Politics open thread, Nov 11–17

Today we honor and thank veterans who have served in our armed forces.

The day the guns fell silent
At 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, bugle calls ended the ‘war to end all wars.’ After four years of carnage, you could hear the ticking of a watch.

Sgt. Robert Cude remembered that the bugle call, “Stand Fast” — cease fire — sounded across the foggy landscape of the British lines that morning.

The American motorcycle courier Leon George Roth noted that in the sudden quiet, he could hear his watch ticking.

Near the Moselle River in northeastern France, recording equipment that had been tracking the thunder of artillery flatlined.

It was 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918 — a century ago Sunday — the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Armistice Day.

Now called Veterans Day in the United States, it was the end of World War I, the Great War, which had killed and maimed millions of people and turned parts of Europe into a wasteland.

It was the end of four years of unimaginable calamity.

What else is on your mind this week?

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77 thoughts on “Politics open thread, Nov 11–17

  1. We live in the city with the national WWI museum, so here’s a plug for it. It’s really very, very well done, and if you’re so inclined and in the region, I highly recommend a stop.

  2. I’ve been to the WWI museum. It is amazing and well worth a visit to that city just to see the museum. Prior to going I didn’t know that much about the War and came away with a much deeper understanding.

  3. Years ago (I think it was pre-kids so 20 years ago)? PBS ran this great multi-part documentary on WWI which is how I learned about it. It inspired me to read Pat Barker’s trilogy (fiction) about WWI which I highly recommend. The three books are called Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, and Ghost Road. They came out in the 90’s.

  4. You need to read the replies, tho. :)

  5. We did not allow enough time for the WWI museum. It is incredibly detailed. In fact, my only criticism is that it was hard to visit on limited time & get a feel for the exhibits. There is just too much to see & read. (and then get more out of it on a return visit) I spent too much time on the section on women in WWI + the suffrage movement, and I pretty much missed the last third!

    Also – definitely go up in the tower as well.

  6. Another great source of WWI info is the podcast “Hardcore History” by Dan Carlin. He did a 6-part series called “Blueprint for Armageddon” that delves really deep into many of the issues surrounding the war. It is not for the faint of heart – each episode is at least three hours, and consists of nothing more than one guy talking — no music or fancy effects. He draws from and quotes a lot of primary sources. It took me quite awhile to get through, but I found it fascinating and feel like I’ve got a much better understanding of the time period than before.
    https://www.dancarlin.com/product-category/hardcore-history/current-hardcore-history/

  7. July, I am still concerned about transit issues. I listened to a WNYC podcast about the ramifications of the Amazon HQ, and that kept coming up. One big problem is that there is currently no great way to get from a lot of Brooklyn to Queens. DeBlasio had proposed a streetcar line along the waterfront, but there is no money for the project. Amazon does not have a great track record of funding transit projects, at least not at NYC scale.

  8. “currently no great way to get from a lot of Brooklyn to Queens” This.

    I was in LIC Sunday. Took me 35 minutes via Lyft to travel approx. 6 1/2 miles. If you take the subway, its over 1 hour and may mean going into Manhattan and coming back out.

  9. New Yorkers have a tendency to not support big Bloombergian-style development projects. Look at how the idea of building a stadium for the NFL and the Olympic bid went down in flames.

  10. WCE, I am astonished that you are surprised by that article.

    “Efforts to transform marriage, men, and household labor,” Swinth writes, “disappeared in Friedan’s story of the movement, as did struggles for workplaces accommodating to mothers.”

    Efforts to transform marriage, men and household labor were a dismal failure. The men simply wouldn’t change. There’s tons of research on that. A pop culture book from several years ago was Arlie Hochschild’s The Second Shift.

    And Betty Friedan was always a problem child. She couldn’t stand for anyone else to get credit for anything.

  11. RMS, the ABET curriculum is a little short on history-of-feminism electives. I googled the full 1981 Friedan editorial. The bimbo eruption discussions of 1992 shaped my idea of feminism. I wasn’t old enough to vote when Bill Clinton ran for office but old enough to be reading newspapers by then.

  12. RMS, that article glosses over the irony that the event that it posits opened the floodgates was 9/11.

    I believe the Donna Rice Hughes quoted several times is the Donna Rice of Gary Hart and Monkey Business fame.

  13. Finn — That’s right about Donna Rice Hughes. And there’s a movie about the Gary Hart/Donna Rice episode that’s about to come out, starring Hugh Jackman as Gary.

  14. It seems sort of quaint to think that there was a time, in the lifetime of many of us, when having an extramarital affair was disqualifying for someone who wanted to be the President of the U.S.

  15. “having an extramarital affair was disqualifying for someone who wanted to be the President of the U.S”

    That didn’t disqualify JFK, and possibly others. Back then the press didn’t cover those things; IIRC Hart and Rice were at the forefront, in part because Hart was so brazen.

  16. It turns out Long Island City is in a special federally tax favored zone. And the Empire State gave Amazon huge financial incentives and will suspend local zoning authority to speed up the project. Massachusetts offered nada in incentives. Not sure what Virginia provided.

  17. From what I understand, all the tax incentives that NY offered to Amazon were ones that are already in place and would be offered to any company with similar plans to relocate. IOW, no special deal for Amazon. The zoning exemptions were a special incentive.

    For all the vocal opposition to this NYC Amazon deal, I don’t see it changing much except maybe a little around the edges. Too many key people are set to profit, financially and politically, from it.

  18. My understanding was that the big question for NY was whether DeBlasio and Cuomo were going to be able to get along enough to cooperate on the deal…

  19. Academia was a big part of both deals. Part of the deal for Virginia was a state promise of money to double the number of CS grads. Virginia Tech is promising a new campus within walking distance of Amazon, and George Mason is going to open a new school of computing and spending a bunch of money to expand its Arlington campus. NY wouldn’t have gotten the deal without the new Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island.

  20. “That didn’t disqualify JFK, and possibly others. Back then the press didn’t cover those things”

    because they *were* disqualifying.

  21. Bobby Kennedy, evidently, spent a lot of time covering up for JFK’s flings. They were concerned about it…

  22. Mooshi, do you think the DC area schools will be able to staff up their CS departments to meet the increased demand for CS grads? Will the increased demand for CS grads filter down to better salary/working conditions for you, or do you think it’s more likely to just increase workload in your department?

  23. Again, Virginia Tech and George Mason have committed a lot of money to expanding CS and other related departments. I think we are going to see similar here. We actually have a new MS in CS coming online, so this is a great opportunity for us.

  24. I suspect com sci education is/will become even more of a filter than it has been, with people who can figure out how to program largely on their own or with MOOC’s succeeding with little support in large classes and people who can’t figure it out on their own transferring to other majors, including management information systems. I was surprised-but-not-surprised to talk to a new robotics professor (part of the electrical engineering/com sci department) at the local university who doesn’t teach any undergraduates.

    Technical interviews are a fairly effective way to assess people’s aptitude and employers will rapidly learn to assess graduates of local programs based on their technical interviews, coursework and GPA.

  25. “Virginia Tech and George Mason have committed a lot of money to expanding CS and other related departments.”

    If they’re going to staff up their CS departments by using big chunks of money to attract faculty, I would think that would affect all CS departments, including Mooshi’s.

  26. Now this was an interesting set of articles, and pretty easy to read quickly. I hadn’t come across Cato Unbound previously. Despite the name, it’s not just a bunch of libertarian ranting. It’s several thoughtful articles about the “Success Sequence” (finish high school, get a job, get married) that we occasionally talk about here. Just some different perspectives on it. I think they’re all pretty reasonable.

    https://www.cato-unbound.org/issues/may-2018/there-sequence-success

  27. “I was surprised-but-not-surprised to talk to a new robotics professor (part of the electrical engineering/com sci department) at the local university who doesn’t teach any undergraduates.”

    That is pretty common. During my first 3 years in academia, at a research oriented school, I only ever taught one undergrad course. Even back in the 70’s, my father rarely taught undergrad courses, and when he had to, he complained endlessly

  28. “succeeding with little support in large classes ”
    This is already the case in CS programs at the larger universities. I have friends at some of the wellknown big state schools who tell me that it is common to have 800 kids in an Intro to CS course, which of course means that assignments are all autograded – and then employers complain that incoming grads don’t know how to write readable, well designed programs. But there is simply no way to give feedback on design and readability when faced with 800 students.

  29. “If they’re going to staff up their CS departments by using big chunks of money to attract faculty, I would think that would affect all CS departments, including Mooshi’s.”

    Oh, we already feel it. We usually have been able to hire faculty who are better than our schools reputation, simply because of location. But this year, we are trying to hire in cybersecurity, and it is a disaster. There are no qualified candidates. That is because every school out there is trying to hire the same people. And someone with a CS PhD and research expertise in cybersecurity can command big money in industry or specialist consulting companies. You would be amazed how much cutting edge, researchy cybersecurity work is being done at the big financial companies, as well as the big tech companies.

  30. I think its interesting that cities all over the country competed to get Amazon to locate there, and now the residents of the two “winning” cities are complaining! Is there really that great a disconnect between what people want and what their representatives think is good for them? Or is it just human nature to complain?

  31. “Or is it just human nature to complain?”

    That must be part of it. One of the issues I keep hearing mentioned is that the deal was done in such secrecy so there’s resentment about that.

    MM — It seems the Amazon thing could be great for you and your school.

  32. I can’t speak to Virginia’s situation, but in NYC there is a fairly sizable contingent that is always against large developments of any kinds. That is why Bloomberg did not get his stadium, and why the Atlantic Yards project turned into such a mess

  33. I think its interesting that cities all over the country competed to get Amazon to locate there, and now the residents of the two “winning” cities are complaining! Is there really that great a disconnect between what people want and what their representatives think is good for them? Or is it just human nature to complain?

    I think it’s a disconnect. Denver made a bid for Amazon, and everyone here was saying they didn’t want them. The powers that be are talking about an Olympic bid and everyone (including me) is saying we don’t want the Olympics.

    IMO, those in charge are focused on the big picture and what they think is best overall, and the average Joes are focused on how things are going to affect their daily lives. People here didn’t see 50,000 jobs as good for the local economy, they saw as increasing congestion, driving up housing prices, etc.

  34. Or is it just human nature to complain?

    That’s 95% of it. It’s like the Eiffel Tower. When it went up people were crying out to heaven that it was a blight and a monstrosity. Then a few years later they wanted to tear it down and the very same people were shreeking about, “How they could even think about tearing down this treasured icon?!?”

    People are idiots. That’s why we don’t have direct democracy.

  35. I think they’re all pretty reasonable.

    I’ve love to have a talk with them about how highly genetically based and heritable are the characteristics that lend themselves to graduating, being employed, getting married, staying married, etc.

  36. “all over the country competed to get Amazon to locate there, and now the residents of the two “winning” cities are complaining!”

    I think a big part of it is that the Venn Diagram of the people who wanted Amazon and the people who didn’t want Amazon had very little if any overlap

  37. “But there is simply no way to give feedback on design and readability when faced with 800 students.”

    One way, albeit perhaps not ideal, is to have TAs provide feedback. The introductory CS class DS took was like that, and now he’s a TA.

    BITD, when I took programming classes, grading was done by TAs.

  38. Rhett, you should read Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. Robert Putnam is one of the few researchers to note that regular religious practice among working/lower class families reduces problems (he details the problems) by ~50% compared to comparable families without regular religious practice. Doctrinal beliefs don’t matter. The discipline of regularly engaging with a community over a period of years in pursuit of generally desirable social/personal goals mitigates the impacts of genetics more than any other factor studied by a large magnitude.

    The section in the book reminded me of Eisenhower’s likely apocryphal quote,””America makes no sense without a deeply held faith in God—and I don’t care what it is.” In recent decades, social science research has often failed to separate religious belief from religious practice. Effects of belief+practice are strong; effects of belief only are weak. Effects of practice without belief are unknown. :)

  39. Effects of practice without belief are unknown. :)

    Nonsense! Just study Unitarians.

  40. Finn, as a grad student I TA’ed for a large intro course, and yes, we did the grading. We also ran once a week discussion sessions with the students. But there were 10 of us on the course. Each of us handled 20 to 25 students, plus one TA was the coordinator (made up assignments, created the grading rubrics, etc). For 800 students, you are now talking around 18 TAs. Schools just don’t have the budget for that level of support. Heck, they don’t have enough English speaking grad students!

    I have long advocated that intro to programming should be taught the way that intro to comp is taught, with lots of small sections, numerous drafts, and feedback. Comp courses are usually staffed by armies of adjuncts, though, and schools don’t seem to want to make the commitment to do the same with the programming courses. It might be hard to even find enough competent adjuncts.

  41. With the level of tuition that 800 students pay, I believe there are people who could be paid to review the documentation in the code to verify it is adequate. My undergrad had homework TA’s and for intro level classes, the review could be done by upper level undergrads. I assume that example code is created for the “answer key” and that students will be able to see for themselves how their documentation could be improved. If people are going to be computer scientists, they have to be pretty driven/self-motivated, don’t they?

    Could a bot assess documentation?

  42. Most if not all of the TAs for the intro CS course at DS’ school are undergrads who took the class the previous year.

  43. WCE,

    I assume the study involved randomly assigning families to go to church or not go? If not then I’m sure you can see the flaws.

  44. “ regular religious practice among working/lower class families reduces problems (he details the problems) by ~50% compared to comparable families without regular religious practice.”

    Does regular religious practice increase the rate at which practicing families are able to raise themselves about the working/lower class?

    Some of your previous posts suggest that many of the religious folks you know don’t aspire to raise themselves above their current SES. Perhaps being content with their SES in a contributing factor to the lower level of problems.

  45. Finn and Rhett, you may both be right that religious working/lower class families disproportionately contain people who are able but not willing to raise their incomes. I know many people who refuse to work on Sundays, which limits their job prospects. Conservative religious communities in the U.S. have a strong culture of valuing a SAHM which limits family income. The studies controlled for income/education but values/culture are hard to control for.

    Rhett, the chicken-and-egg questions around social questions are hard. I expect the arrow of causality runs both ways. Church attendance improves personal responsibility and people with more personal responsibility are more likely to attend church regularly. I’ve often thought the same thing about studies that show premarital cohabitation increases divorce rates. If you studied only people who were willing to be randomly assigned to premarital sex/cohabitation or no premarital sex/cohabitation, and would perfectly execute their assigned cohort, you probably wouldn’t see the same effect as is observed in society at large.

  46. Just to push a little more to encourage people to look at those essays — the writers all agree that there’s a correlation-is-not-causation problem. And in my opinion, that applies to church-going, too.

  47. For example, current scholarship appears to be shifting from a belief that getting pregnant outside of marriage pushes women into poverty toward the idea that poverty itself encourages women to engage in behavior that leads them to become pregnant outside of marriage.

  48. RMS, I read the first couple of articles. Thanks for posting the link; I agree that they appear to be reasonable in their approach and worthy of discussion.

  49. There is no reason to believe that low-income Americans value work, marriage, or education less than those in the middle-class. Surveys of the poor regularly show that they want a job, marriage, and an education. However, they are also less likely to believe those goals are attainable or that they will benefit from them even if they achieve them.

    That, to me, is critical. If you just don’t believe it’s possible for “people like me”, then it’s effectively impossible.

  50. RMS, I read the articles yesterday and liked them. They seemed consistent with my belief that the consequences of suboptimal choices (DUI, marijuana use, careless sex, skipping a year of math during high school) are more severe for working/lower class kids than for middle/upper class kids and that money matters a lot, especially to graduate from college. If I were to design my own “free post-secondary education” approach, it would include not just tuition but money for room/board/necessities but be available only to a qualified portion of the population, kind of like Europe.

    In high school, I certainly felt like one bad decision would screw up my life forever,

    Thinking about my peers, I wouldn’t say that working class kids believe it’s impossible to succeed in life, just that it’s much harder than for people whose parents provide housing and money for tuition.

  51. and that money matters a lot, especially to graduate from college

    There is a potential correlation/causation problem there as well. The kids of parents who can pay for college likely inherited their parents cognitive ability, capacity for effort, ability to delay gratification, etc. It would be interesting to look at the college completion rates of poor kids adopted into wealthy families. IIRC adoptee terminal education level is highly correlated to biological parents rather than adoptive parents.

  52. In high school, I certainly felt like one bad decision would screw up my life forever

    Yeah, I felt that way too, and it was a totally false belief! Oh well.

  53. “The kids of parents who can pay for college likely inherited their parents cognitive ability, capacity for effort, ability to delay gratification, etc.”

    I think some of those are passed on not entirely through genetics; modeling behaviors like going to work regularly and delaying gratification also plays a role in passing those down.

  54. I mean that it was false for me. My family could have bailed me out of jail, paid for a lawyer, etc.

  55. “DUI, marijuana use, careless sex, skipping a year of math during high school”

    Very totebaggy of you to put skipping a year of math with other events with potential for messing up one’s life forever.

  56. “modeling behaviors like going to work regularly and delaying gratification”

    I’ve read articles advocating mixed-SES housing, e.g., putting people in government housing assistance programs in MC neighborhoods, because having them see certain behaviors such as regularly going to work will help them learn those behaviors.

  57. WCE, I guessed your tongue might have been in cheek a bit, but I could also see you being totally serious about it. Looking back at my HS class, skipping a year of math probably had more negative long-term effects on my classmates’ lives than a lot of marijuana use.

  58. This is reminding me of the discussion during the statistics section of junior year math. The school had a high teen pregnancy rate (72 births my freshman year) and we asserted that calculus prevented pregnancy, because no one who took calculus had ever wound up as a teen parent. The teacher attributed it to correlation, not causation.

  59. WCE, good code design goes way beyond documentation. In fact, many argue that code should not need a lot of commenting, since in real life, comments rarely get updated. Good design is about clarity of structure, efficiency, testability, and designing for change. These days, design for good security practices is also very important. There are tools that assess some of these things, but the tools have output that is not very accessible for undergrads. Good human feedback is best.

  60. Using undergrads for grading is little better than using an autograder, in fact, maybe worse. They don’t have the experience to look for anything more than “does it work?”. An autograder can do that.

  61. “, putting people in government housing assistance programs in MC neighborhoods“

    I’m not finding the study now, but one city did experiment with that with single mothers, hoping it would lift them out of poverty. When it did not, they initially considered the studybyo be a failure. In interviews with the participants, though, they found the mothers considered it a resounding success. Their kids saw everyone on the street going to work or school everyday, with no one just hanging around, and considered that normal. The mothers felt that if the kids had grown up in their prior neighborhood they would have had a different sense of what was normal, and now had high hopes for their kids’ futures.

  62. I think a big part of it is that the Venn Diagram of the people who wanted Amazon and the people who didn’t want Amazon had very little if any overlap

    By definition they don’t overlap at all.

  63. A good book to read on the Success Sequence was “Promises I Can Keep.” The authors followed poor single moms in three cities over a period of years. They found that virtually all of the moms wanted to get married, but felt that marriage was unattainable for them due to lack of marriageable men in the area, lack of stable employment opportunities and other factors. The women could accept that they may never marry, but the idea of being childless forever was intolerable. So they settled for having children in sub-optimal relationships, rather than not having them at all.

    The book also talked about opportunity costs. For girls and young women who are college-bound, the opportunity cost (in terms of reduced or lost earnings) of early childbearing is very high. For women with a high school education or less, not so much. So an 18 year-old freshman at Vandy has a strong incentive to delay having children until her career path is set. An 18 year old cashier at Walmart with no college plans has little reason to wait. Her prospects (at least as she perceives them) are not going to be any better at 28 than at 18. And a child can offer a sense of meaning and purpose in her life that her menial job is unlikely to ever provide.

    It is a very good book. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the Success Sequence and its nemesis, single parenthood.

  64. On the Media’s Friday podcast had some segments about Amazon and the fact that they now have collected data on 230 cities about their growth plans etc and if these incentive plans really work out for the city in the end.

  65. “They found that virtually all of the moms wanted to get married, but felt that marriage was unattainable for them due to lack of marriageable men in the area, lack of stable employment opportunities and other factors.”

    Another reason why mixed-SES neighborhoods could help lift some out of poverty.

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