its brutal consequences, more power to him.

    But to a number of us who’ve followed that columnist over the years, he gives off a vibe very reminiscent of the character played by Kevin Spacey in the film L.A. Confidential – someone more interested in showy moralistic preening and self-aggrandizement than in the hard and dedicated work required in changing the very underpinnings of the patriarchal socioeconomic structures that enable and support that horrible business.

    He has in the past trashed organizations (largely women-run) for their ineffectiveness in mitigating this ongoing tragedy, without delving into details of why those NGOs aren’t making a visible dent in the problem (a few hints: shoestring budgets, lack of allies among the powers-that-be, lack of superpowers capable of changing entire social structures). Maybe he should “embed” with them for a couple weeks or so, to see just what they are up against. It might be an eye-opener for those of his readers who want to go beyond getting their moral ragegasms on, perhaps leading to (e.g.) finding some suitable criteria by which to support NGOs/politicians, as well as coming up with “success metrics” for solving a problem that won’t be resolved overnight.

    But up to now, Sergeant Vincennes Nick Kristof has often come across smelling like a rose after swooping in to bring these fetid cesspools to light, then taking flight on to his next campaign. Like I said, his bringing light to the problems probably offers some help. In any event, maybe a subject so obviously and horribly outrageous is as much as he can handle. Handling of any topic in depth will likely – sooner-or-later – require some skill in numeracy, so maybe it is best for all concerned that he not go to a depth beyond his capabilities.

    I’ll wrap up by noting something I saw on twitter from Susan Shepard, a writer and stripper in Austin (TL = time-line, basically a Twitter account’s partial or entire history of tweets):

    The one thing uniting the sex workers and activists and writers and shit in my TL is a healthy hate-on for Nick Kristof.

    Ms. Shepard also linked to a community college professor’s short and succinct response to the brave and noble Mr. Kristof.

    I need to better research the gripes of sex workers against Kristof before I form an opinion about them – here I quoted Ms. Shepard’s tweet as an ‘fyi’ thing. But I do think the post by Professor Tannenbaum pretty much stands on its own.

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