Centers For Damage Control

Oct 20 2014 @ 4:44pm

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After its fumbling of the Ebola outbreak, the public has rightly soured on the CDC:

A new CBS News poll shows just 37 percent of American rate the CDC as either excellent or good, while 60 percent rate it as fair or poor — a virtual mirror image of 17 months ago. The worst part: The agency now ranks below the Secret Service, which has dealt with a series of scandals in recent weeks and years. But the CDC is still slightly more popular than the IRS.

Morrissey isn’t surprised:

Back when I worked for a defense contractor in its technical publications department, one worker had a sign in her cubicle which accurately diagnoses the phenomenon in play here: “One aws**t cancels out a thousand attaboys.” It isn’t what the CDC did for the past ten years, but what they’re doing when the spotlight is on them that counts. In fact, the CDC’s performance over the past few weeks will have people questioning just how well they’ve done their job all along, and perhaps they should.

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Mental Health Break

Oct 20 2014 @ 4:20pm

Riding shotgun through cinema:

The End Of Geniuses?

Oct 20 2014 @ 4:00pm

Darrin M. McMahon, author of Divine Fury: A History of Genius, traces the origins of the modern “genius” from the Enlightenment through the contemporary “wisdom of crowds”:

This is the paradox of genius in our time: On the one hand, the world we inhabit is an inhospitable place for that creature first conceived in the 18th century as a human of sacred exception; on the other hand, we have created a new variety of the species, which threatens to overrun us all.

The risk inherent in this situation is of obscuring genuine differences in aptitude, capacity, and ability, while at the same time becoming apologists for the real inequalities of opportunity and resources that might foster those differences. Recent data on the widening education achievement gap between rich and poor paints a troubling picture of a nation all too ready to squander its human potential. Despite our desire to “leave no child behind,” we do so every day, which prompts the terrible question: How many children living among us have the potential for genius that we’ll never know? As the late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould once observed, “I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.”

Which is not to say that we should mourn the passing of the genius as first conceived in the 18th century. That creature has outlived its cultural usefulness, and perhaps it is time to say the same of the more recent varieties. By kicking the habit of genius, we might better be able to cultivate what is just as important and in the long run more essential to human civilization: the potential in all of us.

More Dish on McMahon’s new book here.

Faces Of The Day

Oct 20 2014 @ 3:41pm

Students Celebrate Raisin Monday At St Andrew's University

Students from St Andrew’s University indulge in a tradition of covering themselves with foam to honour the “academic family” in St Andrews, Scotland on October 20, 2014. Every November the “raisin weekend”, which is held in the university’s Lower College Lawn, is celebrated and a gift of raisins (now foam) is traditionally given by first-year students to their elders as a thank you for their guidance. In exchange, they receive a receipt in Latin. By Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.

SCOTUS Split On Voter ID

Oct 20 2014 @ 3:20pm

In a ruling issued at the unusual hour of 5 am on Saturday morning, the Court allowed Texas’s voter ID law to remain in place for the upcoming elections, citing concerns about disrupting the voting process. But not all of the justices were on board:

A majority of justices rejected an emergency request from the Department of Justice and civil-rights groups to keep the state from enacting a law that requires citizens to produce prescribed forms of photo identification before they could cast a ballot, while three justices—Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan—dissented. “The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,” wrote Ginsburg.

The order was delayed, apparently, because Ginsburg insisted on issuing a dissenting opinion. Rick Hasen digs into her six-page dissent, which he sees as laying the groundwork for a future battle:

Importantly, Ginsburg concluded that the effect of the law in its entirety would be to diminish voter confidence in the system. “The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,” she wrote.

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A Smashed Pumpkin Festival

Oct 20 2014 @ 3:00pm

Caroline Bankoff recaps one of the stranger stories from this weekend:

Keene, New Hampshire’s annual Pumpkin Festival – which features a community-wide effort to “set a world record of the largest number of carved and lighted jack-o-lanterns in one place,” according to CBS Boston – saw at least 14 arrests and dozens of injuries this weekend as hordes of Keene State College students and their guests took to the small town’s streets for no apparent reason other than to cause trouble. The Boston Globe reports that hundreds of people were seen “throwing bottles, uprooting street signs, and setting things on fire,” as well as overturning cars and dumpsters. Cops outfitted in SWAT gear responded with “tear gas, tasers, and pepper spray.” The Keene Police Department claims that one group of rioters “threatened to beat up an elderly man” while others threatened the lives of the cops, who had to call for backup from nearby towns.

Will Bunch raises his eyebrows:

[I]f you have a few minutes, read the news accounts of what happened in New Hampshire – the youths who set fires and threw rocks or pumpkins were described as “rowdy” or “boisterous” or participants in “unrest.” Do you remember such genteel language to describe the protesters in [Ferguson] Missouri? Me neither. …

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Hathos Alert

Oct 20 2014 @ 2:46pm

Hard to beat this ad from Michigan via Weigel:

Quote For The Day

Oct 20 2014 @ 2:28pm

“Let me tell you about scared. Your heart is beating so hard, I can feel it through your hands. There’s so much blood and oxygen pumping through your brain, it’s like rocket fuel. Right now, you could run faster and you can fight harder, you could jump higher than ever in your life. And you’re so alert, it’s like you can slow down time. What’s wrong with scared? Scared is a super power. It’s your super power. There is danger is this room, and guess what? It’s you!” – Doctor Who in the age of Ebolisis. Here’s a great post from Psychology Today on the episode.

A Breakthrough With Boko Haram?

Oct 20 2014 @ 2:12pm

On Friday, news of a ceasefire between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram raised hopes that the 219 kidnapped schoolgirls from Chibok might finally be released, but with the truce already in doubt, nobody is daring to celebrate too soon:

Two senior government sources said on Saturday that they hoped the release would be completed by Tuesday. On Friday, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh announced a deal with Boko Haram for a ceasefire that would enable the release of the girls, who have been held since April.

But within hours, Boko Haram had already broken the ceasefire, killing at least nine people in two attacks – one on the village of Abadam on Friday night, and another attack on the village of Dzur on Saturday morning. “I can confirm that FG (the federal government) is working hard to meet its own part of the agreement so that the release of the abductees can be effected either on Monday or latest Tuesday next week,” one source told Reuters by telephone.

Atta Barkindo questions whether the ceasefire is genuine:

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Trusting In The Polls

Oct 20 2014 @ 2:03pm

John Sides recommends it:

[T]here is the question of whether polling misses might mean that the Democrats end up with a slim Senate majority after all.

There are reasons to be skeptical that this will happen. It’s not just that we can’t easily predict whether the polls will over- or under-estimate one party’s vote share, as discussed by Nate Silver and by Mark Blumenthal & Co. And it’s not just, as Josh Katz and Sean Trende have found, that Senate polls already tend to be pretty accurate at this point in time — especially when candidates have a 3- to 4-point lead, as do Republican candidates in Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky and Louisiana.

The other key point is this: Late movement in Senate polls tends to be in the direction of the underlying fundamentals.

Sean Trende agrees:

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