October 6, 2012

At the Garlic Harvest Café...


... let's be methodical about the differences.

(Enlarge photo.)

ADDED: This was a taste test with 12 varieties of allium ophioscorodon — hardneck garlic — all grown this year by Meade, from Wisconsin stock, planted last October.

3 Scenes from the Obama Rally in Madison.

Meade did all the filming and editing on this one. (All I did was the text.)

Obama's new TV ad: "Dishonest."

You decide who's being dishonest:

First, the ad accuses Romney of being dishonest in stating "I'm not in favor of a $5 trillion tax cut," but there's no information about why it's not true. The ad simply goes on to the next subject, saying "Romney's being dishonest here too."

Now, we see a clip from a Romney TV ad with the words on screen "Who will raise taxes on the middle class?" and the voice-over saying "According to an independent non-partisan study, Barack Obama and the liberals will raise taxes on the middle class." We see a picture of Obama with Nancy Pelosi and then "$4,000 higher taxes on middle class." This section of the ad is risky for Obama. It's the Romney ad, and it's scary and effective. If Obama wants to show that, he'd better crush it hard.

What we're told though is only "The Chairman of that so-called independent group is from Romney's former company. Dick Cheney's on its board. Newt Gingrich was there too. It's not independent. It's just not true." So... what's not true? The only thing I'm seeing denied is the independence of some unnamed "group," but independence is a matter of opinion. Who else was on the board other than Cheney? Gingrich was "there." Do they mean "on the board"? On the board of what?

Look at what isn't denied! At least Romney denied that he's in favor of a $5 trillion tax cut (and the ad publicizes his denial). Obama's ad fails to deny that he'd stick middle class people with a $4,000 tax rise. We're supposed to focus on Romney as "dishonest" because he used that study. Is there some counter-study establishing something else? If the "group" — whatever it is — is technically independent and non-partisan, it's dishonest to say "dishonest." And I still don't know the name of the "group" so I can't check what it is. This whole ad depends on residual loathing of Dick Cheney!

Let's talk about the upcoming VP debate: Joe Biden v. Paul Ryan.

Here, the PBS Newshour interviewed Mark Shields and David Brooks doddering through an effort to say something intelligent on the subject:

Surely, you can do better than that! Or do they deserve more credit for working hard to come up with something other than the obvious: that Paul Ryan will crush — to use the word Paul Ryan used to describe what Romney did to Obama — Joe Biden?

How could Paul Ryan do anything other than win decisively? By seeming too strong and making us feel sorry for Biden? Look at how Brooks and Shields devolve into blabbing about what a nice person Biden is and how much they like the guy. Shields goes on about Biden's first wife dying, Biden commuting by train between Washington and Wilmington, Delaware to take care of his kids, and Biden giving a Christmas party every year for the Amtrak workers. And then Brooks effuses about a photo he has of his son getting chased around by Biden with a super-soaker water cannon... tee hee hee hee. "So he's a nice, relaxed guy. I'm not sure Paul Ryan... maybe bow hunting on the lawn there" tee hee hee hee "It would be more perilous." And then Shields says "Is bow hunting covered by the Second Amendment?" and Brooks looks at Shields and laughs and laughs.

Obama raised $181 million in September.

"It seems clear that many Obama supporters who were sitting on the sidelines became energized about this race last month."

"Like-A-Hug is a wearable social media vest that allows for hugs to be given via Facebook, bringing us closer despite physical distance."

"The vest inflates when friends 'Like' a photo, video, or status update on the wearer's wall, thereby allowing us to feel the warmth, encouragement, support, or love that we feel when we receive hugs. Hugs can also be sent back to the original sender by squeezing the vest and deflating it."

Ha ha.

Via Jezebel via New York Magazine, both of which seem to assume it's a real device intended seriously. I say seem because I acknowledge the possibility that Jezebel and New York Magazine have a drier sense of humor than does Melissa Kit Chow. Judging from the clunky sarcasm Jezebel and New York openly aim at Chow, I'd say the possibility that there's an underlayer of subtle humor is low.

Romney 49%, Obama 47%.

The new Rasmussen daily presidential tracking poll, an average of the last 3 days, 2 of which were post-debate.
Heading into Wednesday’s showdown, it was the president who enjoyed a two-point advantage. Today is the first time Romney has been ahead by even a single point since mid-September. See daily tracking history....

Both men have solidified their partisan base. Romney is supported by 89% of Republicans and Obama by 88% of Democrats. 
Romney has more support with Republicans than Obama has with Democrats.
Among those not affiliated with either major party, Romney leads by 16.
One might speculate that Obama has more of a problem reaching the middle group. His base will punish him. Romney has more ability to appeal to the middle, because core conservatives will stick with him, since they want Obama out so badly. If Romney can show — and he did at the debate — that he's not the heartless plutocrat in the Democrats' caricatures, people in the middle can feel free to vote for him (especially if they feel — as the debate made them feel — that Obama is worn out and doesn't really want to keep working at the job).

Did the umpires get that infield fly rule call right?

Paul White says yes.

"Does Barack Obama really want to be president?"

Asks WaPo's Melinda Henneberger, presumably laying the foundation for the argument that Obamaphiles will make if he loses the election: He wanted to lose. He meant to do that. It's a brilliant and subtle strategy to rotate out of office, allow Mitt Romney to come in and do the complicated scut work of fixing the economy, taking the political damage for anything that hurts, creating a memory space within which people will feel dreamy and altruistic about Obama, who can rest and relax, swan about speaking to those who love him, collect money, and build immense longing on the part of the American people, upon which he will build his Obama 2016 campaign. He'll come back in glory. And he'll nail those debates.

"The unemployment truthers are not helping Romney."

Says WaPo's Greg Sargent, but I'm a Sargent truther. Sargent skews everything to try to help Obama. Of all the mainstream commentators I've been watching over the last few years, he's the most predictable. In no way do I believe he's sincerely and accurately offering advice to Romney supporters.

Meade makes coffee.


That's the Aeropress coffee device that I've recommended many times, but what's going on with the cast-iron tomato pot, which is quite heavy, but, he assures me, balanced? He's making it "automatic." That is, instead of pushing the plunger slowly by hand, the steady weight of the pot does the work.

Here's the Aeropress at Amazon, if you want one. As for the tomato pot, I don't think they make them anymore, but I found a pumpkin one that's the same brand. There's a tiny tomato one.

October 5, 2012

"One on One" — the New Yorker cover by Barry Blitt.

"This image seemed like a proper response to the first Presidential debate... but I’m not sure I realized how hard it is to caricature furniture.”

Remember Blitt's famous cover from the 2008 campaign.

Viral advertising gets very psychedelic... and feline...

Via Metafilter, via somebody who posted before understanding that it's an ad.

(If you want the cat-poop-related product, here it is.)

"The death penalty? Give me a break. It's easy. Abortion? Absolutely easy."

"Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion. Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state."

And it's easy to reel off statements like that if you're Antonin Scalia. He's got a theory that makes so many of the cases that are hard for others easy. And he seems to have a grand time traveling about telling people so.

"Based on what the goal was, I saw it as successful," said Jim Lehrer...

... about his performance as moderator:
"I’ve always said this and finally I had a chance to demonstrate it: The moderator should be seen little and heard even less. It is up to the candidates to ask the follow-up questions and challenge one another."

"I don’t consider that being passive, I consider it being effective... It’s not my job to control the conversation. If the candidates gave me resistance, and I let them talk, to me that’s being an active moderator, not a passive moderator."
I'll endorse that philosophy of moderation.  I remember seeing a debate some years ago — I forget when or who was in it — where 3 — I think it was 3 — candidates sat at a round table and just talked to each other. They had to moderate themselves. It worked well. There are incentives not to dominate the conversation, and I think Obama and Romney would do just fine in that format... which was rather close to what Lehrer allowed them to create for themselves.

Paul Ryan should come to the University of Wisconsin campus.

After Obama's big rally yesterday, I'd like to see Wisconsin's own Paul Ryan do an event at the University of Wisconsin here in Madison. I'd like it, first, to give the University a chance to demonstrate its neutrality as between the 2 parties, and, second, because we have a tradition here of "sifting and winnowing" ideas, and Paul Ryan could present the ideas that are an alternative to what Obama (and Baldwin and Pocan) are purveying, and he could do it in a way that reaches the younger audience.

I just criticized the Obama event for being a such a hardcore get-out-the-vote rally, when — to fit the university setting — it should have had more of an intellectual character, teaching students about political ideas and present-day policy issues. Show some real respect, even veneration for the academic milieu and justify trumping whatever was planned by the professors in their classrooms. I think Paul Ryan could do that. Teach conservatism and let the students continue the "fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found."

"I’m asking you to keep believing in me."

Is this a religion?

ADDED: From the same article:
Before the president took the stage, Madison congressional candidate Mark Pocan, Mayor Paul Soglin, outgoing U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin set the tone for the afternoon, encouraging attendees to get out and vote.

While at the beginning of his speech Obama took shots at Romney, he mostly stuck to talking about his vision for the country and urged the crowd of young supporters to vote in November.

College aged voters showed up at the polls in historic numbers four years ago to propel Obama into office, and Thursday he again pushed for their support.
So there was no pretense at all that this event had anything to do with educating young minds, exploring political ideas. It was unabashedly a get-out-the-vote effort... right down to demanding that the students acquire tickets by going to the campaign website and providing their email addresses and phone numbers (which, from what I've heard, were immediately used to spam the students with pleas for donations).

"Yes it could be a hanky. But it falls kind of heavy, and stays uniform in it's [sic] fold."

"Plus it is flat.  I have never seen a man's hanky be so uniform and flat coming from a front pant's pocket.  Back pocket, yes, breast pocket in a jacket, yes.. but not the front pant pocket."

Daily Kos, theorizing that Romney had a "cheat sheet" during the debate, during which no notes were permitted.

It was a hanky. So Obama's would-be helpers — attempting to besmirch Romney — succeeded only calling attention, once again, to what nearly everybody thought they saw on Thursday: Romney's superior preparation, ability to think on his feet, and eloquence.

ADDED: Gawker gives the history of debate conspiracy theories, and in one of them I — of all people — am the conspiracy theorist. 

Meade goes to Obamastock.

Me, I was working yesterday, even locked out of the law school, so I didn't make it to the big political rally in the center of campus — Bascom Mall. But Meade was there, and he was really inspired. He wrote a song about his nearly ecstatic experience, and he won't stop singing. It goes like this:
I came upon a child of Obam-a
She was walking by Sterling Hall
So I asked her, "Where are you going?"
And this she told me...

"I'm going up to Bascom Mall,
I'm gonna join in a political rally
Gonna put out my two hands
Try and keep my birth control free.

We are starstruck
We're beholden
And we've got to keep ourselves in government lardon."

Then can I walk beside you?
I have come here to dialogue
And with a Flip cam, I feel like Herzog,
Artistically burning.

Ohio: Obama 50%, Romney 49%.

Rasmussen has a post-debate poll.

Justice Souter "sort of got the joke about being a Supreme Court Justice."

Says Jeffrey Toobin.
He didn't have an answering machine on his phone. He was late for William Rehnquist's funeral because they couldn't leave a message and find out where he was. He doesn't like electric lights to read. He moves his chair around his office over the course of the day for the sunlight. But the great thing about Justice Souter is that he sort of got the joke about being a Supreme Court Justice and he understood that he was important but it wasn't all about him.
Which might explain his graceful retirement. I sometimes wonder about those Justices who hang on for decades and into extreme old age. Why don't they think there should be more rotation of new individuals into those chambers?

Toobin's new book is "The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court." It's full of interesting material.  I'm enjoying it.

"Ann Althouse fretting over the phrase 'I’m In'..."/"Funny, she didn't complain last night....."

"But she did say, 'Are you sure?'"/"It won't hurt, did it?"

Comments at Wonkette, after a post by Jesse Taylor mocking me for criticizing the University of Wisconsin for closing down central campus yesterday for an Obama rally which students could attend only if they went to the Obama campaign website, provided email addresses and phone numbers and clicked a button marked "I'm In."

Sexual remarks to tear down a woman? Imagine if conservatives did that to a liberal woman.

SECOND THOUGHTS: I wish I'd reacted a different way and, instead of focusing on insults to me, found a funnier place. When you put the phrase "I'm In" into a sexual context, as those commenters did, the metaphor becomes Obama as the unsatisfied girlfriend who can't even feel the man's love. Within this metaphor, the students who wanted tickets were forced to give what is now perceived at the sexually humiliating affirmation "I'm In."

"When I got on the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney..."

"Whoever it was that was on stage last night doesn't want to be held accountable for what the real Mitt Romney has been saying for the last year.... Here's the truth...."

That's the Obama campaign's attempt at a post-debate zinger. It's as if Obama expected Mitt Romney to show up in the form that Obama supporters have been sculpting in the media! Perhaps that's how Obama's sparring partner in the debate prep portrayed Romney. Oh, how I'd love to get the secret video of Obama practicing debating Romney with John Kerry playing the role of Romney. I think it would explain a lot.

The next day, Obama was all hey, who was that guy, that spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney? I'd love to see the drafts of that speech so I could know what set of words evolved into "that spirited fellow." Did they send the draft back to the 18th century for tweaking?

When you zing, you've got to expect counter-zing. You can build on that meme. If Obama wants to nudge people to think that wasn't the real Mitt Romney, you can flip that and say it was Obama who seemed unfamiliar? Who was that tired, cranky character we saw next to Romney? It wasn't the Obama we know, the confident, striding, beaming, charismatic master of language and persuasion we've believed in and trusted these last 4 years.

Who was that very unspirited fellow who claimed to be Barack Obama? Whoever it was that was on stage Thursday night doesn't want to be held accountable for what the real Barack Obama has been saying for the 4 years.... Here's the truth....

Obama 49%, Romney 47%, same as yesterday.

On the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll.
These results are based upon nightly interviews and reported on a three-day rolling average basis. As a result, only about one-third of the interviews for today’s update were conducted after the presidential debate. The single night of polling conducted after the debate did show some improvement for Romney, but it remains to be seen whether that will continue or if it was merely statistical noise. Sunday morning’s update will be the first national polling based entirely upon post-debate interviews.
Some improvement... but not enough to round up to a difference in the reported percentages.

October 4, 2012

"Mitt Romney will create 12 million new jobs, when President Obama couldn't."

A new ad, which reminds me of promises Obama made the first time around. Must we oust Obama because he couldn't keep his promises? Perhaps the answer should be yes. Either do what you said or you must rotate out and give the other guy a chance to try to do what he says. If he can't, we'll oust him too.

Rocky Mountain high Obama?

“I’m going to say something controversial here... Obama arrived in Denver at 2:00 p.m. today, just a few hours before the debate started. Romney did his debate prep in Denver. When you go to 5,000 feet and you only have a few hours to adjust — I don’t know, maybe....”

Al Gore said on his TV network that apparently somebody watched.

I've also heard that Obama has trouble when you rouse him at 3 a.m. with a telephone call.

And don't bring up the writing on the pajamas. I'm cautioning against that sort of thing now. Stay upbeat, Romney people. Romney sounded like Reagan last night. He's full of optimism and energy. He can speak cogently for 2 hours in the mile-high city, and he can, I presume, answer the phone in the middle of the night.

AND: Just because we're talking about Al Gore and screwing up debates, I want to show you what I find the funniest presidential debate moment of all time:

Bush's head nod is epic, and if you ever want to make me laugh, just look at me with Gore-y triumph and ask "What about the Dingell-Norwood bill?"

67% said Romney won the debate.

And "No presidential candidate has topped 60% in that question since it was first asked in 1984," according to CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

That is, it was by far the most decisive win they'd ever measured. And they measured that time Dukakis didn't seem to mind if his wife was raped and that time Reagan said "There you go again."

"There was never a question whether we wanted President Obama to come to our campus."

Said the former University of Wisconsin Chancellor, Biddy Martin, quoted in the New York Times in 2010, when President Obama gave a performance in the area known as Library Mall.

She said: “That was clear. But the question was how to do this in a way that was fair to everyone in the community.”
Ms. Martin, who has been chancellor since September 2008, was thrilled by the chance. You couldn’t buy this kind of educational experience, or, quite frankly, this kind of publicity; it’s an honor. But she worried about the fairness of having campus life disrupted by a political event. A day or so of fretting followed....

Ms. Martin and the Board of Regents signed on, then received validation of that decision in the plans of students and faculty members to gather after the political rally to debate everything from the economy and the wars to the political process itself. The only dissent has come by e-mail from a couple of alumni, objecting to the use of the campus for the rally.

“This is a campus that values political speech,” Ms. Martin said.

But political speech comes at a cost. It meant the complete or partial closing of several buildings, from the University Bookstore to the spectacular State Historical Society building. It meant a day off for all the food vendors in Library Mall. It meant the cancellation of the 5 p.m. Mass at the St. Paul’s University Catholic Center.
This time, in the heat of Obama's reelection campaign, there was no "day or so of fretting." Coordination with the campaign flowed smoothly, with the UW's website linking students to the campaign website and requiring them to provide their phone numbers and click "I'm In" to get tickets. I'm In... what? The campaign effort? And this time the event wouldn't be in Library Mall, inconveniencing food vendors and the 5 o'clock Mass-goers. It would be smack in the center of campus, displacing many university students and employees for an entire day.

Why didn't Biddy Martin put on a show of fretting this time? Take a day to brood publicly about the university's educational mission, the separation of education and politics, minimizing inconvenience, and setting up an after rally discussion session about the deeper meaning of it all?


Biddy Martin isn't here. The University drove her away by rejecting the plan for UW independence she negotiated with... Governor Scott Walker... boo hiss... toxic!

Martin understood politics. She performed well in the political theater, and then she took her bows and absconded to Amherst.

"He didn’t bring up the 47%!"

"He had a whole, you know, area to discuss the role of government and he didn’t talk about a philosophical divide!"

Obama must have determined in advance not to use the 47% material. The question is why. Perhaps the thinking was: Everyone will perk up, this will be the sound bite of the debate, and Romney's expecting it. He'll be prepared. He knows what you'll say, but you don't know what he'll say, in whatever excellent remarks he'll have planned. You'll have to think on the spot, and his whole plan will be to have something you'll stumble over on the spot, perhaps something you once said that you might stammer over explaining, as this sound bite of the evening is being recorded for exploitation everywhere.

He played it safe, which you may say wasn't really safe. But you're not seeing what would have happened down the road not taken.


I shall be telling this with a sigh   
Somewhere ages and ages hence:   
Two roads diverged in a debate, and I—   
I took the easy one to travel by,   
And that has made all the difference.

"A trio of high-profile UW-Madison professors went public Wednesday with concerns about President Barack Obama's planned Thursday campaign rally..."

"... saying students who want to attend are unfairly being required to supply a phone number and email address to the campaign, even having to click 'I'm In' to get a free ticket at the campaign's website...."
Vince Sweeney, vice chancellor for university relations, said the university takes the concerns seriously and will respond formally but hadn't done so as of Wednesday night. In linking to the Obama campaign's registration site on the university's website, the university sought to provide as much information as possible to interested attendees, he said.

"We don't manage the (Obama) link, we're not collecting that information, and ultimately if it's a problem for those wishing to attend, it's an individual decision" whether or not to provide an email address and phone number, he said.

"In just a little while, I'll go on stage to meet Mitt Romney in the first presidential debate here in Denver."

Obama emailed last night.
I couldn't be prouder to represent you out there.
Represent me?! Read this morning, it sounds like an outrageous excuse. Like it's my fault. That's representation of me? I didn't know I was so tired and grouchy.

"I got Barry aside and said, 'Look, why don’t we just go for B’s here.'"

David Maraniss — in his book "Barack Obama" — quotes Obama's high-school debate partner, Jeff Cox.
"That way, no big deal. That was my solution. He said okay, whatever." As soon as the debate began, Cox found himself outfoxed. He went into it in traditional fashion, preparing facts to lay out, one argument after another, gleaned from books and Time and Newsweek.
And Barry got up there and he just had a few arguments that I hadn’t thought of.… I was always touching back to this many killed, guns are killing, and he was just bouncing all over the place, but what he did is he went up to that ten-thousand-foot level. I remember him talking about, “How do guns make gun owners feel?” I hadn’t thought of that. How am I going to respond? He was very good on his feet, thinking more strategically on what could benefit him. I was sitting there flabbergasted; I remember thinking this is too heavily a philosophical question for me. And the teacher loved it. Barry was very smooth, and I started stumbling around all over the place. I felt he formulated in his own mind while we were doing it a kind of angle or wedge that was different than the angle I had been going. I was literal— one, two, three, four— and he kind of did some audibles. He wasn’t pulling out a whole lot of facts, he just seemed to have structured a bunch of little islands that he could jump to....
By the time Cox faced off against him, Barry had already mastered the art of knocking a debate opponent off-balance. He had been practicing almost daily on Gramps, who had tried without much success to assume the role of disciplinarian, laying down what the teenager considered to be “an endless series of petty and arbitrary rules” about use of the car and chores around the apartment. Eventually Barry would regret the way he dealt with his grandfather, but at the time he took advantage of his debating skills: “With a certain talent for rhetoric, as well as an absolute certainty about the merits of my own views, I found that I could generally win these arguments in the narrow sense of leaving my grandfather flustered, angry, and sounding unreasonable.”
Unfortunately for Obama, Romney is not the kind of kid who'd make a deal to just go for B's. And Romney's not Gramps, though I note that, in Obama's practice sessions for the debate, the role of Romney was played by John Kerry. And I think Kerry was Gramps.

Did Obama have a strategy to make the debate feel wonky and dull?

He may have figured that if he were energized and feisty, there would be moments that might change the path of the election, and he's been on track for victory. Early on, it seemed that both men were cranking out their policy ideas, and if Obama had that strategy, he might have gotten complacent, thinking no one's really watching or nothing really matters anymore.

Later, perhaps, he got scared that Romney, with seemingly endless energy, was getting the better of him, embodying optimism. It's almost... Reaganesque! People are supposed to love me, that's the given of this race. What if they love him?!

Obama didn't have a way to change his own demeanor, to veer away from the game plan, mid-debate, and as he relied more and more on studied dullness, hints of his own disappointment in himself showed through. He tried, it seemed, to stave off those feelings by flashing his famously beautiful smile — which, we could then see, does not emanate from a place of joy or pleasure.

I'm reading Andrew Sullivan's his live-blog. His last entry is widely quoted:
But this was a disaster for the president for the key people he needs to reach, and his effete, wonkish lectures may have jolted a lot of independents into giving Romney a second look.
That corresponds to the theory that Obama had a strategy that turned out to be bad. And scroll down to 10:29:
How is Obama's closing statement so fucking sad, confused and lame? He choked. He lost. He may even have lost the election tonight.
The closing statement is a part Obama would have planned in advance. There's no reason for that to come off badly. Even if he'd been tired before and disappointed in himself and surprised at Romney's strength, the event was almost over. Summon up a final burst of energy and deliver that little speech you've got memorized. That is the thing you're best at — other than that smile — delivering a sermon. Nail that last little bit and maybe that's what people will remember. End big. Why wasn't he ready to do at least that?

Speculating, I'm able to come up with only 2 ideas: 1. He has some burdensome real emotions behind that smile, and 2. He actually doesn't want to win.

October 3, 2012

Who won?

Who won?
pollcode.com free polls 

ADDED: Oh, well, Obama is coming to Madison, into the arms of those who love him. There's the big outdoor rally tomorrow. (But look out, there's a 50% chance of rain... thunderstorms.)

Drudge calls attention to Obama's stance during the debate.

We noticed the foot position here at Meadhouse and Meade said "He's standing like a girl," which made me say "If only he had stiletto heels."

That photo is juxtaposed with the headline "Lost, bewildered without his teleprompter..."

Lots of talk about Romney winning.

I'm just scanning the web (and listening to the TV commentators). Romney certainly seemed to be trying to win, and Obama was quite mellow. Obama dished out policy points and always sounded steady, if a bit tired at times, but I think he was relying on his famous likeability, occasionally flashing his famous smile (for little reason). Romney might have gotten too passionate, but he was bubbling with policy ideas, and the message was: Give me the job, let me work for you, I can help.

Let's watch the debate!

7:38 Central Time: For some reason, I feel as though I'm not going to have anything to say. But I'm going to try to watch like a normal person, let it flow over me as if I didn't need to write about everything, and I'll see what happens. Please converse in the comments. And I'll do updates here if the spirit moves me.

7:43: Now, my son John is a fabulous live-blogger, and he's set up to go.

7:50: In the practice debates, Obama had John Kerry pretending to be Mitt Romney, and Romney had Rob Portman pretending to be Barack Obama. I've got to think Romney had the better practice partner. Why would Kerry be any good at that?

8:05: The candidates come out and shake hands. Meade: "Romney's taller." Me: "Romney has a bigger head."

8:06: Obama appropriately makes a statement about his wife. It's their 20th anniversary.

8:08: Romney says: "I'm sure this is the most romantic place you can imagine: here with me."

8:10: In the opening speeches, Romney had a great line about Obama thinking "trickle-down government" would work. "I'll restore the vitality that gets America working again." Meade says Romney won the opening statements: "Obama talked about himself and his job. Romney talked about us and our jobs."

8:13: Obama is talking up tax cuts for the rich!

8:23: "Donald Trump doesn't like to think of himself as small anything," says Obama.

8:26: Romney's going on about lowering taxes, and Obama looks irritated.

8:29: Jim Lehrer is getting the vapors. He seems very old, weak, and small. Romney seems to have a plan to dominate him.

8:41: Obama has a plan to flash his winning smile, but he just flashed it when Romney brought up Solyndra and said "You pick the losers."

8:43: Lehrer only interrupts Romney (it seems to me). "Let's go," he mutters gruffly.

8:53: How long is this debate? Is this 2 hours? Is anyone still watching?

8:55: Lehrer interrupts Obama. He's struggling to get some control. He seems desperate.

9:16: They're not really attacking each other. Just rolling out policies, pretty wonkily, and distinguishing theirs from the other guy's.

9:17: Do they differ on "how they view the role of the federal government?" Lehrer asks with dismaying generality.

9:19: Obama invokes Lincoln. Lincoln thought the government should do some things, and Obama tries to be like Lincoln.

9:20: Romney loves great schools and great teachers. But the question is what's the role of the federal government. "We're all children of the same God." We have the "right to pursue our own dreams" as "free people."

9:36: Obama's closing statement sounds like platitudes. I'm surprised he has nothing vivid to say. Romney goes second.

9:39: Lots of hanging out on stage... together. Could it be that they like each other?

10:29: Everyone seems to be saying that Obama lost by a lot. I blame John Kerry. I'll bet he was a terrible practice partner.

Prepping the University of Wisconsin campus for President Obama's visit.

Bascom Mall was a crazy construction site:


Somewhere in the background there you might be able to see the Law School

Apparently, Obama will make an entrance through the Education School:


"Please DO NOT Climb Trees."

At the top of the hill, workers — perhaps student volunteers — were assembling into groups under hand-held signs, like this one, which says "Perimeter":

"The middle class has been buried the last 4 years."

A new Romney ad exploits a Biden gaffe.

And by the way, this is a beautifully produced ad, demonstrating how the Romney-Ryan campaign chooses to present itself. It ought to be a lesson to those who are dragging Romney and Ryan down.

"Vin Scully Quotes Bob Dylan as the Dodgers’ Playoff Hopes Slowly Die."

Bob Dylan... Dylan Thomas... what the hell's the difference? They were dying out there last night.

Here's the Dylan Scully quoted:

Here's the text of the poem, which I checked for the reason you might want to check. He doesn't say "fucked." It's "their words had forked no lightning." Also "Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay..." Green Bay! This poem is good for baseball and football.

"As the pain of labor increased, Cassidy took a pair of scissors to 'pry the baby out.'"

"The infant, a 9.5 pound, 20.4 inch boy, delivered alive and into the toilet. Cassidy lifted the moving infant from the toilet, felt for a pulse, found one, then placed her hands around the infant’s neck and squeezed until he wasn’t moving or breathing any longer."

Cassidy Goodson is 14, and somehow she managed to carry a large baby to term without any adult intervening in what was happening to her. She went through labor alone and actively hiding, and she resorted to the use of scissors to extract the baby. What condition was the baby in at that point? If in pain and alone, she made the terrible choice to strangle a scissor-ripped newborn, is there no pity for this child?

I identify myself as the outlier at Instapundit.

AM I THE ONLY ONE OF THE INSTAPUNDIT BLOGGERS AND GUEST-BLOGGERS who loathes the Daily Caller’s exploitation of the 2007 video of Barack Obama stirring up the black churchfolk? I don’t think this is helping Mitt Romney with the swing voters at all. Like last week’s playing and replaying of the Obamaphone lady’s ravings, it repels me from Republicans. I’m a swing voter — I voted for Obama in 2008 and Bush in 2004 — and I am genuinely undecided this year. Those of you who are pleased with these seemingly exciting new weapons to use in the fight to defeat Obama are losing perspective. You are not thinking about how you look to the people you need to convince. Here’s a clue: You look ugly.

"I have one drawer," says Facebook billionaire Zuckerberg. "Like men everywhere. Like men everywhere."

"I mean, I wear the same thing every day, right?" The closet is used by his wife, and he just has like 20 gray T-shirts. And that's not 50 shades of grey. Just 20. All the same shade.

It's a miracle the fashion industry stays alive. If we — or I mean, you men — didn't have to get dressed up for work, what would you spend a year?

"Even hedged regrets are welcome, but the irony is that a Senator who says the parties need to work more together..."

"... will have as his main legacy the most partisan and polarizing legislation of modern times."
Had [Jim Webb] or any one of the 60 Democrats insisted that the Administration get Republican votes, or drop the bill's worst provisions, history would have been very different.

A second irony is that Democrats only had those 60 Senate votes because of a series of improbable and corrupt events. Mr. Webb won his race by a hair in 2006 after incumbent George Allen stupidly uttered the word "macaca," and the media portrayed him as racist. Alaska's Ted Stevens lost his seat in 2008 by 3,724 votes after he was convicted eight days before the election in a trial in which the Justice Department withheld crucial evidence. He was later exonerated. And Al Franken, who was trailing on Election Day, managed to steal the Minnesota recount in 2008 by 312 votes from a hapless Norm Coleman....
History... had you remembered those 3 incidents and the fact that all 3 were required to produce the 60 votes that allowed the Democrats to inflict Obamacare on us?

"The situation on Bascom Hill already is disruptive" in preparation for Obama's rally tomorrow.

Says Irene in the comments to the last post.
This morning, a worker who admonished me for "standing" behind heavy equipment when I paused to take a photograph.

When I stated that I found the situation disruptive, one of his coworkers chirped, "Obviously, a Republican."


"[M]y reaction to President Obama’s visit has gone from unease, to mild irritation, to serious concern."

UW—Madison polisci prof Kenneth R. Mayer has 4 problems with the decision to allow the Obama campaign to hold a rally in the center of campus that will shut down many buildings for the entire day — a regular class day — tomorrow. This text is from a letter he sent to some of the people involved in the decision-making. He copied me on the letter and responded positively to my request to blog it. Here are the 4 problems:

Tammy Baldwin will appear with Obama and talk about their "shared vision of building a progressive nation from the middle class out."

At the University of Wisconsin—Madison tomorrow.

I think she's a lot more "progressive" that Barack Obama wants to look... but for present purposes — beating Tommy Thompson in the Senate race — she doesn't want to look that way either.

And yet she says things like "vision of building a progressive nation." Do her people have any idea how awful that sounds to people who are not on the left, i.e., the people she needs to convince/trick if she wants to win?

"When it comes to racial demagoguery, the right has become everything it says it hates about the left."

Says Conor Friedersdorf:
If the New York Times was constantly searching for archival footage to prove that Mitt Romney doesn't like black people, or that he is "whipping up race hatred," the conservative media would accuse them of frivolously ignoring the actual issues that this election ought to turn on. It would say that they were exploiting the racial anxieties of Americans to tarnish the character of a man whose long record of public policy-making shows no evidence of racial animosity or radicalism.
Before you reflexively reject Friedersdorf's opinion — which I share —  know that he recently wrote "Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama."
The whole liberal conceit that Obama is a good, enlightened man, while his opponent is a malign, hard-hearted cretin, depends on constructing a reality where the lives of non-Americans -- along with the lives of some American Muslims and whistleblowers -- just aren't valued. Alternatively, the less savory parts of Obama's tenure can just be repeatedly disappeared from the narrative of his first term, as so many left-leaning journalists, uncomfortable confronting the depths of the man's transgressions, have done over and over again.   
He's positioning himself to the left of Obama, but the point is, he's not an Obamaphile, unless he's performing the ministrations of Obamaphilia in a rather subtle fashion.

ADDED: I didn't mean to suggest that I share every detail of Friedersdorf's opinion, only opposition to the exploitation of the old video of him pandering to an audience of black churchgoers. I don't, in fact, agree that Obama has a "long record of public policy-making" that's entirely devoid of "evidence of racial animosity or radicalism." There's some racial animosity and radicalism here and there. He's too far to the left for my taste on many issues (and Romney is too far to the right). He hasn't repressed every shred of racial critique that's ever crossed his mind. That's not a big deal to me. What does bother me is that he hasn't fulfilled the dream that many white people projected onto him — with his fully willing encouragement — that he would take us to a higher ground, racially. But we, the voters, need to take responsibility for our own vulnerability to the idealistic rhetoric that flows so freely from political candidates.

Paul Ryan tries to make the worrisome percentage 30, not 47.

"Seventy percent of Americans want the American dream. They believe in the American idea. Only 30 percent want the welfare state... Before too long, we could become a society where the net majority of Americans are takers, not makers."

October 2, 2012

The "mismatch" argument against affirmative action.

Explained by Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor Jr.:
The mismatch effect happens when a school extends to a student such a large admissions preference — sometimes because of a student's athletic prowess or legacy connection to the school, but usually because of the student's race — that the student finds himself in a class where he has weaker academic preparation than nearly all of his classmates. The student who would flourish at, say, Wake Forest or the University of Richmond, instead finds himself at Duke, where the professors are not teaching at a pace designed for him —  they are teaching to the "middle" of the class, introducing terms and concepts at a speed that is unnerving even to the best-prepared student.
Read the whole thing. It's odd that these observations are surfacing so late in our experience with affirmative action, but there's a new case pending in the Supreme Court, which creates an occasion for elaborating the policy pros and cons. I remember discussions about affirmative action, back in the 1980s, in which any attempt to make this argument would provoke a sharp rebuke.
With striking uniformity, university leaders view discussion of the mismatch problem as a threat to affirmative action and to racial peace on campuses, and therefore a subject to be avoided. They suppress data and even often ostracize faculty who attempt to point out the seriousness of mismatch.
It's a painful thought, that you are hurting the people you meant to help. The urge to repress ensues. It's much easier to justify imposing a disadvantage on the people you decided could bear the burden. That's something academics have long felt comfortable discussing openly.

That Obama 2007 speech Drudge has been teasing all afternoon.

Here it is at the Daily Caller.

What do you think?
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"Vote Like Your Lady Parts Depend On It... Because they kinda do."

Something that was on the Obama campaign website and, when widely noticed, taken down.

Imagine if the sexes were reversed: Vote like your manhood depends on it... because it kinda does.

What I can do to deal with the Obama rally that will shut down central campus here at the University of Wisconsin?

From a missive I just received from Paul M. DeLuca, Jr., Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, who thanks me for my "efforts and forbearance to accommodate this extraordinary event":
Work with a departmental curricular representative to identify an alternative class location for that day, and communicate this change to your students as soon as possible,

Cancel class and adjust syllabus to cover content in future class session, or

Think about ways that will allow you to both fulfill instructional responsibilities to students, and to enable students to participate in the events on campus (e.g., assignment options to replace the day’s class instruction, utilizing academic technologies (e.g., Learn@UW, Moodle, email, or other tools) to deliver instruction for the day asynchronously, or through other approaches).
Of course, I am attempting the first of those options. Even though I can perceive the potential for doing new media reporting from the fringes of the event, I care  — to the exclusion of any other concern — about making my class happen as scheduled. But — on the advice of the higher UW authorities — I could simply cancel the class and "adjust" my syllabus, somehow merge the planned material into whatever else I was thinking of covering this semester. And... what is that third option? Fulfill instructional responsibilities... by... what?? Emailing them my notes? Or to put it professorily: delivering the instruction asynchronously.

For that, they pay tuition? I could email my notes for the whole semester, but these are students who pay $40,040 tuition per year! ($21,350 if they are Wisconsin residents, a break they get because their parents pay the exorbitant Wisconsin taxes that help keep this stellar university going.)

ADDED: There was distracting construction outside my classroom even today:

Bob Dylan performs "Blowing in the Wind" live on TV in 1963.

How many times must a man look up before he can really see the sky?


AND: Check out Bob Dylan TV! And, good lord, buy the new album "Tempest."

"President Barack Obama will hold a campaign rally on Bascom Hill this Thursday."

Openly announces the University of Wisconsin—Madison.

After I went to all that trouble to critique the earlier attempt to frame the visit as historical and presidential, when it was really a campaign rally.

I can't believe the University is shutting down, closing buildings such as the Law School, depriving us of the rooms for regularly scheduled classes, for an entire day, to accommodate a campaign rally. The grounds and the students are provided for a massively intrusive photo-op. Of course, the students don't have to attend. But they will. They've paid their tuition for classes, which they're not getting, and their bodies are repurposed for political exploitation.

What should a UW student do?
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If I stand in my office window Thursday, I can expect to be contacted by police personnel.

Here's the University of Wisconsin's latest information about the various intrusions to be experienced when the President of the United States has his big political rally historical oration on Bascom Mall. I noticed this:
Blinds in buildings facing the event area need to be closed on Thursday. Anyone standing in a window facing the event area Thursday can expect to be contacted by police personnel.
But it turns out, I can't be in my office anyway:
Academic and administrative buildings: Between the hours of 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. the following buildings will be closed to classes, employees and all other activities: Science Hall, Education, North Hall, South Hall, Law School and Music Hall. Students should await details from their instructors on alternative arrangements. 
The law school building will be inaccessible for 11 hours.  And my students are told to "await details" from me.

By the way, the University is still linking to the Obama campaign website, where you have to go to get a ticket. You cannot attend unless you give the campaign your telephone number.

"New Polls Raise Chance of Electoral College Tie."

Says Nate Silver, speculating about something that would require "a deterioration in his polls between now and Nov. 6 — or that the polls have overestimated his standing across the board." (Overestimated? Do you think?)
Mitt Romney would probably win such an election, because Republicans will probably control a majority of state delegations in the incoming House of Representatives.

What's the birther/truther word for those who think political polls have become, basically, propaganda?

Pollers? Pollemicists? Poller bears? The Poller Opposites? Help me out. I need a good coinage for the condition I've found myself lapsing into. Here's the latest symptom. I think I saw somewhere this morning — on Drudge? — that CNN had the presidential race suddenly tightening up, in advance of the polls. And my first thought — I just blurted it out loud — was: They're saying it's close right in advance of the debate so they can say, after the debate, that Obama went up. He won the debate.

I went over to Drudge to look for what I'd seen, and I didn't find that but I found:
Under oath, Edwards pollster admits polls were 'propaganda'...

POLL: Plurality of Americans believe POLLS biased for Obama...
And here's what I remember seeing this morning that brought on my pollemic: "New CNN/ORC poll less skewed for Barack Obama than the previous one."
The survey, that includes a smaller eight percent over-sample of Democratic voters, has Obama leading by a 49 percent to 47 percent edge....

The news here is not that this poll is slightly skewed, but compared to the 15.4 percent skewed in favor of the Democrats in the controversial September 10 CNN/ORC poll, this latest one is based on a far less skewed sample.
See? I think they adjust the skew to get the result that suits the propaganda purpose, and they're temporarily making the race look tight to make the debate seem super-important. (That's good for CNN's ratings, so there's a commercial, nonpolitical reason too for poll fakery.) Then they can make a show of breaking the news that Obama got big debate bounce.


"Hi Ann: I'm familiar with your blog and take it that, unlike a lot of UW-Madison profs, you tend to swing to the right politically...."

Emails a columnist, prefacing a question to me.

I respond: "That's not a correct characterization, and I won't comment on anything if that's the premise of the question."

He responds:
You could always correct my incorrect characterization, but I guess being snippy is easier.

Thanks anyway.

Why an incentive built into Obamacare is backfiring.

Ramesh Ponnuru explains:
Obama’s plan makes tax credits available to people who get health insurance from exchanges set up by state governments. If states don’t establish those exchanges, the federal government will do so for them. The federal exchanges, however, don’t come with tax credits: The law authorizes credits only for people who get insurance from state-established exchanges.
The idea seems to have been to get the states to set up the exchanges, but many — opposed to health care reform — have declined, despite the incentive. So the federal government will have to provide the exchanges, but without the tax credits, people won't be able to afford to buy the insurance.
States have another incentive to refrain from setting up exchanges under the health-care law: It protects companies and individuals in the state from tax increases. The law introduces penalties of as much as $3,000 per employee for firms that don’t provide insurance -- but only if an employee is getting coverage with the help of a tax credit. No state exchanges means no tax credits and thus no employer penalties. The law also notoriously penalizes many people for not buying insurance. In some cases, being eligible for a tax credit and still not buying insurance subjects you to the penalty. So, again, no state exchange means no tax credit and thus fewer people hit by the penalty.
Ponnuru's analysis meets an obstacle: "In May, the Internal Revenue Service decided it would issue tax credits to people who get insurance from exchanges established by the federal government." But his response to that is that these companies and individuals who are set to avoid the penalty will now get stuck with it, so they will have legal claims to challenge the IRS policy. The statute clearly says no tax credits, and there's an expensive consequence for them if the IRS deems the credits into existence.

The University of Wisconsin website links to the Obama campaign website...

... and requires students to provide the campaign with their names, email address, and even phone numbers to gain access to the event, which as I discussed in this earlier post, will take place at the center of our campus and will shut down normal university activities on a Thursday (obviously, a class day).

ADDED: Here's how the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel talks about the event:
The day after Barack Obama's Wednesday night debate with Mitt Romney, he'll seek to show an image of strength by leading a rally on the university campus here - long a bastion of his support.

The event will give the president a chance to either sustain any momentum he has coming out of the debate in Denver or to change the subject if Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, scores points in the forum.
Here's the University of Wisconsin's own "Guidance on Political Campaign Activities at University of Wisconsin System Institutions."

ALSO: Back in August:
The University of Virginia has declined a request to host President Obama for a campaign rally next week, complicating his planned tour of swing-state college campuses to court younger voters...

“The use of either of the desired sites would require closing buildings adjacent to the sites for the entire day,” [university spokesman Carol Wood said]. “The cancellation of 186 classes would occur. … This would result in an extraordinary disruption of the second day of the new semester.”

Wood said the university would also have had to foot the bill for added security measures on campus and along the presidential motorcade route. Because of the school’s nonpartisan status, it would have to offer “the same accommodations and bear the same costs” for Mitt Romney, she said.
Of course, needing to offer Mitt Romney the same accommodations is not an issue here at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, because it's such a strongly left-liberal environment that he'd never ask.

UPDATE: The University itself is now openly calling it a "campaign rally": "President Barack Obama will hold a campaign rally on Bascom Hill this Thursday."

"I’m not a student in your classroom," said Scott Brown to his lady lawprof opponent.

That happened at last night's debate.
After Warren listed the instances in which Brown voted against Democratic-backed bills, a back-and-forth ensued, as the senator tried to respond with a defense of his record. His line brought him some boos. Brown is pitching himself as the likable candidate in this race. Lines like this one could cut against that image he has carefully crafted.
That's WaPo's Sean Sullivan, spinning Brown's effective quip. Boos? I heard cheering. [ADDED: That is, a kind of "ooh!" that sounds to me like appreciation.] The worst thing to me about the clip, which you should watch for yourself, is that Brown lets it show that he's pleased that he got off the funny, telling alternative to "Let me finish" or "I didn't interrupt you, now, please don't interrupt me."

But let's talk about likeability. (Note: I prefer the spelling "likeable" to "likable," even when the candidate seems lickable.) Brown found a memorable, amusing way to cut off an interruption, which made him look good, at least to some people. The key is to look good specifically to those people who are not already strongly against him or for him. Now, the subtlety here is that the man cut off the woman, and he did it in a way that called attention to her position as a teacher, and that's a bit like calling her a schoolmarm, except that we know she's a Harvard law professor, and thus a powerful, elite sort of professor who exercises power in a setting that is traditionally male. She wields masculine power and presumes to control and channel the speech of less powerful males. That's the image of the law school classroom, as depicted — talk about memorable! — in the movie "The Paper Chase."

Now, nearly everyone watching that iconic scene — just linked — in "The Paper Chase," identifies with "Mr. Hart," the student, who resists the control of the imperious lawprof Prof. Kingsfield. And that's how Scott Brown positioned himself, making him a man of the people and her a member of the entitled elite.

Eaten by pigs.

"His dentures and pieces of his body were found by a family member in the pig enclosure, but the rest of his remains had been consumed."

ADDED: Puts "Charlotte's Web" in a different light, doesn't it?

IN THE COMMENTS: MadisonMan said:
Wouldn't want the bacon from that pig.
Must the pigs be destroyed and not used for meat now? This is a subtle cannibalism question that has never occurred to me before.

Can we slaughter these pigs and use the meat?
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Why is the University of Wisconsin allowing President Obama to hold a political rally in the center of campus at midday on a class day, disrupting classes?

The rally is at noon on Thursday, and I'm not yet able to tell whether I can use my classroom at 3:30, but there's talk — not official word, just talk — that no classes can be held during some as-yet unrevealed time period around the rally.

The location for this rally is right in the center of campus — a beautiful photo op, where a great-looking crowd can be compressed between parallel lines of buildings and where the President can be framed looking out on that crowd, just in front of a statue of Abraham Lincoln, with the city skyline in the background, featuring the state capitol building. Nice for the campaign, but positioned to maximize disruption of regular classes. Is that a bug or a feature? If there are no classes and it's a class day, students are around and they are free to attend. Classes are being cancelled to supply the photogenic crowd for the President?

Would the same facilitation be provided to the Romney campaign? It's perfectly easy to say yes. This is Madison, Wisconsin, a liberal and left-wing political stronghold. The Romney campaign will never seek this access, so the need to treat it equally is purely hypothetical.

ADDED: The University's web page takes care to frame the event as a "presidential visit" rather than a campaign rally.
Here’s a look at other visits by sitting presidents, past presidents and candidates who would go on to the Oval Office, based on a search of university archival material and the State Historical Society....
As if this isn't about the election! And then, amazingly, the website tells us "tickets for the event are available here."

Here? Guess where here is?! It's the Obama campaign website. And to get a ticket you have to fill out the campaign's form, providing them with your email address, full name, and phone number! This information is all required to get access to the event.

October 1, 2012

"There is so much that is heinous about Brittany being used for political gain in this way..."

"... but let’s start with the obvious thing, which is that neither Mitt Romney nor anybody running for office under the Republican banner is suggesting doing anything that would hurt her."

All right, National Review's The Corner, but I found it deeply affecting. I am a woman, and I vote.

When sperm-donor dad wants into the child's life and the biological mother sides with him.

And her lesbian partner, who had been able to adopt the child — because the father had signed away his legal rights — doesn't want him in. The 2 women became estranged over this dispute, and the biological parents tried to run off to California with the child. Who ends up with the child? The adoptive mother. Do you see why?

Obama will displace Rodney Dangerfield...

... as the most famous person I've been able to watch in action from my office window. He will be here at the University of Wisconsin, Thursday at noon speaking on Bascom Mall, which is a lovely sloping lawn with academic buildings hemming in the space along the sides and a big old Abe Lincoln statue at the top. Smack in the middle of that space, back in the 1980s, Dangerfield directed himself in "Back to School."

"Pushing helmets really kills cycling and bike-sharing in particular because it promotes a sense of danger that just isn’t justified..."

"... in fact, cycling has many health benefits."
"Statistically, if we wear helmets for cycling, maybe we should wear helmets when we climb ladders or get into a bath, because there are lots more injuries during those activities."
Why don't the pedestrians wear helmets? Apparently, per mile traveled, they're as likely to take a blow to the head as a cyclist.

Anyway, the problem is that there are these great bike-sharing systems, like we have here in Madison with B-Cycle. You pay a daily or annual fee to access the system, and then you can get a bike out of a station on one city corner, bike somewhere you want to go downtown, and just stick the thing into another station, where it's automatically locked in.

It's very quick and easy, especially if they have a lot of stations near places you like to go. But the ease is ruined if you need a helmet. So all these efforts all these years to get people to feel they must have a helmet are at odds with the new bike-share agenda. When the overeager agendas of environmentalism and safety collide, somebody's going to get hurt.

The linked NYT article is attempting to dictate the winner: environmentalism (i.e., bike sharing systems and the no-helmet approach). Amusingly, the main argument is: Europe! In Europe!, you won't hear any fretting about helmets.

"What's happened to humour? We're becoming American. Everyone gets so angry over everything."

Says Rupert Everett, who is openly gay, which I mention because he's also saying things like:
"Why do queens want to go and get married in churches? Obviously this crusty old pathetic, Anglican church – the most joke-ish church of all jokey churches – of course they don't want to have queens getting married. It's kind of understandable that they don't; they're crusty old calcified freaks. But why do we want to get married in churches? I don't understand that, myself, personally. I loathe heterosexual weddings; I would never go to a wedding in my life. I loathe the flowers, I loathe the fucking wedding dress, the little bridal tiara. It's grotesque. It's just hideous. The wedding cake, the party, the champagne, the inevitable divorce two years later. It's just a waste of time in the heterosexual world, and in the homosexual world I find it personally beyond tragic that we want to ape this institution that is so clearly a disaster."
"I can't think of anything worse than being brought up by two gay dads... For me, being gay was about wanting to do the opposite of the straight world, so I think that's where my problems in this particular area come from. For me, personally, the last thing I would like in the entire world would be to go through cocktailing my sperm with my boyfriend and finding some grim couple in Ohio who are gluten-free and who you pay $75,000 to have your baby. To me it feels absolutely hideous."
His memoir is called "Vanished Years."

"This bill bans nonscientific 'therapies' that have driven young people to depression and suicide."

"These practices have no basis in science or medicine, and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery."
The [California] law, which is to take effect on Jan. 1, states that no “mental health provider” shall provide minors with therapy intended to change their sexual orientation, including efforts to “change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”

"I can just prove all these kids wrong... I'm not the joke everyone thinks I am."

Girl voted homecoming queen as a joke steps up.

"The former Mr. Universe traces his detachment to his bodybuilding days, where he says emotions make athletes lose."

Arnold Schwarzenegger explains how and why he "became an expert in living in denial."

"Anyone who values truth should stop worshiping reason."

"We all need to take a cold, hard look at the evidence and see reasoning for what it is."

Said the psychologist Jonathan Haidt, quoted by Michael P. Lynch, who says:
According to Haidt, not only are value judgments less often a product of rational deliberation than we’d like to think, that is how we are supposed to function. That it is how we are hardwired by evolution. In the neuroscientist Drew Westen’s words, the political brain is the emotional brain.

Often “reasoning” really seems to be post-hoc rationalization...
That reminds me: new Supreme Court term starts today.
... we tend to accept that which confirms what we already believe (psychologists call this confirmation bias). And the tendency goes beyond just politics....
Lynch thinks Haidt goes too far:
Critics of reason, from Haidt to conservative intellectuals like Burke and Oakeshott, see reason as an inherently flawed instrument. As a consequence, they see the picture of politics I’ve just suggested — according to which democracies should be spaces of reasons — as unfounded and naïve. Yet to see one another as reason-givers doesn’t mean we must perceive one another as emotionless, unintuitive robots. It is consistent with the idea, rightly emphasized by Haidt, that much rapid-fire decision making comes from the gut. But it is also consistent with the idea that we can get better at spotting when the gut is leading us astray, even if the process is slower and more ponderous than we’d like.
Haidt's new book is "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion."

"The souks of Aleppo, a maze of vaulted passageways with shops that sell everything from foods to fabrics, perfumes, spices and artisan souvenirs..."

"... are a tactical prize for the combatants. They lie beneath the city's towering citadel where activists say regime troops and snipers have taken up positions."
Ahmad al-Halabi, an activist based in Aleppo, said residents were struggling to control the blaze with a limited number of fire extinguishers and low water supply: "It's a disaster. The fire is threatening to spread to remaining shops," he said. "It is a very difficult and tragic situation there."

"For some reason the idea has grabbed us that the best weight throughout the life span is that of a 20-year-old."

"But there’s just overwhelming evidence now that as you go through life, it’s in your best interests to lay down some fat.... It is not my contention that the fatter the better.... It is my contention that the desirable range rises with age."

Said Dr. Reubin Andres — quoted in his NYT obit. He made it to age 89, himself.  Based on his research, he figured that we ought to lay in 6 new pounds per decade for the best shot at long life.

"Daylight" between the United States and Israel.

From a Wall Street Journal article by Mitt Romney:
The president began his term with the explicit policy of creating "daylight" between [he United States and Israel]. He recently downgraded Israel from being our "closest ally" in the Middle East to being only "one of our closest allies." It's a diplomatic message that will be received clearly by Israel and its adversaries alike. He dismissed Israel's concerns about Iran as mere "noise" that he prefers to "block out." And at a time when Israel needs America to stand with it, he declined to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In this period of uncertainty, we need to apply a coherent strategy of supporting our partners in the Middle East—that is, both governments and individuals who share our values....

It means placing no daylight between the United States and Israel.

"The challenge [Romney] faces is unique: he is acting, and is being treated as, the incumbent rather than the insurgent."

Breitbart's Joel B. Pollak tries out a template:
The media have also treated Romney as the incumbent, pouncing on every word and gesture, seizing on every mistake and inventing errors where none exist. Romney’s so-called “gaffes” have one thing in common: they are all statements of fact. He is being held to a presidential standard--for presidents should know better than to tell all--while Obama’s outright lies to the nation (on Libya, the debt, etc.) are ignored by the media.
Let me offer an alternate template: The media have been treating Romney as the Republican, which he is, and Obama as the Democrat, which he is. 

September 30, 2012

"Are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches racist?"

"A bizarre question, to say the least, but one that at least one school administrator is asking out in Portland, Oregon. Verenice Gutierrez, principal at Harvey Scott K-8 School, seems to believe that there are racial connotations associated with the common lunch-time meal."

At the Plaster Politics Café...


... what are we really fighting about?

"Political women can’t shake their attraction to bright shades of red and blue because of the subtext of patriotism."

"Teenagers dart from one aesthetic tribe to another in search of the most comfortable fit. Rarely do people create their own style vocabulary."

Why is Obama postponing a trip to Columbus, Ohio to come to Madison, Wisconsin the day after the first debate?

Larry Sabato, of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, says: "Obama naturally would want to be on friendly turf after the debate, and he may think he'll draw a bigger turnout here than in Columbus... Columbus is mixed politically... Madison is heavily Democratic." And: "He may want to declare victory in the debate right there in Ryan's backyard."

Ben Sparks, spokesman for the Romney campaign in Wisconsin says: "He's finally acknowledging he has a Wisconsin problem."

Charles Franklin, director of political polling at Marquette University, flips that analysis around: Maybe Obama thinks he doesn't have an Ohio problem.

"It is the worst sort of pain I have ever seen in my life. His eyes..."

"Words do not possess the depth in which to fully convey that emotion and what I felt when I saw it. . . . You feel like the worst piece of scum on the planet."

There's always next year.

"The Brewers finally are eliminated from the race for the second wild-card berth in the National League, and they go out with a whimper, getting routed by the worst team in the majors."

Meadhouse is now free to devote full allegiance to the Reds.

"If the ascent of women has been much exaggerated, so has the descent of men."

Asserts Stephanie Coontz:
Men’s irresponsibility and bad behavior is now a stock theme in popular culture. But there has always been a subset of men who engage in crude, coercive and exploitative behavior. What’s different today is that it’s harder for men to get away with such behavior in long-term relationships. Women no longer feel compelled to put up with it and the legal system no longer condones it. The result is that many guys who would have been obnoxious husbands, behaving badly behind closed doors, are now obnoxious singles, trumpeting their bad behavior on YouTube.
In the old days — which social conservatives would like to continue — women locked men into marriage and did what they could to tame them and tie them to a socially and economically useful way of life for the benefit of all of us. (This is why the phrase "marriage is between a man and a woman" is so deeply meaningful and important.)

"I am saddened by my daughter’s ongoing disappointment because we could not afford to send her to her dream college."

"Instead, we are paying for her education at half the price (but still over $26,000 a year) at an in-state school," writes some mother to advice columnist Amy Dickinson.

This takes me back to my teenage years, in the 1960s, when my parents told me they couldn't send me to a private school (after my French teacher talked up Middlebury College to me). I didn't consider it an option to complain, though I felt bad about it.

NYT columnist Frank Bruni muses about why Obama and Romney won't say the word "sacrifice."

Here's the pithiest line:
... why sacrifice in ways that plump federal coffers or reduce federal obligations when Washington can’t be trusted to make anything better or get anything right?
I think Bruni disturbed himself when he coughed up that argument for the other side. He had to distance himself with this introductory phrase:
And cynicism about the intentions of politicians and the effectiveness of government has become an easy out: ...
Oh, so only cynics and intellectually lazy characters go with that question? All right then. I'll ignore it and move on to your other musings about "[your] own trust issues," which could be "lessened considerably" if only some candidate would say that "pain is a precursor to healing; and that it’s time to take our medicine."

No, I won't! It was a great question, and I have my own trust issues that would be lessened considerably if you wouldn't put a sign in front of us saying only lazy/cynical people ask it. I could just as well say that it's the cynical, easy way out to say that it's the cynical, easy way out to ask that question. That is the question!

"I came to live in the States as an adult (if you can call 18 adult) because of the goodness of a person who died today."

My colleague Nina Camic wrote yesterday, about Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, the long-time publisher and CEO of the NYT.
I was an au pair to his little girl. I learned through him and his wife how to transition from Warsaw to New York again. I came with barely a flight bag full of clothes and possessions and joined a household that had a staff of helpers and an extended family of cousins, aunts, nephews -- all intensely close, bonded in ways that history sometimes bonds people because of unusual circumstances.... After dinner, he and I would clean up in the kitchen and if I learned how to wipe down every last inch of counterspace it was because he taught me well. He was too kind for words and his little girl was just like him, making my au pair duties about the easiest that could be.

Just how much liberal bias is there in the Washington Post news and opinion?

Asks the WaPot ombudsman Patrick B. Pexton. He talks about the bias people see in the new articles and then moves on to the columnists:
One aspect of The Post that particularly irks conservatives is the columnists who appear in print and online in news positions (as opposed to those on the editorial and op-ed pages and the online Opinions section). With the exception of Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza, who cover politics in a nonpartisan way, the news columnists almost to a person write from left of center.
Balz and Cillizza are nonpartisan? That assertion screams liberal bias.
Is it any wonder that if you’re a conservative looking for unbiased news — and they do; they don’t want only Sean Hannity’s interpretation of the news...
They. That's telling.
... that you might feel unwelcome, or dissed or slighted, by the printed Post or the online version? And might you distrust the news when it’s wrapped in so much liberal commentary?
Yeah, they need to get a lot of conservative columnists if they want to get away with doing the news liberal-style. Isn't that the Wall Street Journal method?

Swing state tracking poll: Obama 48%, Romney 44%.

Rasmussen says. The regular tracking poll has Obama at 48% and Romney at 46%.

Will the Supreme Court affirmative action case force the presidential candidates to talk about...

... a subject both of them would prefer to avoid? The oral argument is October 10th.
“I’ve got to believe at this point in the campaign neither the president or Governor Romney is going to want to give a quote on any of this,” said Richard Taylor, a business diversity advocate and former Massachusetts transportation secretary under Romney. “If I was preparing either candidate for the debate, this would be on the checklist, … but I don’t think either campaign will be anxious to talk about it.”...
“It took three long years to pull [a federal government policy statement on the use of race in education] out of the Obama administration. It was only after we pestered and cajoled them that they finally got it out,” John Brittain, a civil rights activist and law professor at the University of the District of Columbia, said in an interview soon after the document was released. “The administration had a paralysis of analysis. …. Overall, the Obama administration just has a reluctance to take on race and equality, and when they do so everything is so carefully sanitized and scrubbed to make sure it’s the least offensive thing possible.”
There’s almost no chance that Romney would take a strong stance against affirmative action, according to Stuart Taylor, a veteran legal commentator and author of a new book on the policy.
... “No major national political figure has attacked affirmative action publicly since 1996 or before. It’s kind of remarkable. The Republicans who during the ’90s for a while were seeing some political profit in attacking affirmative action given the polls, don’t do it anymore.”
So both candidates — like many Americans — exhibit a bland, uncommitted acceptance of the long-term practice of affirmative action, and they don't want to have to talk about it in crisp, clear terms, looking at all the arguments for and against, and scrutinizing the constitutional texts and precedents. But that's exactly what the Supreme Court must do and will do on October 10th.