Sunday, November 30, 2008
This old graph of Nate Silver's, via Yglesias, helps explain some of the GOP's current problems. It plots how liberal the Dems in a state are vs. how conservative the Republicans are. Legend: top-left = polarized states with conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats; top-right = states with moderate Republicans and liberal Democrats; bottom-left = states with moderate Democrats and conservative Republicans; bottom-right = null set. If we take 2.5 on the x-axis as separating moderate and conservative Republicans, most of the Democrats' pickups -- VA, CO, NM, etc. -- come from states in which the Republicans are unusually conservative. If this chart were redone with 2008 data, I'm pretty sure the main difference is that the flipped states would migrate vertically, in the direction of OR and WA: the flipping of polarized states was mostly due to the growth of urban counties, and Obama's ability to get huge margins out of cities and inner suburbs. (See the NYTimes countywise results: Obama's "map" looks the same as Kerry's except that the blue areas are a lot bluer.)
It follows that these shifts are likely to last as long as the GOP retains its current coalition; most of these voters are not really flippable. Roughly speaking, these states consist of (ex-)yuppies, minorities, and hard-right Republicans. (VA and NC have a smattering of old-time "Appalachian" Democrats.) As long as the culture war lasts, the GOP can't peel off yuppies; as long as immigration in the SW and racial issues in the South are on the table, the GOP is doomed with minorities. There's little the national GOP can do about the latter: as long as the states have several hard-right Congressional districts, local Congressmen are going to do things that are perceived as racist, thus discrediting the GOP. Also it's going to be hard for moderate national candidates to win primaries in these states.
Bush and Rove saw this coming and tried to peel off Hispanics; this led to the immigration bill, which caused a grassroots revolt on the right that doomed the GOP with Hispanics this year. If the Democrats do pass an immigration bill, as seems likely -- presumably with McCain and a couple of senators, and over the squawking heads of congressional Republicans -- Hispanics are likely to stay Democratic for a decade or so. As for blacks in VA and NC, they're inaccessible as long as Obama's on the scene; assuming DC, the Research Triangle, and Charlotte continue to grow, these states are going to be hard for Republicans in 2012.
With the upper midwest, CO/NM/NV, and VA off the table, the electoral college is hairy for Republicans even if they win Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida, and gain substantially with "soft" Democrats nationwide (say Obama screws up on the economy). This being the case, Ross Douthat's strategy of appealing to poorer social conservatives is not viable in the near term unless, somehow, it can be used to flip Michigan (iffy) or New Jersey (ich don't think so). The intended audience simply isn't living in the right places to make a difference. As far as I can see, the only way out is to appeal to relatively upscale suburban moderates. However, it is not clear that these have enough in common with the Republican base to form a useful coalition.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
We would be wise to start with the biblical notion of first taking the log out of your own eye before worrying about the splinter in someone else’s.It was the word "splinter" that caught my eye, but I'm amused by how far Sanford's maxim diverges in thrust from the usual versions. Of the many reasons to want a splinter out of your eye, improved vision is not the most important. Besides, "splinter" imbues "log" with enough vividness to make that metaphor seem rather silly. (cf. here.) The upshot is that when I read Sanford's version of the maxim, it sounds like "put on your life vests before you help other passengers with theirs." Which makes sense, I guess, given his political tendencies.
First Things at the Last Minute
The white water rush of some warbler’s song.
Last night, a few strewings of ransacked moonlight
On the sheets. You don’t know what slumped forward
In the nineteen-forties taxi or why they blamed you
Or what the altered landscape, willowy, riparian,
Had to do with the reasons why everyone
Should be giving things away, quickly,
Except for spendthrift sorrow that can’t bear
The need to be forgiven and keeps looking for something
To forgive. The motion of washing machines
Is called agitation. Object constancy is a term
Devised to indicate what a child requires
From days. Clean sheets are an example
Of something that, under many circumstances,
A person can control. The patterns moonlight makes
Are chancier, and dreams, well, dreams
Will have their way with you, their way
With you, will have their way.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
gecian is correct
Today, I went back, and entered -- for no good reason -- the word "spankle," which yielded:
spankle is miss hope
spankle is an antelope molester
Which seems like the seed of a song or a poem. Flarf flarf.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
PS A German computational group just determined that the mass of the proton as predicted by the quark model [ca. 1970] agrees with the mass of the proton as measured in the lab [ca. 1900]. We woz right once again. I think we deserve another free pass for this.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Bring us in good ale
Bring us in good ale and bring us in good ale
For our blessed Lady sake, bring us in good ale.
Bring us in no browne bred for that is mad of bran,
Nor bring us in no whit bred fore therin is is no game [flavour]
But bring us in good ale
Bring us in no befe, for ther is many bones
But bring us in good ale, for that goth down at ones
And bring us in good ale
Bring us in no bacon, for that is passing fat
But bring us in good ale, and give us enought of that
And bring us in good ale
Bring us in no mutton, for that is ofte lene
Nor bring us in no tripes, for they be seldom clene
But bring us in good ale
Bring us in no egges, for ther ar many shelles
But bring us in good ale, and give us nothing elles
And bring us in good ale
Bring us in no butter for therin ar many hores [hairs]
Nor bring us in no pigges flesh, for that will mak us bores
But bring us in good ale
Bring us in no puddinges for therin is all goates blod
Nor bring us in no venison, for that is not for our good
But bring us in good ale
Bring us in no capons flesh for that is often dear
Nor bring us in no duckes flesh for they slobber in the mere
But bring us in good ale
Bring us in good ale and bring us in good ale
For our blessed lady sak, bring us in good ale.
“Democrats are [thought to be] more creative, free-spirited, so the idea is they’re more likely to make a mistake that the optical scan won’t pick up,” explains Hentges. “But when they recount the hard copy, those votes will be counted for Franken."
Yes, all those Minneapolis-based painters who drew unicorns on the ballot. It's interesting how, since calling minorities illiterate is beyond the pale whereas hippies and elitists are officially mockable, one routinely hears minorities berated for being hippies or elitists. (See also Grobstein.)
I have high hopes for Al Franken's political career, which is bound to culminate in a Franken-Stein presidential run.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I must assume that if, in his alter ego of O’Reilly-like rightnews he condemns your book so completely, it must be another of your tour de forceps with which you draw out the truth from the maelstrom of fact and fiction through the medium of your liberal conscience.
Our shells clacked on the plates.
My tongue was a filling estuary,
My palate hung with starlight:
As I tasted the salty Pleiades
Orion dipped his foot into the water.
Alive and violated,
They lay on their bed of ice:
Bivalves: the split bulb
And philandering sigh of ocean --
Millions of them ripped and shucked and scattered.
We had driven to that coast
Through flowers and limestone
And there we were, toasting friendship,
Laying down a perfect memory
In the cool of thatch and crockery.
Over the Alps, packed deep in hay and snow,
The Romans hauled their oysters south of Rome:
I saw damp panniers disgorge
The frond-lipped, brine-stung
Glut of privilege
And was angry that my trust could not repose
In the clear light, like poetry or freedom
Leaning in from sea. I ate the day
Deliberately, that its tang
Might quicken me all into verb, pure verb.
But there are some even stranger things than that. One of my students assured me that in the US (or in the Bay area at least, or maybe just in Berkeley), it was the custom for women using public or restaurant lavatories to operate the flush with their feet – if it was at a reasonable height. It seemed extremely unlikely to me, and strongly suspected my leg was being pulled.. But when I went to the ladies’ rest rooms of the bar in which we were having this conversation, sure enough there were the scuff marks around the flush.
I share her puzzlement.
Friday, November 21, 2008
"Your name is Rumpelstiltskin!" cried
The Queen. "It's not," he lied. "I lied
The time you heard me say it was."
"I never heard you. It's a guess,"
She lied. He lied: "My name is Zed."
She told the truth: "You're turning red,
Zed." He said: "That's not my name!"
"You're turning red, though, all the same."
"Liar!" he cried: "I'm turning blue."
And this was absolutely true.
And then he tore himself in two,
As liars tend to have to do.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
When you happened to sprain your wrist or ankle
you made your way to the local shaman,
if "shaman" is the word for Larry Toal,
who was so at ease with himself, so tranquil,
a cloud of smoke would graze on his thatch
like the cow in the cautionary tale,
while a tether of smoke curled down his chimney
and the end of the tether was attached
to Larry's ankle or to Larry's wrist.
He would conjure up a poultice of soot and spit
and flannel-talk, how he had a soft spot
for the mud of Flanders,
how he came within that of the cure for glanders
from a Suffolkman who suddenly went west.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
They really ought to call the normal cylinder the (1,1)-cylinder rather than the 2-cylinder.
Monday, November 17, 2008
The group of people who prefer newspapering aren’t going to be ideologically identical to the general population. You can see this in part in the fact that the elements of the media that are the most politically relevant are the ones with the most conservatives. If you want to see a bunch of big liberals, forget about political reporters and look at the assembled food writers or movie critics of the United States. Politics is something conservative are interested in, so you see some conservatives in the news pages, more on the op-ed pages, and then total domination on broadcast media.
Similarly, the two or three conservative professors at Amherst were in political science, history, etc. rather than music or physics.
Dr. Summers clearly likes being a public intellectual gadfly and thought it was part of the job description at the World Bank and Harvard. He was wrong. He understood it was not at Treasury.
So presumably he still holds that view of Treasury and would be as successful in it as he was before, especially since the job currently requires the outside the box kind of thinking at which he excels as an academic economist.
There might be something to this. Also it's a different audience he has to convince -- Blue Dogs and moderate Republicans -- and the right-wing cred Summers accrued as a result of the Harvard and World Bank affairs might be useful. Maybe he can sell govt. intervention as an ingenious way of screwing over the poor...
I suspect, though, that he's just as likely to antagonize the right.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
And he came hard in her mouth and his dick jumped around and rattled on her teeth and he blacked out and she took his dick out of her mouth and lifted herself from his face and whipped the pillow away and he gasped and glugged at the air, and he came again so hard that his dick wrenched out of her hand and a shot of it hit him straight in the eye and stung like nothing he'd ever had in there, and he yelled with the pain, but the yell could have been anything, and as she grabbed at his dick, which was leaping around like a shower dropped in an empty bath, she scratched his back deeply with the nails of both hands and he shot three more times, in thick stripes on her chest. Like Zorro.
2. Rod Liddle rambles about the former floridity and recent flaccidity of John Updike in the Times [of London].
3. [Update. See my review.] I've been reading Anne Enright's new collection of stories, Yesterday's Weather, which is very good, incomparably better than her novel, The Gathering. (Review to follow when I finish the book.) It is relevant to this post because of her story "The Bad Sex Weekend," which has this characteristic and beautifully poised sentence:
The sex, when it happened, an aimless battering around the nub of him, which was sadly distant and, she supposed, numb with drink.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Was known as Pol Pot
To the Ladies
The form is pretty self-explanatory. It was invented and perfected by Edmund Clerihew Bentley:
The art of Biography
Is different from Geography.
Geography is about maps,
But Biography is about chaps.
What I like about Clive
Is that he is no longer alive.
There is a great deal to be said
For being dead.
W.H. Auden wrote a fair number, some better than others:
Had too much to say:
He could never quite
Leave the paper white.
When the young Kant
Was told to kiss his aunt,
He obeyed the Categorical Must
But only just.
Once succumbed to a Siren:
His flesh was weak,
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
"Historic," yelled the very headline across the top of my morning newspaper. (Just the news, please, if you would be so kind.) Would the letters have been so big for the first female vice president? And isn't it already historic that millions of white Christians voted, win or lose, for a man with one Kenyan parent, that parent having been raised as a Muslim?
Um, no. Sarah Palin's achievement in being elected would have been a negative one -- she didn't implode enough to cost McCain the election. And yes. And the newspapers would probably have said something like that had Obama lost.
Well, as it happens, our new president has no slave ancestry, and neither branch of his parentage could have been owned by anybody, or at least not by anybody American. (Muslim-run slavery, though, is an old story in Africa as well as a horribly contemporary one.) And there were not a few elected black American representatives 40 years ago, even if mainly in Northern states.
It is well known that Kenyan immigrants were exempt from segregation. And note that "mainly." I take it he means 50 years ago, not five years after the civil rights act (or is he just being fiendishly clever?) and, um, I could count pre-civil rights southern black congressmen on my fingers even if I didn't have any.
Second, a Republican victory would have had absolutely no effect on the legal or political standing of black Americans, which is a matter of our law and our Constitution and cannot be undone by any ephemeral vote or plebiscite.
It bloody well would have had an effect on the political standing of black Americans. At the very least it would have made it extremely improbable that the Democrats would nominate another black candidate for president in the near future, for fear of losing the election again.
Nor even a diet of audacity, though can you picture anything less audacious than the gray, safety-first figures who have so far been chosen by Obama to be on his team?
Like who? As far as I can tell, Obama's appointments so far are irrelevant to policy.
I take it Hitch wanted to prove that he wasn't an Obamamaniac, but couldn't find anything useful to say by the deadline; however, this piece really exemplifies everything that's gone wrong with his commentary. He even uses "moist" (have you been reading the moist and trusting comments of our commentariat?) as a stock all-purpose intensifier, though it's become grating through endless repetition.
Someone really ought to put him to sleep.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Saturday, November 8, 2008
There are three possibilities for how it entered physics. Either Feynman or Gell-Mann: 1. came up with it independently. 2. read T.H. White. or 3. took it from later Auden. While 1. isn't impossible, I'm inclined to prefer 2. or 3. because Gell-Mann was a literary sort who took the word "quark" from Finnegans Wake. (Where it's supposed to be onomatopoeia for the aerial croaking of geese.) The question then is whether it was 2. or 3. I'm inclined to favor 2. Either way, it couldn't possibly have been Feynman.
Friday, November 7, 2008
The Times wonders:
The Democratic leadership is also considering who will take the lead on the issue of national health care policy given the precarious state of Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, chairman of the health committee, who has brain cancer.
This seems like a no-brainer to me. Hillary Clinton.
This leaves us with Nate Silver's other two possibilities: secret strength in the absentee ballots, and fraud. I'm inclined, somewhat against my will, toward the latter possibility.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
- Read Andrew Gelman's post and his regressions. To summarize: the polls were mostly spot on. (No Bradley effect.) Obama did a few points better than Kerry across the board; in many states, that was enough to push him over the 50% mark.
- Obama won the popular vote by roughly 5%. What happens if we subtract 5% from his statewide margins? He won all the Kerry states by at least five points, and most of them by about ten; they'd still have been in his column. He won Colorado by 7% so that stays; on the other hand he narrowly loses both Virginia and Ohio, and somewhat less narrowly, Florida, North Carolina, and Indiana. He also wins New Mexico, Iowa, and Nevada. Kerry + IA + NM + CO + NV = 278, which is a win.
- Obama won states worth 269 electoral votes by at least 9.6%. (The 9.6% is Iowa.) This is substantially bigger than his popular vote margin.
- I had Jay Cost's swing state review in mind when I was watching the countywise returns. He did pretty well at figuring out what an Obama win would look like. His bellwethers (Obama's margin in Hampton County, VA; whether he flipped Cincinnati) were both useful early indicators that Obama was going to do well in those states.
- Interestingly, while Obama won PA by a lot, he did pretty atrociously in the west of the state -- i.e. Pittsburgh and its suburbs. He made up for this with enormous margins in Philadelphia and with a very strong performance in the Scranton area. (Did Biden help or was it just the economy?) Compare these maps -- if you don't look at the margins it appears as if Obama did worse than Kerry or Gore.
- Ohio, on the other hand, was an across-the-board improvement, and not a huge one. Obama did anomalously well in Cincinnati, and held McCain's margins down in the suburbs somewhat. Unlike Clinton, he was pretty weak in Appalachia.
- In Colorado, Obama won the same counties as Kerry, Gore, and Clinton II, who all lost the state. The difference was that Obama ran 10-15 points better in the entire metro Denver area.
- The same pattern holds elsewhere. Obama held the line -- relative to Kerry -- in the "real America," and ran up huge margins in big cities and their inner suburbs.
- Obama won Hampshire county (where Amherst is) by 70 to 28. This is about the same as Kerry, though somewhat better than Gore.
I guess there's always the Ted Stevens saga...
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Alternatively there's this brilliant suggestion:
"Finally, there is also the possibility that precipitation itself is more directly involved," [study authors] wrote. Perhaps a chemical or chemicals in the upper atmosphere are transported to the surface through rain or snow.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Is Obama a black racist, as the neo-Nazis claim? Probably not, but it's hard to be sure. I basically buy the line that Jeremiah Wright's views are racist.* There's a somewhat murky question about how far Obama's acquiescence was cynical and/or immature. To the extent that it wasn't, I continue to be a little dubious of the guy.
* The article is pure wingnuttery; however, the black value code it cites is real. It was on the Trinity Church website until the Wright story broke in March, at which point they removed it.