Tuesday Morning Open Thread: No Lie Told, Madame Secretary


 
Meanwhile, the manly-men MAGAts are cheering for their Dear Leader’s threat…

It’s all fun’n’games until they start setting Black churches on fire…








Late Night Open Thread: The Vital Questions for 2020

The NYTimes has an intensive ‘interactive’ video-piece — “18 Questions.
21 Democrats.” — interspersing worthy-if-anodyne questions (Would your focus be improving the Affordable Care Act or replacing it with single payer?… Do you think illegal immigration is a major problem in the United States?) with ones like “What is your comfort food on the campaign trail?”

I personally recommend skipping straight to NYMag‘s quasi-mocking “10 Takeaways From the Times’ Interview With 21 Democratic Candidates”, but I’m a cynic:

The Democratic Party’s first primary debate is still six days away. But if you can’t wait to watch Team Blue’s 2020 contenders — along with a random assortment of back-bench congressmen and rich people who got bored enough to run for president — give largely similar answers to a single set of questions, the New York Times has you covered. The paper just released a video series in which all 21 of the Democrats’ non–Joe Biden candidates answer the same 18 questions…

In any case, I misdoubt Senator Booker is doing himself any favors with the average American voter by advocating for veganism, but the man leans in








Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Graphically Terrible

(Rubes via GoComics.com)
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Hey, the worst we have to worry about is Handsy Uncle Joe, an ‘independent’ who’s leaking support, and approximately a bakers dozen of disgruntled white dudes who can’t get traction. The Repubs are stuck with the Squatter-in-Chief, the half-bright diehards at the core of his personality cult, and the uncertain mercies of foreign oligarchs…

As President Trump prepares to formally launch his reelection bid Tuesday, his allies are trying to tamp down headlines that depict his campaign as trailing top Democrats, beset by withering leaks and unable to keep internal tensions from spilling into public view.

The 2020 drama intensified over the weekend, as Trump’s campaign abruptly fired three of its pollsters, including one polling firm formerly owned by Kellyanne Conway, the president’s adviser and former campaign manager.

Privately and publicly, campaign advisers fumed over the leak of internal polling data that showed Trump far behind former vice president Joe Biden in key states — a pattern that has touched a nerve with the president…

While an economy with low unemployment and steady growth would normally be a solid tail wind for an incumbent president, the Trump campaign is facing signs of a tough path to reelection.

The 17-state poll conducted by the campaign in March, for example, showed Trump trailing Biden by double digits in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan, ABC reported Friday. Trump’s approval rating has also been stuck around the 40 percent mark throughout his term…

(Walt Handelsman via GoComics.com)
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This Shouldn’t Be So Hard

Our Maggie Haberman is not the only reporter at the Grey Lady to use the framing of facts to create crap journalism. Kevin Carey writes on higher education from time to time at The New York Times, and in his latest he describes a new move to show which choices of majors are the most lucrative in order to deter students taking on debt for frivolities like…wait for it…social work.

Here is the lede, the nut graf and the first sentences of the body of the piece:

The Department of Education on Tuesday released detailed information showing the average amount of debt incurred by graduates of different academic programs at each college in America. This focus on programs, rather than institutions as a whole, is gaining favor among political leaders and could have far-reaching effects.

With anxiety about student debt soaring — the billionaire Robert F. Smith made headlines last weekend with his surprise promise to pay off the debts of Morehouse College’s 2019 graduating class — the program-level information has the potential to alter how colleges are funded, regulated and understood by consumers in the marketplace.

The new, more detailed debt information was created in response to an executive order issued in March by President Trump.

Other lawmakers have called for similar approaches. In February, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Education Committee and a former university president, gave a speech outlining his plans to revise the federal Higher Education Act.

There’s a lot of fig leafs within that second paragraph. “Has the potential” does a lot of work, and “consumers in the marketplace” accepts a whole conception of higher ed., that is, to put it most kindly, in dispute.

But there’s more than merely a boatload of unexamined assumptions within the piece to raise concerns.  Here, Carey clearly lays out what he thinks the story is emerging from the facts (not in dispute) that people are collecting information about income and majors (not in fact a new thing) and are doing so in the context of a phenomenon, college debt, that has economic, social, and political implications.

Carey’s story is that more data will enable policymakers and would be students to tailor decisions about money in the most efficient manner; more information will lead to better approaches to what slices of higher education gets funded and by whom.

Carey does hint that there might be something else going on around the undisputed facts (this information is being gathered and politicians are making choices):

There are still many disagreements and details to resolve. The Trump approach relies on the idea that if students have better information, choices in the higher education market will be enough to ensure quality. But there is little evidence to support this view. Even with program data, students will still be vulnerable to the deceptive marketing and aggressive sales tactics that remain widespread in the for-profit college industry.

The measures matter, too. Mr. Alexander’s plan is to evaluate programs based on loan repayment rates. But it isn’t known whether those rates are a good measure of program quality. The Obama method of comparing debt levels to student earnings, by contrast, was so accurate that many colleges pre-emptively shut down their low-performing programs before the sanctions were even applied. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is now working to repeal those regulations.

Of note: these two paragraphs are numbers 17 and 18 of 20 in this piece.  Now go back up to the opening passage above: the two measures he cites as evidence for this new move to apply data to college major choice are those he here decries as likely to be ineffective, at best: Trump’s executive order, which relies on, inter alia, the market behavior of for-profit colleges, and Senator Alexander’s, which replaces a (Carey-attested) effective Obama policy with one that reeks of bullshit.

Again: I’m not arguing with Carey’s facts. I’m quite sure that if I re-reported this piece, it would check out.  But only children and John Chait (see the GoS link re Haberman above) believe that journalism is merely the accumulation of stacks of facts like pebbles in a cairn.  The order in which a reporter lays out those facts; the qualifiers and modifiers employed; and above all, the explicit choices made about which facts to emphasize (the lede!) and which to bury (paragraph 17) construct a never-neutral account of reality. Every story is shaped thusly, and it can be done well, clumsily, and, often maliciously — whether that malign outcome is intended or not.

And so it is here: it would seem to me that the story is the Trump and GOP allies are continuing to use bad or at best untested criteria to emphasize technical education at the expense of not just of the liberal arts’ ideal of students equipped for civic and moral reasoning — but of anything that bears on social life as well, all those low-paying jobs (social work!) that do not serve the machine.

More, this version of the story fits with another, larger story: the way the Trump administration and the GOP are pursuing a broad, government-and-society-wide attack on institutions and government policies that have a conception of society large than the nuclear family. The use of selectively acquired or deployed data to undermine, say, social work (hey–it’s his example, not mine!) is not a neutral assessment of the economic value of this program or that.

There’s a lot to be argued about the liberal arts, of course, and some academic disciplines and individual departments do indeed go off the rails on occasion — no argument there.  But the point I’m making here is that Carey had a choice about how to construct his story, and he decided to present it as another advance of a data-driven approach to life, and not at least highlight in his opening the gap between the rhetoric (data! economic efficiency!) and the actual measures being offered to address the alleged problem. A better edited newspaper might have caught some of this.

TL:DR Framing matters. And in this case, the choice of frame glosses a set of pre-existing beliefs never clearly stated or interrogated, while burying the actual news of more GOP taking advantage of a crisis (student debt) to achieve other goals (fucking higher ed)(..  It’s bad journalism, in other words, not because it’s wrong or even because it points to stuff I don’t like, but because it makes it harder, not easier, to understand what its facts actually mean on the ground.

Image: Gerbrand van der Eeckhout, Scholar with his Booksbefore 1674.








Repubs In Disarray!… Open Thread

No way Junior actually wrote this tweet — even he understands that “running for office as a business model” is why his old man is currently squatting in the Oval Office. But Young Don’s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle is now a paid “senior political advisor” on Daddy’s reelection campaign, so I guess we can assume this is the real, if not the official, Trump administration stance on Roy Moore. Rooting for injuries!

Speaking of injuries…



Steve ‘Muck & Mucker’ Bannon is looking for a little earned media (free publicity) from Michael Wolff’s new book Siege: Trump Under Fire & Fury II:

“Siege” is ostensibly about Trump — portrayed here as a very unstable non-genius cracking under the pressure of being thrust into the highest office — but its guiding worldview looks remarkably like Bannon’s. It’s a mordant, readable tell-all designed to show how Trump, simply by being Trump, has made himself the perfect wrecking ball, blasting holes through an array of institutions…
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