30 November, 2019

Teacher Effects on Student Achievement and Height: A Cautionary Tale

Estimates of teacher “value-added” suggest teachers vary substantially in their ability to promote student learning. Prompted by this finding, many states and school districts have adopted value-added measures as indicators of teacher job performance. In this paper, we conduct a new test of the validity of value-added models. Using administrative student data from New York City, we apply commonly estimated value-added models to an outcome teachers cannot plausibly affect: student height. We find the standard deviation of teacher effects on height is nearly as large as that for math and reading achievement, raising obvious questions about validity. Subsequent analysis finds these “effects” are largely spurious variation (noise), rather than bias resulting from sorting on unobserved factors related to achievement. Given the difficulty of differentiating signal from noise in real-world teacher effect estimates, this paper serves as a cautionary tale for their use in practice.

28 November, 2019

Bulls*** jobs and the yoke of managerial feudalism

The Economist: What is a “bullshit job” and can you give a few examples?
David Graeber: A bullshit job is one that even the person doing it secretly believes need not, or should not, exist. That if the job, or even the whole industry, were to vanish, either it would make no difference to anyone, or the world might even be a slightly better place.
Something like 37-40% of workers according to surveys say their jobs make no difference. Insofar as there’s anything really radical about the book, it’s not to observe that many people feel that way, but simply to say we should proceed on the assumption that for the most part, people’s self-assessments are largely correct. Their jobs really are just as pointless as they think they are.
If anything, just taking people’s word for it might understate the problem, since if you think that what you’re doing is pointless, but there’s some non-obvious larger big-picture way that you’re really contributing to the greater good, at least the greater good of the organisation, then what’s the chance no one is going to tell you that?

25 November, 2019


People love me. Why? Because I’m fun. I’m the life of the party. I bring levity to any situation. Need to soften the blow of a harsh message about restroom etiquette? SLAM. There I am. Need to spice up the directions to your graduation party? WHAM. There again. Need to convey your fun-loving, approachable nature on your business’ website? SMACK. Like daffodils in motherf**king spring.

21 November, 2019

Sacha Baron Cohen's Keynote Address at ADL's 2019 Never Is Now Summit on Anti-Semitism and Hate


What do all these dangerous trends have in common?  I’m just a comedian and an actor, not a scholar.  But one thing is pretty clear to me.  All this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history.
The greatest propaganda machine in history.

Think about it.  Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others—they reach billions of people.  The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged—stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear.  It’s why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times.  It’s why fake news outperforms real news, because studies show that lies spread faster than truth.  And it’s no surprise that the greatest propaganda machine in history has spread the oldest conspiracy theory in history—the lie that Jews are somehow dangerous.  As one headline put it, “Just Think What Goebbels Could Have Done with Facebook.”

On the internet, everything can appear equally legitimate.  Breitbart resembles the BBC.  The fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion look as valid as an ADL report.  And the rantings of a lunatic seem as credible as the findings of a Nobel Prize winner.  We have lost, it seems, a shared sense of the basic facts upon which democracy depends.

19 November, 2019

My years working on black programs

17 November, 2019

Why Google’s Quantum Supremacy Milestone Matters

Google officially announced last week in the journal Nature that it achieved the milestone of “quantum supremacy.” This phrase, coined by the physicist John Preskill in 2012, refers to the first use of a quantum computer to make a calculation much faster than we know how to do it with even the fastest supercomputers available. The calculation doesn’t need to be useful: much like the Wright Flyer in 1903, or Enrico Fermi’s nuclear chain reaction in 1942, it only needs to prove a point.
Over the last decade, together with students and colleagues, I helped develop much of the theoretical underpinning for quantum supremacy experiments like Google’s. I reviewed Google’s paper before it was published. So the least I can do is to try to explain what it means.

16 November, 2019

Interview: Ex-head of legislature Jasper Tsang says the gov’t is weakest player of four in Hong Kong’s struggle

It is dangerous for Hong Kong. I don’t know what the people in Beijing want. Up to now, they have no intention to interfere.  Now, I see four players:
  1. The protesters: they don’t have any intention to stop.
  2. The people: a large part of our population is supporting them.
  3. The SAR government: it is incapable of doing anything, Carrie Lam has admitted it. The government is made up of very competent administrators but there are no politicians.
  4. Beijing: they have no intention to interfere.
If all this doesn’t change, we cannot expect it to end.
The Central and the SAR governments want to appeal to the public to denounce the radicals. But is not working.
My hope lies in the protesters; it seems that, recently, some of them have called to stop the violence. And there is a very good reason for that. Elections are coming and it is very probable, as public sentiment is very much against the government, that if they take place in November, the pro-government camp will lose.

14 November, 2019

Radar finds more than 120 coffins buried beneath Tampa apartment complex

TAMPA — Zion Cemetery has been found.
Ground-penetrating radar has detected what appear to be more than 120 coffins under an apartment complex in Tampa, the remains of the lost cemetery revealed by the Tampa Bay Times.
The 2½-acre, segregation-era burial ground, believed to be the city’s first for African-Americans, was established in 1901 along the 3700 block of Florida Ave. and extended back around 400 feet.

It disappeared nearly a century ago when the land was parceled off for white developments.

12 November, 2019

The SoftBank Effect: How $100 Billion Left Workers in a Hole

For five years, Sunil Solankey, a retired captain in the Indian Army, had run the 20-room Four Sight Hotel in a New Delhi suburb. Business was steady, but he longed to make the establishment a destination for lucrative business travelers.
Last year, a hospitality start-up called Oyo told Mr. Solankey that it would turn the Four Sight into a flagship hotel for corporate customers. It guaranteed him monthly payments whether the rooms were booked or not, as long as he rebranded the property with Oyo’s name and sold the rooms exclusively through its site.
At Oyo’s request, Mr. Solankey sank 600,000 rupees, or $8,400, into reupholstering the hotel’s furniture and adding new linens. But corporate guests did not materialize, and Oyo stopped making the payments. Now he is on the verge of eviction.

11 November, 2019

About the Apple Card

My name is Jamie Heinemeier Hansson. Since my husband, David, tweeted about an unfortunate and ridiculous situation with AppleCard that involves me, I have been (or my credit-worthiness has been) the subject of lots of speculation. Unlike David, I am an extremely private person who does not post on social media. I am slightly mortified to have my name in the news. However, lest I be cast as a meek housewife who cannot speak for herself, I would like to make the following statement:
I care about digital privacy. It’s why I wanted an AppleCard in the first place.
I care about transparency and fairness. It’s why I was deeply annoyed to be told by AppleCard representatives, “It’s just the algorithm,” and “It’s just your credit score.” I have had credit in the US far longer than David. I have never had a single late payment. I do not have any debts. David and I share all financial accounts, and my very good credit score is higher than David’s. I had a career and was successful prior to meeting David, and while I am now a mother of three children — a “homemaker” is what I am forced to call myself on tax returns — I am still a millionaire who contributes greatly to my household and pays off credit in full each month. But AppleCard representatives did not want to hear any of this. I was given no explanation. No way to make my case.

10 November, 2019

The Legend of A-N-N-A: Revisiting an American Town Where Black People Weren’t Welcome After Dark

Loewen said sundown towns sprang up all around the country from 1890 to 1940, a period he calls the “nadir” of race relations in America. “For the small, independent towns all around the state that are still all white or almost all white, it’s like the civil rights movement never happened,” he told me.
Anna’s historical resistance to black people is, and has long been, well known in the region. Even though it may never have been codified, I found references to the fact that black people weren’t allowed to live in Anna in newspaper articles from as early as 1903. In that particular reference, a woman from Anna who worked as a hotel maid in Indianapolis was quoted as saying, “I never saw more than 10 negroes in all my life until I was 18 … as a negro is not allowed to stop in our little village of Anna.”
Over the past two years, I visited the town several times to try to understand where Anna’s history had left the town today. I talked with people going about their lives — in the library, the Farm Fresh milk store, the Blue Boar restaurant, the city’s park, the Walmart parking lot and other pockets of Anna. I talked with public officials, historians and longtime residents. I visited a grave in the Anna cemetery that belongs to the man deemed by a local newspaper in 1916 to be “the only colored man who has ever lived in this city” and I spent some time with one of the few black families (if not the only one) living in Anna today.
Still, I’m not going to claim I know Anna’s full story — I’m an outsider. But after hearing A-N-N-A said aloud that night, I realized my race made me a sort of insider, too. Would the man who first recited A-N-N-A have done so if I weren’t white? Nearly everyone I met knew what Anna stands for — whether they heard it first as a “joke” at school or from their grandparents or just from living here long enough. Most people said they wished the A-N-N-A reputation would just go away and were quick to say Anna wasn’t “like that” anymore.
Like what? I’d ask. If Anna has changed, how?

09 November, 2019

CBP agents wrote fake court dates on paperwork to send migrants back to Mexico, records show

Asylum seekers who have finished their court cases are being sent back to Mexico with documents that contain fraudulent future court dates, keeping some migrants south of the border indefinitely, records show.
Under the Migrant Protection Protocols policy, asylum seekers with cases in the United States have to wait in Mexico until those cases are resolved. The Mexican government agreed to only accept migrants with future court dates scheduled.
Normally, when migrants conclude their immigration court cases, they are either paroled into the United States or kept in federal custody depending on the outcome of the case.
However, records obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune show that on at least 14 occasions, Customs and Border Protection agents in California and Texas gave migrants who had already concluded their court cases documents with fraudulent future court dates written on them and sent the migrants back to Mexico anyway.

Megyn Kelly Interviews Producer Fired For Accessing ABC’s Hot Mic Tape On Epstein

Megyn Kelly nabbed an exclusive interview with former ABC News employee Ashley Bianco, the journalist who had access to a tape released earlier this week of Amy Robach venting on a hot mic that the network killed her reporting on convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Bianco, who was an associate producer at “Good Morning America” before leaving for “CBS This Morning” last month, admitted that she made a clip of the Robach moment after seeing it at her desk while still at ABC. The producer said she saved the clip she made in the ABC News system ― something that producers do all the time ― but insisted that she did not leak it to anyone. 
“I did it just for office gossip,” said Bianco, who said the intention wasn’t to embarrass Robach or ABC News.

04 November, 2019

Fear and Loathing in Beaumont, Texas - TDY Edition (self.MilitaryStories)

"I thought my war was bad, I feel bad for your situation with those bombs they put on the roads. Scary stuff."
"You were in?"
"Army, Vietnam. I was a forward observer."
This dude then proceeds to tell me stories about hiding in the brush from dog handlers who were hunting them down since they were forward observers. He proceeds to mention that if it wasn't for some Native American teaching them how to hide their scent, he would have been found. Basically learned how to rub shit on themselves so they could evade dog handlers. I'm sitting there in dismay at how he felt bad for my war... I may have gone into Iraqi shit creeks more than I cared for but I wasn't purposely rubbing shit in my hair so I could be behind deadly frontlines.
He then proceeds to talk about a battle he was in. How they were being overran at one point by the Vietnamese.
"We lost a lot of good men that day. Lots of friends." A slight tear rolls down his cheek and I saw him brush it away. You can usually spot a bull shitter with their gloats of heroism and valor. You know you're dealing with a man who had seen some shit when eyes water. A man who had seen some real hard shit in the bush. I could be wrong but I got the feeling he was the type that buried his experiences deep into his mind and never really got the chance to express his memories. He was a successful construction owner but I'm sure he still has nights judging by what he was telling me. Only to be probably spit on when he came home.