25 December 2007

Merry Christmas!

via Rhetorica:
Merry Christmas

via Blackfive:


and via Don Surber, something to chew on: Crow for Christmas

19 December 2007

Subprime Mortgage History

Janet at Xark! links to a BBC Q&A on the mortgage "crisis."

What we're seeing in the mortgage market is just a piece of the larger credit "crisis" resulting from bad decisions by private lenders and borrowers after deregulation.

The evolution of the subprime mortgage market (pdf, 2006)

Many factors have contributed to the growth of subprime lending. Most fundamentally, it became legal. The ability to charge high rates and fees to borrowers was not possible until the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act (DIDMCA) was adopted in 1980. It preempted state interest rate caps. The Alternative Mortgage Transaction Parity Act (AMTPA) in 1982 permitted the use of variable interest rates and balloon payments.

These laws opened the door for the development of a subprime market, but subprime lending would not become a viable large-scale lending alternative until the Tax Reform Act of 1986 (TRA). The TRA increased the demand for mortgage debt because it prohibited the deduction of interest on consumer loans, yet allowed interest deductions on mortgages for a primary residence as well as one additional home....

Although the subprime mortgage market emerged in the early 1980s with the adoption of DIDMCA, AMTPA, and TRA, subprime lending rapidly grew only after 1995, when MBS with subprime-loan collateral become more attractive to investors....

During the 1990s, average credit scores tended to decline each year, particularly for ARM borrowers; but since 2000, credit scores have tended to improve each year. Hence, it appears that subprime lenders expanded during the 1990s by extending credit to less-credit-worthy borrowers. Subsequently, the lower credit quality unexpectedly instigated higher delinquency and default rates (see also Temkin, Johnson, and Levy, 2002).
TREASURY DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY MICHAEL S. BARR
REMARKS TO THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF ATTORNEYS GENERAL PREDATORY LENDING SUMMIT
PORTLAND, MAINE (2000)
When lower-income families went looking for home equity debt in the past, many may not have been able to find it due to their limited or poor credit history. With the rise of the subprime lending market, however, it has become relatively easier for these borrowers to access credit. As the Treasury-HUD report noted, the volume of subprime mortgage originations has increased nearly five times over in the last five years. As a means for expanding the availability of credit, the development of this market has represented a signal achievement for our economy.
UPDATE:

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.


This American Life, The Giant Pool of Money

Related:
"An Enterprise Failure"

13 December 2007

Educating Hazinski ...

Unfettered 'citizen journalism' too risky

While ["citizen journalism"] has its place, the reality is it really isn't journalism at all, and it opens up information flow to the strong probability of fraud and abuse. The news industry should find some way to monitor and regulate this new trend....

Advocates argue that the acts of collecting and distributing makes these people "journalists." This is like saying someone who carries a scalpel is a "citizen surgeon" or someone who can read a law book is a "citizen lawyer."
Ex-NBC correspondent to citizen journos: "You're not worthy"
Hazinski is simply extolling an extreme position that citizen-journalism advocates wouldn't take, attributing it to them (without even one source), and debunking it. There's a name for that. It's "disinformation."
Should News Orgs "Regulate" Citizen Journalism?
I think it's painfully obvious that a news organization needs to treat citizen journalism in the way it should treat its own journalism--with all the care that the ethical practice of the craft demands.
News round-up: Would you go to a 'citizen brain surgeon'? (10 June 2005)
[Simon Bucks] asked the audience what they'd decide to do if they needed a brain tumour removed: would they go to a professional brian surgeon, or a citizen brain surgeon? A compelling analogy, but it really is quite unsound for a number of reasons.
Blue Sky thinking By Simon Bucks (25 May 2007)
The cultural issue is altogether tougher, not just for Sky News, but for all news organisations. Most journalists have grown up with the idea that we tell people the news which we think they should be told.

Confession time: I was guilty too. I once argued that you wouldn’t trust a citizen journalist any more than a citizen heart surgeon. It was a paternalistic and sermonising approach that most of us shared, but it won’t do any more.
The Struggle Against Forgetting (January/February 1996)
Journalism can be practiced virtually anywhere and under almost any circumstances. Just as medicine, for example, can be practiced in enormous clinics organized like corporations or in one-person offices, journalism can be practiced in multinational conglomerates or by isolated free-lancers. Just as medicine can be practiced with technologies as advanced as magnetic image resonating machines or as primitive as an ear that hears complaints and an eye that observes symptoms, so journalism can be practiced with satellites or script. The practice does not depend on the technology or bureaucracy. It depends on the practitioner mastering a body of skill and exercising it to some worthwhile purpose.

It's always interesting, on one hand, to hear journalists (or academics who teach journalism) liken journalism to brain surgery and then, on the other, hear claims that journalists can accurately report on what others do because ... well, what others do is not brain surgery.

Andy Cline has a good post on the subject: How to Study Journalism

11 December 2007

Rosen's Unempirical Rationalism

Jay Rosen

I think the Bush press policy is an act of political realism and does testify to the acumen of the administration. I think they should take credit for it, and their supporters should give them credit. Historians will.
Jay Rosen
I think of empiricism as all efforts to understand the world based on experience, observation and seeing what happens in the world when you choose a particular course of action. This is what Bushco dumped.
Jay Rosen
It's hard for his supporters to admit it, it's hard even for his critics to believe it, and it's hard for the American people to understand it, but Bush isn't an empiricist. At all. You have to go back to the englightenment (sic) to find the origins of what he rejects.
Nathan Smith
The Bush administration has frequently changed course in response to its critics, or to outflank the opposition. It is certainly not characterized by an excess of ideological coherence. Indeed, I can't think of a widely-held contemporary opinion more impervious to the evidence than the view that Bush is impervious to the evidence, or less reality-based than the "realism" of Catoite libertarians and left-liberals.
Comment at Too Much Reality: Is There Such a Thing?
In the comments to a previous essay, panopticon tried to make the distinction between reality-trashing vs. reality-avoiding (or absence of reality-testing). I think there is a philosophical approach and balance, even where it pertains to political endeavors.
Related: Rationalism vs. Empiricism

08 December 2007

This Is War: Memories of Iraq

This Is War: Memories of IraqGuard Film Tells Soldiers' Stories

"We wanted to make a very non-political film that took someone who's never been to Iraq ... to show what it means to go into combat," said the film's director, Gary Mortensen. "We told it in a non-specific way so that it could represent Soldiers everywhere - we wanted to tell a tale that anyone who has been over there can identify with."
...
According to the site [link added], all sales of the film help support the Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund, the National Combat History Archive, the Iraq/Afghanistan Oregon Memorial Fund and the Wounded Warriors Project, a non-profit organization that helps injured servicemembers by providing programs and services to meet their unique needs.
Not According to Script
Hollywood gets shown up by pro-war YouTube videos and a didactic antiwar cat.
Some of the hottest videos on YouTube are of actual battles that have taken place in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is footage that often hasn't made its way onto the nightly news or CNN--although some of it has--but it's largely unadulterated film that shows American soldiers in action, bringing the full weight of American military might to bear against the enemy. And in most of these films, it's clear who the enemy is.

America's Army, Real Heroes, and Virtual Games

The America's Army video game has been in the news quite a bit recently for their Real Heroes expansion and collectible action figures. CNN had a segment on it just a couple of weeks ago: Real-life action hero (video, 2:51)

CNN's John Roberts looks at how a U.S. soldier became a video game character and action figure.

Now America's Army is back in the news with its availability on both Xbox and PCs ...

America's ArmyAmerica's Army Goes Xbox, Now PC

"America's Army: True Soldiers" hit the streets in November as an Xbox game. Now the game's creators are hoping to stir up excitement in the PC gaming world.

"Both the PC and Xbox 360 versions allow us to foster a large America's Army community where players can use teamwork and Army values to achieve success in their gameplay missions," Maj. Marty said. "These online communities extend beyond mere gameplay as players join in teams and use online forums to discuss their strategies and even the military in general."

The only experience I have with the "America's Army" game is when a buddy of mine developed the Advanced Wireless Simulation / Video Game Controller

The advanced game controller is a patent pending method developed by the Army for use in simulation and training environments. This technology uses a variety of sensors, a weapon replica and a head mounted display to allow the participant to interact with a computer through standard keyboard and mouse hardware connections. The player’s actions like running, jumping, crouching, and shooting control the first person game character. No separate keyboard or mouse inputs are required.

I have to admit, the controller was very cool and the gaming was a fun distraction!

06 December 2007

Ham Radio Heroes

Officials: Ham Radio Operators Are Storm's 'Unsung Heroes'

"One of the problems in this is always communication," Gov. Ted Kulongoski said after a visit Tuesday to Vernonia and a fly-over there and other affected areas. "I'm going to tell you who the heroes were from the very beginning of this...the ham radio operators. These people just came in and actually provided a tremendous communication link to us."

04 December 2007

Kudos to CBS!

CBS updated their methodology webpage concerning their report on veteran suicides. I found the updated page via a post on their blog, Primary Sources.

I have to admit that I'm practically giddy that CBS responded this way:

Since CBS News first aired our veteran suicide report on November 13, we have received several questions from viewers wanting more information. In order to provide as much information as possible and to fully answer all questions, this is a summary of the methodology and results of the data we presented.
The updated page is much, much better than the original one!

I had criticized CBS for not making the data publicly available. Here's their explanation:
Privacy Issues
Obtaining suicide data from the states involved more than just a basic public records request.

Initially, several states refused to provide the data to CBS News for privacy concerns. Here’s why: the suicide numbers in some categories are small enough that individuals could be identified, violating state privacy policies. For example, one state could have two non-white females between the ages of 30-34 committing suicide in 2004 who had served in the armed forces. Because of the small number in that category, those individuals could be identified and the cause of their death would then be made public.

Therefore, in order to get the data, CBS News had to give assurance to the states that we would keep the raw data confidential. Some states insisted upon written agreements to this effect. The data, however, can be obtained upon request from the files of each individual state. [my emphasis]
That's a pretty good explanation and I understand now why CBS would not provide the state-by-state cross-tabulation data. [UPDATE: It does not, however, get them off the hook from providing any data - see table below.] As a bonus for anyone wanting to recreate the data directly from the states, CBS also provides their cost ($3000) to reimburse the states for processing fees.

CBS provides this additional note:
Important Note: Suicide death rates that are publically available (by going to the CDC’s Wisquar’s website) are for the general U.S. population. The general population includes both veterans and non-veterans together. The rates CBS News presented will look nothing like those for the general population because we compared “veterans” to “non-veterans.” Comparing veteran suicides to the general population is misleading and an inaccurate analysis because, the general population includes veterans. Furthermore, the CDC general population suicide rates are age-adjusted only. The CBS analysis is adjusted for both age and gender. [my emphasis]
I agree with CBS that comparing only the veteran rates with the CDC general population rates is incorrect, for the reason they state: the general population includes veterans.

I emphasized the last two sentences because they directly apply to my basic analysis of their 2004 results. Earlier in their methodology, CBS says this:
The veteran population, for example, is mostly made up of older males, so the data had to be statistically adjusted state by state in order to accurately compare with the non-veteran populations.

Important Note: All of the rates of suicide that CBS News presented are adjusted. The overall rates are adjusted for age and gender in both the veteran and non-veteran populations. The male and female rates are age adjusted. And, the age breakdowns are adjusted for gender.
The question for me is: Does the explanation that the CBS data is gender adjusted account for the high female veteran and non-veteran populations in the overall 2004 rate, and the very high 20-24 age group veteran population?

The answer is ... maybe? To be sure, I would have to come up with a way to reverse engineer adjusting for age and gender on a state-by-state basis without the crude (raw) suicide data or state cohort population numbers.

I have to admit that given the updated methodology, I'm much more willing to trust CBS on this.

My previous questions to CBS based on the overall rate and 20-24 age group were:
  • Why would female non-veterans be represented at twice the rate of male non-veterans? Why wouldn't CBS tell us this or at least explain it?

  • Why is the veteran female population also twice the male veteran population?

  • How does CBS explain a 20-24 age group veteran population 10 to 20 times the Census/VA 1.5% population figure, if we use the CDC suicide rate as a substitute for their missing data?

  • Why would the veteran population in this 20-24 age group be more than two to three times the overall veteran population of 8.5% in the general population?

  • Why is the 20-24 veteran population a higher percentage than even the 12.1-19.5% veteran population calculated when using CBS and CDC data?
CBS also tells us that the male and female rates are age adjusted, which is comparable to the CDC data. My previous questions on these results were:
  • Why are both the male non-veteran rate and male veteran rate reported by CBS higher than the CDC rate for males in the general population?

  • Why are both the female non-veteran rate and female veteran rate reported by CBS higher than the CDC rate for females in the general population?
I think these questions are still valid. Did CBS limit the age range to 20+ years? Would that account for the higher rates?

It might help if CBS could (please?) provide a table, stratified by 5-year age group, with male and female columns for veterans and non-veterans. Something like this:



A table for the 2004 data and a table for the 2005 data would be very useful to calculate age and gender adjusted rates based on Veterans Administration and Census Bureau data.

Anyway, bottom line is this is an awesome response by CBS! Kudos!

Previous:
Questions for Keteyian
Astounding Arrogance at CBS
Seems right to me
Sensationalizing Suicide II
Sensationalizing Suicide

An Anthology of Journalism's Decline

Hutchins' Report: A Free And Responsible Press (1947)

Today our society needs, first, a truthful, comprehensive, and intelligent account of the day's events in a context which gives them meaning; second, a forum for the exchange of comment and criticism; third, a means of projecting the opinions and attitudes of the groups in the society to one another; fourth, a method of presenting and clarifying the goals and values of the society; and, fifth, a way of reaching every member of the society by the currents of information, thought, and feeling which the press supplies.
Objectivity as Strategic Ritual: An Examination of Newsmen's Notions of Objectivity (1972)
To journalists, like social scientists,2 the term "objectivity" stands as a bulwark between themselves and critics. Attacked for a controversial presentation of "facts," newspapermen invoke their objectivity almost the way a Mediterranean peasant might wear a clove of garlic around his neck to ward off evil spirits.
Untended Gates: The Mismanaged Press (1986)
The unprofessional gatekeeper system clearly has to be judged as being one of the root causes of the steady slide of public confidence in journalism.
Governing with the News: The News Media as a Political Institution (1998)
Instead, the news media share more with two other political institutions: the political parties, and the interest group system.
Uncertain Guardians: The News Media as a Political Institution (1999)
In this book I build on the work of Cater and his successors, Leon Sigal and Herbert Cans in particular, to explain why the news media effectively constitute a political institution and why this fact matters to students of American politics.
Snob Journalism: Elitism Versus Ethics for a Profession in Crisis (2003)
Most journalists don't know the history of their profession, have not read great works of their predecessors and have not read even the small number of major philosophical works produced by journalists.

When psychologist Bill Damon and his colleagues were researching their book "Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet," they found they had never studied a profession that did as poor a job as journalism of handing down the collected wisdom of one generation to another.
The State of the News Media: Public Attitudes (2007)
All that comes, of course, against a background of more than 20 years of growing skepticism about journalists, their companies and the news media as an institution. As we have noted in other reports,since the early 1980s, the public has come to view the news media as less professional, less accurate, less caring, less moral and more inclined to cover up rather than correct mistakes.

UPDATE: The above are, of course, supplements to Andy's required reading for journalists (pro-am and networked).

(Updated for 2010)

Previous:
Lippman-Dewey Blogosphere
Culture War: Institutions vs. Media

02 December 2007

Questions for Keteyian

UPDATE (5 Dec 2007): Kudos to CBS!

CBS updated their methodology webpage concerning their report on veteran suicides. I found the updated page via a post on their blog, Primary Sources.
...
Anyway, bottom line is this is an awesome response by CBS! Kudos!


Armen Keteyian responds to Fumento:
Contrary to Fumento's statement, the data, as well as the methodology used to collect and analyze it, have been available online for anyone to access.
Fumento fires back: CBS lies again on veteran suicide data

Keteyian's claim that the data are available online is -- at best -- misleading, and at worst dishonest.

It's also interesting that Keteyian chose to respond via letter to the NY Post instead of on CBS's Primary Sources blog. Maybe there'll be an update tomorrow.

I've already conducted a basic analysis of the results CBS provided. Here are my questions for CBS based on their 2004 results:
  • Why would female non-veterans be represented at twice the rate of male non-veterans? Why wouldn't CBS tell us this or at least explain it?

  • Why is the veteran female population also twice the male veteran population?

  • Why are both the male non-veteran rate and male veteran rate reported by CBS higher than the CDC rate for males in the general population?

  • Why are both the female non-veteran rate and female veteran rate reported by CBS higher than the CDC rate for females in the general population?

  • How does CBS explain a 20-24 age group veteran population 10 to 20 times the Census/VA 1.5% population figure, if we use the CDC suicide rate as a substitute for their missing data?

  • Why would the veteran population in this 20-24 age group be more than two to three times the overall veteran population of 8.5% in the general population?

  • Why is the 20-24 veteran population a higher percentage than even the 12.1-19.5% veteran population calculated when using CBS and CDC data?
If/When there is a new post at Primary Sources blog, I'll ask them to address these questions. Commenting has been closed there since 23 November 2007.

UPDATE: The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs will be holding a hearing at 10:00AM December 12, 2007, in Room 345 of Cannon House Office Building. From the press release:
... The hearing will focus on recent statistical data from private sources as a platform to discuss comparative data from the VA on these issues.

... Witnesses invited will include members of the media, scholars from the mental health care profession and representatives from the VA. The hearing will take place in December.
Previous:
Astounding Arrogance at CBS
Seems right to me
Sensationalizing Suicide II
Sensationalizing Suicide

01 December 2007

Electronic Kits as Gifts

Glenn Reynolds has a post on the Elenco Snap Circuits SC-300.

Vintage Radio Shack 150-1 Electronic Projects KitI'm a big fan of electronic kits for kids. I still remember getting my first electronic kit, the Radio Shack Science Fair 150-1 Electronic Project Lab (shown on right). I built dozens of the projects easily and safely, but can warn parents today that it might be very tempting for kids to stick the jumper wires that come with such kits in the nearest wall outlet to see what happens (it'll shock the begeebers out of you, blow a fuse, trip a breaker, and possibly stop your heart!).

My daughter and I have great fun building and repairing electronics together. The place I find myself repeatedly going back to for the best (and best prices) on kits is OmnitronElectronics. They have a great selection of Electronic Project/Lab Kits and Robot kits.

Elenco MX-906 Electronic Lab 130-in-one ProjectFor example, they are selling the SC-300 for $8 less than Amazon and if you're looking for something similar to the Radio Shack Science Fair version (without the "over 60 modular snap-together" lose-able, breakable, pick-up-able parts) for about the same price as the SC-300, check out the Elenco MX-906 Electronic Lab 130-in-one Project.

I would strongly suggest that parents who do not have a background in electronics check out the manuals/instructions for any kit before buying it. It's no fun (for the kid or parent) if the instructions are unclear, missing steps, incorrect, or don't explain how the circuit works. Another site I really like (though usually more expensive than OmnitronElectronics) is DiscoverThis. They do a much better job of posting manuals (in full or excerpts) online as pdf files. This is an awesome help to customers! I would definitely recommend checking out the SC-300 manual before buying it.

I also think the robot kits make a good choice for kids. My daughter and I built the OWI-991K Weasel robot together and I have used the same Weasel kit in a basic electronics lab for college students. Sitting on our shelf waiting to be built is the 21-887S FOLLOW ME Robot Kit. I even bought her the Radio Shack ColdHeat soldering iron so she could do her own soldering, which is very cool. I wouldn't recommend that soldering iron for most hobbyists/pros, but it's an awesome soldering tool for kids learning to solder.

Most of the robot kits at OmnitronElectronics come in a solder or non-solder version, so you can also get the non-solder Weasel kit or non-solder FOLLOW ME kit.

Not only are these kits fun to build, but they're fun to play with!

30 November 2007

Dumb Debates II

Save The Debate, Ditch CNN

The controversy and call for a boycott is reminiscent of one earlier this year involving Demcratic bloggers and Fox News, CNN's leading rival. In that case, pressure from the bloggers prompted the Democratic presidential candidates to withdraw from a debate hosted by Fox because of allegations of bias.
In the Aftermath of Its Greatest Triumph, CNN Finds Mostly Criticism
But all that success seemed beside the point Thursday, as the cable newschannel drowned in criticism from both sides of the political spectrum. See my story with Wes Allison in today's paper for the blow by blow.
CNN: Corrupt News Network
In fact, this most recent debacle masquerading as a presidential debate raises serious questions about whether CNN is ethically or professionally suitable to play the political role the Democratic and Republican parties recently have conceded it.
Related:
The CNN/YouTube Republican Debate Questions
The CNN/YouTube Democratic Debate Questions




Digging out more CNN/YouTube plants

Previous:
Dumb Debates
Bias Hunters and Presidential Debates
Doing the same thing ... and expecting different results?

26 November 2007

A Bad Dream & Leaving So Soon

Trent Lott's leaving?

huh.

....


Have you seen this Keane video?

24 November 2007

Astounding Arrogance at CBS

UPDATE (5 Dec 2007): Kudos to CBS!

CBS updated their methodology webpage concerning their report on veteran suicides. I found the updated page via a post on their blog, Primary Sources.
...
Anyway, bottom line is this is an awesome response by CBS! Kudos!


VA's Back-Of-The-Envelope Calculation
We have great confidence in the accuracy of our data and how it was collected and analyzed. Look at our methodology for more information on the care we took in gathering and reporting our data.
I read the methodology posted by CBS. I watched the dramatic reporting. I've criticized it and think they should have great concern - not confidence - about the accuracy of their data, how it was collected, how it was analyzed and how CBS reported it.

I don't believe CBS has any confidence in their report and CBS demonstrates this by withholding the data and analysis from any outside peer review. I also don't believe CBS will make the data and analysis available for review, which is a shame since the data collected alone could be useful in more knowledgeable hands. [I would very much like to be proved wrong on this, CBS, if you're listening.]

I do think that structural bias, "trust me" and "fake but accurate" rules the day at CBS.

Related:
More Fun & Games With Stats
Done well, [journalism] has the potential to help us understand our world, our place in it, and how we can operate within it to achieve our personal and collective goals. Done poorly, it can hurt or kill; it can blind us to the truth and cripple our personal and collective abilities to cooperate and achieve.
Previous:
Seems right to me
Sensationalizing Suicide II
Sensationalizing Suicide

22 November 2007

Thanksgiving

I've read a couple Thanksgiving Day posts on blogs. I'm thankful for many things: my family, the people I work with, ....

I'm also thankful for many people I've never met, including some I only know by tagline online.

But this has to be one of the best Thanksgiving posts today: Final Fundraising Totals

The standings remained unchanged from the preliminary totals, with Team Army taking the prize this year (more about that, later). But most importantly, our final totals are very good:

$192,193.02!
Previous:
Valour-IT: Congrats Army Team!!

Moebius Transformations Revealed

Möbius Transformations Revealed is a short video by Douglas Arnold and Jonathan Rogness which depicts the beauty of Möbius transformations and shows how moving to a higher dimension reveals their essential unity. It was one of the winners in the 2007 Science and Visualization Challenge and was featured along with the other winning entries in the September 28, 2007 issue of journal Science. The video, which was first released on YouTube in June 2007, has been watched there by more than 375,000 viewers.


18 November 2007

Gail Pletnik, Rick Haney & Anthony Capuano

Arizona Revised Statutes

3. "Explosive" means any dynamite, nitroglycerine, black powder or other similar explosive material, including plastic explosives. Explosive does not include ammunition or ammunition components such as primers, percussion caps, smokeless powder, black powder and black powder substitutes used for hand loading purposes. [my emphasis]

4. "Firearm" means any loaded or unloaded handgun, pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun or other weapon that will expel, is designed to expel or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive. Firearm does not include a firearm in permanently inoperable condition.
Arizona Department of Education:
Destructive Device: A category of firearm that includes an explosive, combustible or poisonous gas. This includes bombs, grenades, mines and rockets. Any type of weapon (other than a shotgun or a shotgun shell which is generally recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes) which will, or which may be readily converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellant; and which has any barrel with a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter, and any combination of parts either designed or intended for use in converting any device into a destructive device or from which a destructive device may be readily assembled. The term “destructive device” shall not include any device which is neither designed nor redesigned for use as a weapon. (Paraphrased from: 18 USC 921) [my emphasis]
Willow Canyon High School Student Handbook
Dangerous Instruments/Explosive Devices means anything that under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used, or threatened to be used, is readily capable of causing physical injury.
17-year-old disciplined for shotgun shells at school
To beat the bell, she said she took a shortcut and parked in a visitors-only lot closest to the school. The guard spotted the shells while ticketing her for parking in the non-student area....

"They searched me and they searched my car," she said.

Searchers discovered that Peters had cigarettes in the car, an offense also punishable by suspension. Though Peters technically violated three school rules, she was punished only for the shells, according to a Dysart disciplinary-incident form sent home with Peters.
Dad wants skeet-shooting daughter cleared
The father of an accomplished Willow Canyon High School skeet shooter has filed a formal complaint with the Dysart Unified School District regarding his daughter's suspension for mistakenly leaving shotgun shells in her car.

The complaint could be heard and decided at the district board level....

The complaint would likely be decided on by Dysart Superintendent Gail Pletnick, according to district policy.

If deemed necessary, the district board would be called on to make a decision within 10 days of Pletnick's review.
17-Year-Old Future Olympian Disciplined For Shotgun Shells In Vehicle
The 17-year-old Peters -- one of only 18 athletes in the nation to attend this year's Junior Olympic shooting camp in Colorado Springs, CO -- practices 12 hours a week and has won many trophies. Peters said that her hectic practice schedule and the fact that she was running late on the morning in question were to blame for her forgetting to remove the shells from her vehicle.
Capuano could have disciplined her for cigarettes and parking in the wrong lot, but the only charge was based on two unopened boxes of shotgun shells locked in her vehicle? Haney could have swapped the reason for discipline and didn't?

This isn't even close. Pletnik, expunge her record. Now!

Education administrators can be the stupidest people.

Never attribute to malice ...

Have you been following the Cambridge/Boy Scouts story?

Cambridge National Guard Unit Heads To Iraq
(Video)

Local Boy Scouts Accused of Being Too 'Pro-War'

Patterson: Scouts learn hard political lesson on Election Day

But on Election Day, Marsha Weinerman, executive director of the Election Commission, removed the boxes from all the polling stations because one woman, a poll worker who does not deserve to be named, complained it was a political statement....

It is also worth mentioning here that when this woman first complained, the election warden from this precinct along with another poll worker, called two separate officials at the Election Commission and both said the same thing: Prior permission had been granted and the boxes and flyers were staying up....

The only half-hearted excuse the executive director gave, in the end, was that any and all flyers were not allowed and needed to be 150 feet outside polling areas or needed to be taken down. Yet at the location where this woman was complaining the flyer was on a bulletin board with 75 other flyers, including ones promoting Get Out of Iraq, Campus Green, College Democrats of America,China’s New Property Law, Save the Non-Proliferation Regime and Global Warming. The only flyer the Election Commission removed was those evil Boy Scout collecting things for the troops. And when asked about this, the executive director said that was another mistake on their part and that she was personally going to remove all the other flyers right then. But at 8 p.m. when the polls closed, one of our kids checked this bulletin board and saw no other flyers were ever removed.
There has been some back and forth since, but I have some more questions.

Where was the polling station? There were 33, which one was it?

Is there a picture of the bulletin board with the "75 other flyers?" Is the bulletin board still there? What's on it now?

Was the woman a poll worker? If so, was she paid by Cambridge? Was she a public employee at the time? Why has the paid poll worker/complainer been allowed to remain anonymous?

And please, send donations to:

Boy Scouts Of America
Troop 45
Po Box 38-1241
Cambridge MA 02238

UPDATE: Cambridge City Council: We do support the troops

The council voted Monday night to allow the Scouts to place their donation boxes in city-owned buildings around the city, including all of the fire stations, the police headquarters, City Hall and the City Hall annex.

“This is going to have a really tangible impact,” City Councilor Brian Murphy said.

Seems right to me

Occasionally, I come across a blog post that's so good it feels wrong to provide snippets and all I can do is link to it and recommend reading it from start to finish.

Here's one of those posts: On PTSD, or more properly, on Coming Home.

Related:
National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Previous:
Sensationalizing Suicide II
Sensationalizing Suicide

Dumb Debates

CNN's Las Vegas Post Debate Analysis-- A Clinton Reunion

UPDATE: Even The New York Times and Daily Kos are reporting on the imbalance in the CNN post debate analysis... Now, that's bad!

It's hard to have a bad debate performance when:

** The audience is planted in your favor
** The questions are planted in your favor
** The questioners are your supporters
** The after debate spin room includes 2 former staff members and 1 current campaign analyst
CNN's six "undecided voters" were all Democratic operatives
UPDATES BELOW - CNN hits bottom and digs: All six debate questioners appear to be Democratic Party operatives. So much for "ordinary people, undecided voters". To paraphrase Junior Soprano, CNN is so far up the DNC's hind end, Howard Dean can taste hair gel.
Previous:
Bias Hunters and Presidential Debates
Doing the same thing ... and expecting different results?

14 November 2007

Vote for Major Scott Southworth

CNN Heroes: Championing Children: Scott Southworth (Gallery, Video 1, Video 2)

Maj. Scott Southworth adopts an Iraqi orphan with cerebral palsy and brings him to the U.S.
Vote for Scott!

Related: Captain Scott Southworth - Someone You Should Know

Valour-IT: Congrats Army Team!!

via Blackfive: Army Victory

To date, the totals are:

    Army: $53,023.00
    Marines: $39,673.00
    Air Force: $25,638.34
    Navy/CG: $20,081.75
    And non-team donations $29,954.82

...The Army team had twice the number of donors as any other team.

So, to say that I'm grateful to be a part of this effort is a bit understated. Thank you.
via CJ at A Soldier's Perspective: Valour-IT
When I got home I realized that Valour-IT was going on and I haven't done anything with it in the past two years to help. So, in an effort to help the cause, I'm raffling off TWO signed copies of David Joseph's "I'm Coming Home" CD and FOUR copies of the the DVD single of "I'm Coming Home" that is above. Raffle tickets are only going to be $5 each this time and I'll be accepting donations through Thanksgiving. At that time, I will announce the winners and present the money to the Valour-IT project. I will create a weekly update to announce how much money you have raised until then. These CDs and DVDs would make a great gift to those of you with adopted Soldiers (or keep them for yourselves). To purchase your tickets, just use the donation link on the sidebar. Any money collected between now and Thanksgiving will go directly to Valour-IT regardless of the donation size.
It's never too late to donate!

Related: Microsoft Above and Beyond Effort Award

Rebuilding Together’s Veterans Housing Initiative

Home > National Initiatives > Veterans Housing

Serving Those Who Serve, was launched with the support of founding sponsor, Countrywide Financial Corporation, to meet the needs of those severely injured veterans returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. The program focuses on providing home modifications and repairs to help veterans who are returning to their homes with severe service-related injuries, to live in their homes with greater mobility, safety, and comfort.

Heroes at Home program was launched with the support of founding sponsor Sears Holding Corporation. The program focuses on providing housing modifications and home repair services for all low-income service men and women and their families from past and present wars.

Learn how you can help!

Sensationalizing Suicide II

UPDATE (5 Dec 2007): Kudos to CBS!

CBS updated their methodology webpage concerning their report on veteran suicides. I found the updated page via a post on their blog, Primary Sources.
...
Anyway, bottom line is this is an awesome response by CBS! Kudos!


Doing the Math

Danger Room links to a CBS story on an allegedly disproportional number of suicides by veterans. Supporting an anecdotal piece on veterans of the current war, CBS pulls up statistics showing that veterans committed suicide at twice the rate of the average population.

Shock! Horror!

No.

UPDATE: "A CBS News Investigation Uncovers A Suicide Rate for Veterans Twice That of Other Americans" -- Or Does It?
Yet here's something odd about the data: For the overall rates to correspond to the male and female rates, the veteran pool would have to be 62% to 64% female, and the nonveteran pool would have to be about 66% female. Check it out, for instance, with the lower bounds on the 2005 data: 11.1 x 0.63 (female) + 31.5 x 0.37 (male) = a bit under 18.7 (overall).
Note that the data collected by CBS is not posted. The statistical analysis on the data conducted by Rathbun and CBS is not posted. Rathbun has not spoken or written about the data he received from CBS, the methodology he employed, or the analysis he provided to CBS. The data and analysis are not peer reviewed. And so on ....

There is no explanation from CBS why even the most basic information about the study isn't provided, such as sample size and representation by cohort. Without this, there's no way to "check" the information.

We can, however, do some simple "back of the envelope" calculations to see how skeptical we should be. These calculations should not be deemed to prove or disprove the CBS investigation, since that can only be done with their data set.

For example, let's take CBS's results for 2004 and calculate the percentages of male and female in the non-veteran and veteran cohorts to come up with the overall rates CBS provides. CBS reports that veterans had a 17.5-21.8 per 100,000 suicide rate in 2004 and a rate of 9.4 per 100,000 for non-veterans. Calculating for the non-veteran population first:
18.3(%male non-veteran) + 4.8(100% - %male non-veteran) = 9.4
This yields a makeup of 34% male non-veterans in the CBS data set and 66% female non-veteran. Why would female non-veterans be represented at twice the rate of male non-veterans? Why wouldn't CBS tell us this or at least explain it?

We can also check the veteran population. Calculating for both the lower and higher rates:
30.6(%male veteran) + 10.0(100% - %male veteran) = 17.5
38.3(%male veteran) + 12.5(100% - %male veteran) = 21.8
Both equations yield a 36% male veteran population and 64% female veteran population. Again, why? Why is the female population so high after Rathbun "adjusted the rates of suicide for age, gender and any potential error in the gathering of the raw data by the states" and, "The overall rates are adjusted for age and gender in both the veteran and non-veteran populations. The male and female rates are age adjusted."

The CDC reports a 10.9 per 100,000 suicide rate in 2004 for the general population, 18.0 per 100,000 for males and 4.5 per 100,000 for females. Let's compare the percentage of male and female in the CDC overall age adjusted numbers with the CBS percentages:
18.0(%male) + 4.5(100% - %male) = 10.9
This yields a 47% male population and 53% female population. Makes you wonder why the CBS populations are so skewed, doesn't it?

Another example, let's take the numbers CBS provides for veteran and non-veteran suicides in 2004 and compare them with the 2004 numbers from the CDC. We should be able to calculate the percentages of each group in the CBS data set that would provide a match with the CDC numbers.

Assuming that the CBS veteran plus non-veteran population sample would be similar to the CDC (total) general population, we can calculate the percentages for the veteran and non-veteran cohorts to produce a 10.9 overall suicide rate. Calculating for both the higher and lower veteran rate gives us a range for the percentages:
9.4(%non-veteran) + 21.8(100% - %non-veteran) = 10.9
9.4(%non-veteran) + 17.5(100% - %non-veteran) = 10.9
This yields percentages of 81.5-87.9% for non-veterans and 12.1-18.5% for veterans, which I consider a little high, but within the range of believable. The census estimate for the 2004 general population is approximately 293.64 million and the Veterans Administration estimates 24.8 million in the 2004 veteran population. This means veterans account for approximately 8.5% of the general population. According to CBS, these are also the numbers they used:
Veteran population numbers were obtained by CBS News from the Department of Veterans Affairs and general population numbers came from the U.S. Census Bureau. The veteran population was then subtracted from the general population in order to get the "non-veteran" population.
Repeating this process for male rates, CBS reports that male veterans had a 30.6 to 38.3 per 100,000 suicide rate in 2004 and 18.3 per 100,000 for non-veterans. The CDC reports a general population rate of 18.0 per 100,000 for males in 2004.
18.3(%non-veteran) + 38.3(100% - %non-veteran) = 18.0
18.3(%non-veteran) + 30.6(100% - %non-veteran) = 18.0
It should be obvious that since both the male non-veteran rate and male veteran rate reported by CBS are higher than the CDC rate for males in the general population, there is no way to make the CBS statistics comparable with the CDC data.

The same is true for the female rates since both the veteran and non-veteran rates are higher than the 4.5 per 100,000 rate reported by the CDC.

Finally, let's look at a statistic that CBS chose to highlight in their story: "The suicide rate for [the 20-24 age group] non-veterans is 8.3 per 100,000, while the rate for veterans was found to be between 22.9 and 31.9 per 100,000."

The 2004 census estimate for the 20-24 age group is approximately 21 million (20,957,254). The 2004 Veterans Administration estimate for the same age group is 316,000 (315,917 reported to the nearest 1,000). This means veterans make up 1.5% and non-veterans make up 98.5% of the 20-24 age group population. That should immediately raise some "sample size" flags.

Let's compare that to the percentages in the CBS data that would match the CDC data for the 20-24 age group suicide rate of 12.5 per 100,000:
8.3(%non-veteran) + 22.9(100% - %non-veteran) = 12.5
8.3(%non-veteran) + 31.9(100% - %non-veteran) = 12.5
This yields a 71.2-82.2% non-veteran population and a 17.8-28.8% veteran population for the 20-24 age group.

Remember, CBS doesn't provide the overall 20-24 age group suicide rate in their methodology and according to the numbers they got from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Census Bureau, veterans make up 1.5% of the 20-24 age group.
  • How does CBS explain a result 10 to 20 times the 1.5% figure if we use the CDC suicide rate as a substitute for their missing data?

  • Why would the veteran population in this age group be more than two to three times the overall veteran population of 8.5% in the general population?

  • Why is the 20-24 veteran population a higher percentage than even the 12.1-19.5% veteran population we calculated using CBS and CDC data for all age groups above?
This is where I put on my skeptical Missouri hat and tell CBS, "Show me."

Remember, this quick back of the envelope math is only provided to stress the importance for CBS (and Dr. Rathbun) to provide the actual data and not to prove or disprove what they did (without access to their data). Below are additional links for media reporting on suicide, suicide statistics and recent studies.

Related:
Dart Center: Covering Suicide

• In your story, avoid speculating about the motivation for the suicide. Likewise, avoid quoting the speculation of others. Often, there is not a simple "reason" for a suicide. If you include one in your report, you may cause someone else to feel unwarranted responsibility for the suicide.

• Be careful not to romanticize the suicide with lurid or gratuitous detail.

Reporting on Suicide: Recommendations for the Media

Research finds an increase in suicide by readers or viewers when:

  • The number of stories about individual suicides increases3,4
  • A particular death is reported at length or in many stories3,5
  • The story of an individual death by suicide is placed on the front page or at the beginning of a broadcast 3,4
  • The headlines about specific suicide deaths are dramatic3 (A recent example: "Boy, 10, Kills Himself Over Poor Grades")
Interviewing Surviving Relatives and Friends: Concerns:
  • Dramatizing the impact of suicide through descriptions and pictures of grieving relatives, teachers or classmates or community expressions of grief may encourage potential victims to see suicide as a way of getting attention or as a form of retaliation against others.
Language

Referring to a "rise" in suicide rates is usually more accurate than calling such a rise an "epidemic," which implies a more dramatic and sudden increase than what we generally find in suicide rates.

Research has shown that the use in headlines of the word suicide or referring to the cause of death as self-inflicted increases the likelihood of contagion.3

Suicide and the media (Additional resources)

CBS: Suicide Epidemic Among Veterans
One age group stood out. Veterans aged 20 through 24, those who have served during the war on terror. They had the highest suicide rate among all veterans, estimated between two and four times higher than civilians the same age. (The suicide rate for non-veterans is 8.3 per 100,000, while the rate for veterans was found to be between 22.9 and 31.9 per 100,000.)
CBS's Veteran Suicide: Methodology
Results for 2004
Overall Rates
Veterans: 17.5 to 21.8 per 100,000
Non-Veterans: 9.4 per 100,000

Male Rates
Veterans: 30.6 to 38.3 per 100,000
Non-Veterans: 18.3 per 100,000

Female Rates
Veterans: 10.0 to 12.5 per 100,000
Non-Veterans: 4.8 per 100,000
Data Analysis
You wouldn't buy a car or a house without asking some questions about it first. So don't go buying into someone else's data without asking questions, either.
NCHS: Self-inflicted Injury/Suicide
All suicides (2003)
  • Number of deaths: 31,484
  • Deaths per 100,000 population: 10.8
Death rates for suicide, by sex, race, Hispanic origin, and age: United States, selected years 1950–2004
Deaths per 100,000 resident population

Year: 2004
All ages, age-adjusted4 . . . . . . . 10.9
All ages, crude . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11.0
20–24 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12.5
25–44 years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13.9
25–34 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12.7
35–44 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15.0
45–64 years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15.4
45–54 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16.6
55–64 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13.8
65 years and over . . . . . . . . . . . 14.3
65–74 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12.3
75–84 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16.3
85 years and over . . . . . . . . . 16.4


Male
All ages, age-adjusted4 . . . . . . . 18.0
All ages, crude . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17.7
20–24 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20.8
25–44 years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21.7
25–34 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20.4
35–44 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23.0
45–64 years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23.7
45–54 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24.8
55–64 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22.1
65 years and over . . . . . . . . . . . 29.0
65–74 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22.6
75–84 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34.8
85 years and over . . . . . . . . . 45.0


Female
All ages, age-adjusted4 . . . . . . . 4.5
All ages, crude . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.6
20–24 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.6
25–44 years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.0
25–34 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4.7
35–44 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.1
45–64 years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.6
45–54 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.6
55–64 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6.1
65 years and over . . . . . . . . . . . 3.8
65–74 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.8
75–84 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.9
85 years and over . . . . . . . . . 3.6


White male 5
All ages, age-adjusted 4 . . . . . . . 19.6
All ages, crude . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19.6
15–24 years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17.9
25–44 years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23.8
45–64 years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26.1
65 years and over . . . . . . . . . . . . 31.2
65–74 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24.2
75–84 years. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37.1
85 years and over . . . . . . . . . . . . 48.4


4 Age-adjusted rates are calculated using the year 2000 standard population. Prior to 2003, age-adjusted rates were calculated using standard million proportions based on rounded population numbers. Starting with 2003 data, unrounded population numbers are used to calculate age-adjusted rates. See Appendix II, Age adjustment.
5 The race groups, white, black, Asian or Pacific Islander, and American Indian or Alaska Native, include persons of Hispanic and non-Hispanic origin. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race. Death rates for the American Indian or Alaska Native and Asian or Pacific Islander populations are known to be underestimated. See Appendix II, Race, for a discussion of sources of bias in death rates by race and Hispanic origin.
US Census Bureau: National Sex and Age

Veterans Administration: VetPop2004

Suicide by profession: lots of confusion, inconclusive data
In the end, say some researchers, occupation may not be much of a factor in suicide. Psychologists have long documented that among the top predictors for suicide are diagnosable mental disorder, co-morbid substance use, loss of social support and availability and access to a firearm.
Testimony of Mark S. Kaplan, DrPH
My colleagues and I found that veterans made up 16% of the sample and comprised 31% of the suicides (according to the Oregon Violent Death Reporting System, of 543 suicide decedents in Oregon in 2005, 153, or 28 percent, were veterans). Our findings showed that over time veterans were twice as likely (Relative Risk = 2.13, p < .05) to die of suicide compared to male nonveterans in the general population.
Veterans, depression & suicide: New VA/U-M study yields key findings for all veterans’ care
Results. Of 807694 veterans meeting study criteria, 1683 (0.21%) committed suicide during follow-up. Increased suicide risks were observed among male, younger, and non-Hispanic White patients. Veterans without service-connected disabilities, with inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations in the year prior to their qualifying depression diagnosis, with comorbid substance use, and living in the southern or western United States were also at higher risk. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with comorbid depression was associated with lower suicide rates, and younger depressed veterans with PTSD had a higher suicide rate than did older depressed veterans with PTSD. [link added]
UPDATE: Astounding Arrogance at CBS

Previous: Sensationalizing Suicide

13 November 2007

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Newsroom policies vary on campaign donations

Newsweek forbids donations, generally.

"We have an expectation that Newsweek journalists will not make any contributions to political campaigns," said spokeswoman Jan Angilella. "Are there exceptions to this general expectation? Yes. Depending on the particular circumstances, including an employee's or freelancer's specific role or responsibility."
Hey Newsweek, Kos Is A Campaign Donor
Just to make clear to the folks at Newsweek in case they haven't read his blog or this one closely enough: Kos has helped raise money for candidates and donated money to them himself.

"Radio Hams" Film (Pete Smith Specialty)

Mr. Murdoch, Tear Down This Wall!

Murdoch: WSJ.com Expected to Be Free

Murdoch said he believes that a free model, with increased readership for wsj.com, will attract "large numbers" of big-spending advertisers.
'WSJ' Executive: Murdoch's Free Web Site Talk is 'Jumping The Gun'
"It is jumping the gun, people are jumping to conclusions here very quickly. We haven't even closed the deal yet," said Michael Rooney, senior vice president and chief revenue officer for the company’s consumer media group.
If WSJ.com Was Set Free: The Numbers At Stake
Everyone and their mother in law has numbers proving one side or the other: whether making WSJ.com fully open, ad-supported instead of subscription makes sense or not. WSJ publisher Gordon Crovitz told us earlier this week: “So far, our analysis says the way to maximize revenues and earnings is to have a mixed model.”
...

Update: Besides the voices I linked to above, couple of more have been added to the mix since Friday:
-- Jeff Jarvis: Free the Journal
-- Rex Hammock: News Corp should open up WSJ.com’s golden door to the huddled masses yearning to surf free

I vote for free!!

11 November 2007

Veterans Day: Thanks!

Help Public School Military Kids by donating to a Teacher Request at DonorsChoose or create your own challenge! Two of my favorites:

Carpet Graphing - Reading Space (Expires: Dec 08, 2007!)
I am a fourth grade teacher in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Many of my students are military affiliated. I have found that my children need help focusing on the tasks at hand, or they tend to think about dad/mom over seas.
Veteran Stories - Oral History Project
My project needs digital recorders for a project my students are doing involving recording interviews with Veterans, the families of veterans, and people who have lived in armed-forces communities. The students will be recording interviews and then editing the audio for placement on a website in order to archive the stories of those who have served.

Donate to Project Valour-IT (Army Team!)



Watch an Honor a Veteran video!

Thanks, Google. It did not go unnoticed!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Looking forward to Memorial Day, 2008!

09 November 2007

The process is the thing

News is a Process, Not a Finished Product

The story is the thing, we say to ourselves. But the reality is that the story is not the thing; the process is the thing, and the process doesn't require the finished product.

03 November 2007

A Vision of Students Today

Created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University.



UPDATE: Archive for the 'Vision of Students' Category @ Kansas State University Digital Ethnography Blog!

To give a little bit more context to the piece, it might be useful to point out that it was originally created as Part 2 of a 3 part series on Higher Ed. Part 1 has been published as Information R/evolution. That piece tracks the way information creation, critique, and distribution has changed, ending with the question “Are we ready?” and the answer: “R U Feeling Lucky?” (altering Google’s I’m feeling lucky button). Placed back to back, this would then lead directly to the door opening to the empty classroom.

Part 3 is planned to be an exploration of different teaching technologies and the ways in which they shape the learning environment for better and for worse. It will begin where this video left off, with a chalkboard (which IS a teaching *technology*, though we often overlook it as such), progressing through PowerPoint, onto the web, SecondLife, etc.

Rhetoric Beat: Cunningham Frames the Need for Anti-Frame Reporting

You have to appreciate the framing Brent Cunningham uses in CJR to argue for a "rhetoric beat". This essay screams for a fisking by an intellectually honest rhetoric professor.

The rhetoric beat would require specific training and reliance on neutral experts. Otherwise this beat could make people dumber by treating rhetoric in the same sloppy way journalism sometimes treats the sciences (and politics, and...well, you know).
Unfortunately, I'm not him and this ain't a fisking. It is, however, my view of Cunningham's framing.

Cunningham spends the first three paragraphs trying to make the case that rhetoric in the aftermath of 9/11 had future consequences only to determine in the fourth paragraph that a rhetoric beat would have made no difference!
Could such a journalistic effort have possibly changed something significant about the U.S. response?

It’s unlikely. There was something in the nature of those attacks—the magnitude, perhaps, or the audacity—that immediately made parallels to Pearl Harbor and the war that followed impossible to ignore. As Montgomery demonstrates, the press was writing the first lines of a war narrative based on little more than what we all were witnessing firsthand, and so it is difficult to argue that journalists were simply transcribing the White House’s response.
Sheesh.

Undeterred, Cunningham uses the 5th paragraph to transition back to his questionable frame that "language—its uses and abuses—has emerged as a central issue in our political culture."

Feh. I agree that after the Democrats lost the 2004 election, "language" became a talking point for the political Left. I don't agree that language emerged as a central issue for "our political culture." You'd think Cunningham had never heard of the "permanent campaign":
... [Clinton] developed what I call the "permanent campaign," which was essentially to go around the established media, the newspapers and television, and, as you're pushing your legislative agenda, use your own public relations apparatus to sell your agenda. It's something that Clinton did from then on, to use polling constantly, not just to find out what the people were thinking about an issue but how they would respond specifically to rhetoric. Clinton loved that.
I really enjoyed this part of Cunningham's essay:
Simply put, framing involves choosing the right words to activate a desired mental "frame" or perception—"private" Social Security accounts instead of "personal" accounts, or "sectarian violence" in Iraq rather than a "civil war," or the role of "personal responsibility" when it comes to the breadth and depth of our social safety net. The right has had considerable success at framing controversial issues for years—think "liberal media," or those "founding fathers" in Nicaragua in the 1980s. Now the left has launched a counteroffensive.
Iraq's "civil war" versus "sectarian violence"? Quacking political ducks. Why "personal" instead of "private" Social Security accounts? Polls.

Why did Cunningham write, "the role of 'personal responsibility' when it comes to the breadth and depth of our social safety net" and why is "personal responsibility" in quotes but not "social safety net"?

Why not write about the role of "personal responsibility" versus the "welfare state" or "individualism," "collectivism," "laissez faire" and "socialism"? He's framing.

Want to read something more useful on the Social Security debate? Framing the Social Security Debate: Values, Politics, and Economics (1998):
Competing reform proposals reflect contrasting views about the nature of the Social Security problem and how to solve it. This book examines issues about privatization, national savings and economic growth, the political risks and realities in reforms, lessons from private pension developments in the United States, and the efforts of other advanced industrial countries to adapt their old-age pensions to an aging population. It also poses philosophical arguments about collective versus individual responsibility and the implications of market risks and political risks for stable and secure retirement income policy.
Both the Right and the Left have had considerable success at framing controversial issues in domestic and foreign policy for years with good results and bad. Cunningham frames this point as well.

One of the best examples of Cunningham using "corrupt information" to support his questionable framing is when he writes about the term “achievement gap.” Cunningham sources Crawford and writes, "... [Crawford] traces the insinuation of 'achievement gap' into the national discourse on education to the late 1990s...."

How convenient, but wrong.

The "achievement gap" has been in our national discourse for many years and can easily be traced to the early 1990s. The "achievement gap" enters our national discourse with every release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Report (The Nation's Report Card). The "achievement gap" has been referred to regularly over the decades by supporters of "equal opportunity," "outcome-based," "performance-based," or "standards-based" education depending on your rhetorical preference. The "achievement gap" was hardly the insinuation of then-Govenor/now-President Bush.

Personally, I view Cunningham's essay as a good demonstration of why the "mainstream press" (his term, not mine) should not have a rhetoric beat.

UPDATE: Also note that there isn't a single link in Cunningham's online essay. NOT ONE! When will CJR realize that not linking online is a rhetorical choice.

UPDATE: More on the Rhetoric Beat
Reporters, who should be ever mindful that no terms are politically neutral, can cover a rhetoric beat if they cover the right thing: the structure of argument, not vocabulary.
1999: President Ties Program’s Future to Stocks
2002: Democrats’ Ad Has Bush Mistreating Elderly
2004: Kerry Falsely Claims Bush Plans To Cut Social Security Benefits
2005: Washington Post > POLITICS > Social Security
2006: Social Security Enters Elections
2008: Obama’s Social Security Whopper


Related:
Straight Talk on Social Security