URLs du Jour


  • Translation of Eye Candy du Jour. According to Google Translate: "Journalists, after checking and cross referencing, you're really bastards."

  • Which goes well with this item: Matt Welch calls for more stringent fact-checks on the self-appointed fact-checkers: Fact-Checkers Provide Cover for White House's Claims About New IRS Hires.

    "IRS Will Target 'High-Income' Tax Evaders with New Funding, Contrary to Social Media Posts," went the headline Thursday at The Annenberg Public Policy Center's FactCheck.org. The Poynter Institute's PolitiFact on Wednesday contributed "Rick Scott overstates potential hiring surge at the IRS," then followed up Thursday with "Video misleads about size of IRS, audits and armed agents." Agence France-Presse's Fact Check department Tuesday concluded that "Claims of 'IRS army' targeting US taxpayers are misleading," then came back Thursday with "US congressman misrepresents photos purported to show armed IRS recruits." Reuters on Wednesday offered up a twofer—"Fact Check-The IRS is not hiring thousands of armed agents, job ads show opening for specialized unit," and "Fact Check-Social media posts miss key context on Inflation Reduction Act's provision for thousands of new IRS agents"—then on Friday posted: "Republicans call it an 'army' but IRS hires will replace retirees, do IT, says Treasury."

    All of these (and the many other similar) mainstream media fact-checking exercises have as their starting point not the contested promises made by the victorious White House and other key promoters of the IRA but soundbites from the types of conservatives that mainstream journalists find annoying. Consumers seeking to double-check the president were mostly stuck with such explicitly conservative outlets as Breitbart News.

    This divide, and journalistic interest skewed more toward the excesses of rhetoric than the exercise of power, is reminiscent of the way professional fact-checking comported itself before, during, and immediately after Barack Obama's signature Affordable Care Act. Back then, even though the then-president was routinely lying in easily discoverable ways about his health insurance overhaul, fact-checkers were obsessed with backbencher opposition to the point where PolitiFact awarded its "Lie of the Year" to Sarah Palin, who at the time held no elected office.

    I was dismayed by yesterday's WSJ column from (usually fact-based) Laura Sanders: What $80 Billion More for the IRS Means for Your Taxes. Which, under the reassuring section heading "There won’t be 87,000 new IRS agents with guns", says:

    According to the Treasury Department’s plan, part of the new funding will go to hire 87,000 workers over 10 years. This figure includes all hires, such as customer service reps and tech workers as well as agents. It doesn’t take into account that due to the IRS’s aging workforce, more than 50,000 retirements and other departures are expected in coming years.

    Laura, I'm sure there were some crazies out there that claimed the 87,000 new IRS agents would be armed to the teeth. But there will be 87,000 new IRS positions. And the projected 50,000 IRS departures is irrelevant in this context; replacements for them will be hired as well.

    And the tax laws, like all laws, are always ultimately enforced at the point of a gun.

  • There are too few like him. Adam Wren of Politico interviews an ex-President. Unfortunately, ex-President of Purdue University, Mitch Daniels: A Nice-Guy Conservative Emerges From Political Self-Exile. He has many sensible things to say:

    Wren: Are you worried about the creeping threat of autocracy when you look at the sluggish nature of our institutions to confront big problems? To some, autocracy seems much more efficient.

    Daniels: Depends on what you want to be efficient at. Extinguishing individual liberty? Yeah, maybe it’s good at that. Not good at producing great opportunity and prosperity. It’s much more efficient for tyrants. This is really your question: Our system, some believe, is too rigged against autocracy, where it gets paralyzed. What bothers me more is the tribalism. I’ve been fretting about that in public and in commencement addresses for many years now. And it’s not gotten better. Once that sort of poison gets into the culture of a country, it’s not clear that there are words or deeds or individual leaders who can help people move out of it, move back toward a great sense of community and fellowship — national unity.

    Wren: You do not talk about Donald Trump. You haven’t mentioned his name publicly in more than a decade. You have said you don’t know him, so you don’t talk about him. But if politics is downstream of culture, what happened in the culture that led to his presidency and to this current moment we find ourselves in?

    Daniels: That’s such a central question. I will say this: I think the last presidency — I’m not going to personalize it — I’d say the last presidency contributed to this but didn’t cause it. I think that was a symptom — that shocking outcome of the 2016 presidential election. I was surprised at the outcome.

    But to me, it was a symptom. And I think it’s fairly simple: What Lenin would have called the “commanding heights of the economy,” your businesses and places like higher education institutions, have become too detached from the lives and values of a vast number of millions and millions of, I’ll say, average Americans … I’ve got friends of mine who were mortified at the 2016 outcome, people who are passionate members of the Democratic Party who ask me, “How could this happen?” I said, “It’s not complicated. If you look down your nose at someone long enough, one day they will punch you in it.” And I think that’s what happened. I sat there that night — I don’t watch much television — but these national network commentators are talking to each other incredulously. What happened here? Well, these under-educated types, you know, these are non-high school graduates … Disdain is not too strong a word. It was condescending.

    I do believe that when you started the question with culture being upstream of politics, you were exactly right. I think the nature of our public discourse has had an effect. Social media is a disaster in this respect, along with declining attention spans. I think that’s where it started.

    Daniels, unfortunately, was supportive of the CHIPS act. Purdue getting a "new $1.8 billion semiconductor plant" might have had something to do with that. I'm disappointed but not surprised.

  • Playing the odds. Without the mathematical understanding necessary to know what that means. "@newyorkteacher" Ed Knight reveals: Guessing C For Every Answer Is Now Enough To Pass The New York State Algebra Exam.

    My student, River, spent more time in the courtroom than the classroom last year. One Friday night in September, a drunk friend called and asked for a ride home from a party. River obliged. That’s a problem when you’re 14 years old. On his excellent adventure with his drunk friend, River drove over the landscaping of several local businesses and ended with his car in the woods caught in a web of maple sugaring lines. Things spiralled from there.

    All of which is to say that River didn’t learn algebra last year.

    I mean it: zero algebra was learned. He wasn’t even present in my classroom for most of three marking periods. At the end of the year, he asked me how he was supposed to pass the state test.

    “No problem,” I said. “Just pick all Cs.”


    “Try it. I bet it will work.”

    It worked.

    Ed will, if necessary, bring you up to speed on the details of the "state test" and reveal River's (who has "the best mullet since Joe Dirt") destiny.

  • Fortunately, I realized just how incompetent I am this morning. Specifically, while repairing a loose bathroom light fixture. Also realized the incompetence of the guy we paid to install it a few years back.

    But here's Ron Bailey with the latest research which you should totally believe because it's a study: Incompetent People Don't Realize How Incompetent They Are, Says New Study.

    […] In the study, the researchers first asked 3,200 participants through online surveys how much they think they know (subjective knowledge) using a 7-point scale about each of seven scientific topics ranging from "vague understanding" to "thorough understanding." To prime participants, the researchers provide a complex explanation of how a crossbow is constructed and works (level 7 knowledge) compared to the case where a person can identify a crossbow and know that it shoots arrows (level 1 knowledge). Then each participant was randomly assigned to answer a question about their degree of acceptance of one of the seven different issues that enjoy substantial scientific consensus.

    The issues probed by the researchers were "the safety of GM foods, the validity of anthropogenic climate change, the benefits of vaccination outweighing its risks, the validity of evolution as an explanation of human origins, the validity of the Big Bang theory as an explanation for the origin of the universe, the lack of efficacy of homeopathic medicine, and the importance of nuclear power as an energy source." For each issue, participants were asked to indicate their level of opposition ranging from not at all (level 1) to extreme (level 7).

    To figure out how much participants might know about scientific findings in general, researchers also tested them on a 7-point objective-knowledge scale ranging from definitely false, not sure, to definitely true for 34 different purportedly factual claims about the world. The researchers divvied up the 34 statements into clusters relevant to the topics of evolution, the Big Bang, nuclear power, genetically modified foods, vaccination and homeopathy, and climate change. Among the statements participants were asked to answer true or false were assertions like the center of the earth is very hot; all radioactivity is man-made; ordinary tomatoes do not have genes, whereas genetically modified tomatoes do; the earliest humans lived at the same time as the dinosaurs; and nitrogen makes up most of the earth's atmosphere.

    Amusingly, some out-there folks are claiming that the incoming images from the James Webb Space Telescope demonstrate The Big Bang didn't happen. Well, I don't know about that, but if it turns out to be kosher, you heard it here first, unless you heard it somewhere else already.

  • [Amazon Link]
    (paid link)
    Free will is not a delusion. And you can use it to agree or disagree with this assertion from David Mamet: Race is a delusion.

    His topic is a book I've never heard of, Kingsblood Royal, a 1947 by Sinclair Lewis. (Yes, I've heard of him.) A successful middle-class businessman discovers that he's one-sixteenth black, which upends his life.

    Our lives, yours and mine, are full of sanctimony; in fact, a grand tool of self-diagnosis is recognition of the warm joy we take in sententiousness, and its big brother, righteousness. It is a lead-pipe cinch that these sugar-coat complicity.

    Have a blessed Sunday.

Last Modified 2024-01-16 3:52 PM EDT