Category Archives: Miscellaneous

10 Takeaways from Election 2012

1- Nate Silver is a genius. Dick Morris should never be allowed on TV again.

2- Last night was catastrophic for Republicans. If they can’t win in such circumstances then they need to do some serious soul searching and conduct and honest inquiry into what went wrong. My head told me we would lose. The numbers just didn’t add up. My gut told me we could win. I wanted to believe there was a small undercurrent of dissatisfaction that wasn’t picked up in the polls. I predicted that Obama’s supporters from 2008 would not come out in such force and would not support him to such degrees. He would receive a slightly thinner slice of a smaller pie. I was prepared to lose. I was not prepared to lose so badly.

3- Mitt Romney, although I think he is a good and decent man, and ultimately would have done a much better job than Obama, was not a good candidate for the times. He was rich in the age of the 99%; was a moderate who was seen as not quite conservative enough for the base and too radical for the Left. He was seen as a flip flopper by the middle because of the Republican primaries. He had to tack hard to the right where he never felt comfortable. He possessed business acumen but was able to be framed as a greedy outsourcer of jobs. His campaign was lackluster though. He allowed himself to be framed. Even if Hurricane Sandy and Chris Christie’s bear hug gave Obama a bump in the polls, and possibly persuaded some last minute deciders, it wasn’t the ultimate reason for his defeat.

4- The next GOP candidate must be a conservative who can articulate conservative principles well to the moderates of America, not a moderate who has to pander to secure the base and in the process lose the middle. McCain had the same problem, although no one could have been Obama in 2008: a black man, who opposed Iraq, running in a post-Lehman Brothers economy. Bush’s big-government conservatism – an oxymoron – doesn’t work. Mitt’s past moderation didn’t help him at all. He was defined as both a "severe conservative" and a flip flopper, to Obama’s credit. At the risk of sounding like a right-wing talk show host, we need a Reagan: a principled, articulate conservative who knows when to compromise and when to fight, and that understands that history remembers who wins the long arguments, not the short ones. Reagan was right on the Cold War, inflation, and economic growth. No one remembers what his position was on Lyme disease.

5- The problem wasn’t the Tea Party. The Tea Party candidates did fine. Mourdock was a Tea Partier but lost because of a comment on abortion, not because of the Tea Party platform. Akin was not a Tea Partier at all. Regardless, he also lost because of an abortion comment, not because of his views on the role of government, how to create growth, etc. The Tea Party should continue their mission of electing limited government conservatives and reining in Washington, but will need to be more selective. No more Christine O’Donnells.

6- Latinos. They voted 66% for Obama in ’08 and 71% for him this year. Republicans cannot keep alienating them or they will disappear as a political party. Michael Tanner writes in this morning’s NRO:

Republicans must face up to the fact that their hard-line stance on immigration is disqualifying their candidates with Hispanics. Whereas George W. Bush once carried 44 percent of the Latino vote, Mitt Romney couldn’t crack 35 percent. To see why Romney appears to have essentially tied in Florida, for example, just look to Obama’s margin among non-Cuban Hispanics. Similarly, the growing Hispanic vote clearly cost Romney both Nevada and Colorado. President Obama is likely to push immigration reform in his second term, and Republicans are going to have to find how to address the issue in a way that will not cost them the Latino vote for generations to come.

Hence the appeal of Marco Rubio. I’ll also add that it’s the same with gay marriage. It’s a generational issue. The times are changing and the GOP will continue to alienate college-age voters who are increasingly tolerate of homosexuality and gay rights.

7- Abortion. I think it’s sad that "women’s issues" means abortion and birth control, but it does and they are important to single moms (who unfortunately are growing in numbers) and single women. The GOP needs to relax their position. Roe is here to stay. Make it part of the platform that abortion should be protected for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. Leave Roe alone, as nonsensical as it is. Those positions are unacceptable to a lot of Evangelicals and religious voters, but it’s better than losing elections and having abortion be fully unrestricted, which is the position of Democrats. The current Democratic position of unrestricted access to unrestricted abortion is unappealing to Latinos and Catholics. The GOP can use that to their advantage if they amend their platform and frame the argument. Also, parental notification for minors is still responsible and popular.

8- There is a cadre of candidates from this years Republican primary who should never be heard from again: Gingrich, Caine, Bachman, Perry. I’ll add an exception for Ron Paul (who has his own movement), Pawlenty (who dropped out way too early and could have defeated Romney), and Huntsman (who was the most respectable person in the race and probably could have defeated Obama). During the primary I spoke to a friend of mine who is active in GOP politics and we both agreed that the primary made the GOP look like fools. The encouraging news is that Romney had several good VP options: Ryan, Christie, Daniels, Jindal, Rubio, Martinez. Let one of them be the next nominee. All of them have the qualities I listed in #4 above. And can the GOP ditch Trump, the "birthers," et al. I’m embarrassed I have to write this. What better way to scare away independents than to cater to the very lunatic fringe of the party! When was the last time you saw a Democrat show his support for Michael Moore?

9- Obamacare is most likely here to stay. Unless the implementation of it is as painful as the GOP predicts, and unless the opposition actually grows to undeniable levels, it’s going to remain. Obamacare won’t solve any of our health care cost problems, but it will remain. As Pelosi said, we’ll finally get to see what’s in it. I will be interested to see how much of an issue it is in the 2014 Congressional elections.

10- Most importantly the GOP must remain the party of limited government and fiscal responsibility. Democrats will have to deal with two problems in the next few years – besides our current unemployment – neither of which they are prepared to deal with. First, we have debts that need to be paid. Obama will finish his second term with more than $20 trillion in debt, and that will only grow as more baby boomers retire: 10,000 a day for the next 18 years until all 77 million of them have retired. All of them are "entitled" to having cash transfers and medical services provided to them that they didn’t pay for. Debt service and the "mandatory spending" of our entitlements will crowd out ALL other spending: from bombers and bridges to Big Bird and birth control pills. It already exceeds our annual revenues, and according to the latest CBO Baseline Projection (see Table 3-1), this mandatory spending will increase nearly 80% in the next ten years from approximately $2.3 trillion to $4.1 trillion. To put that in a different perspective, in 2022 Medicare alone will cost us $1 trillion per year. That’s the cost of one nine-year Iraq War each and every year…all on the credit card. Who has the better plan? Romney had a better plan to deal with it than Obama but to no avail. The GOP needs a plan as part of their platform. Don’t leave it to Paul Ryan to muscle through. Second, there are several states right now that are teetering on bankruptcy, namely CA and IL. We have no settled law on how to deal with a state bankruptcy, and the pressure will be huge on Obama to bail them out. Can you imagine him not and potentially losing CA in the next election? Can you imagine how quickly other financially challenged states will follow suit for their "free" money? The GOP must fight that tooth and nail. There will be a showdown, and when the American people see themselves on the road to Greece the party of limited government and fiscal responsibility will win. If they have Latinos, they’ll win big.

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a stubborn person who insists on making an error in spite of being shown that it is wrong

About the word:

Supposedly, this insult originated with an illiterate priest who said mumpsimus rather than sumpsimus ("we have taken" in Latin) during mass. When he was corrected, the priest replied that he would not change his old mumpsimus for his critic’s new sumpsimus.

Part of M-W’s Top Ten Rare and Amusing Insults

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Joe Klein on Rick Santorum’s family

They have spent the past three years caring for their daughter Isabella, whose genetic defect, trisomy 18, is an early-death sentence. "Almost 100% of trisomy 18 children are encouraged to be aborted," Santorum told Schieffer.

I am haunted by the smiling photos I’ve seen of Isabella with her father and mother, brothers and sisters. No doubt she struggles through many of her days–she nearly died a few weeks ago–but she has also been granted three years of unconditional love and the ability to smile and bring joy. Her tenuous survival has given her family a deeper sense of how precious even the frailest of lives are.

All right, I can hear you saying, the Santorum family’s course may be admirable, but shouldn’t we have the right to make our own choices? Yes, I suppose. But I also worry that we’ve become too averse to personal inconvenience as a society–that we’re less rigorous parents than we should be, that we’ve farmed out our responsibilities, especially for the disabled, to the state–and I’m grateful to Santorum for forcing on me the discomfort of having to think about the moral implications of his daughter’s smile.


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The Rant That Started it All

Three years ago today, February 19, 2009, CNBC’s Rick Santelli called for a Tea Party on floor of Chicago Board of Trade.

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The least helpful nugget of tax advice. Ever.

Don’t forget tax-free interest: Remember, to figure the taxable-equivalent yield of a tax-free bond, divide the tax-free yield by 1 minus your marginal tax rate. Because Gingrich’s marginal rate is 35 percent, a 3.5 percent tax-free yield is worth the same as a 5.38 percent taxable yield (3.5/0.65). Romney was hit by the alternative minimum tax in 2010, so his marginal rate was 28 percent. Avoiding a 28 percent tax makes a 3.5 percent tax-free rate equal to a 4.86 percent taxable yield (3.5/0.72).

Any questions?

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Afghan history books to omit the last 40 years.

The Wapo reports:

KABUL — In a country where the recent past has unfolded like a war epic, officials think they have found a way to teach Afghan history without widening the fractures between long-quarreling ethnic and political groups: leave out the past four decades.

A series of government-issued textbooks funded by the United States and several foreign aid organizations do just that, pausing history in 1973. There is no mention of the Soviet war, the mujaheddin, the Taliban or the U.S. military presence. In their efforts to promote a single national identity, Afghan leaders have deemed their own history too controversial.

“Our recent history tears us apart. We’ve created a curriculum based on the older history that brings us together, with figures universally recognized as being great,” said Farooq Wardak, Afghanistan’s education minister. “These are the first books in decades that are depoliticized and de-ethnicized.”

This is a fair attempt at educating students away from violence. After all, it doesn’t teach them that one side was motivated by equality and the other by conquest, or that life is amoral. Rather, it just omits the topic altogether. Two problems remain. One, it hasn’t necessarily been an amoral struggle for the last 40 years: the Soviets, mujaheddin, Taliban, and the US all had/have different motivations, goals and ethics. (It is the intellectual equivalent of positing no moral difference between the Persians, Thebans, Spartans and Athenians, among other Greeks, during the Persian Wars.) Understanding those differences is fundamental to understanding war. Which they will because, second, Afghanistan remains a tribal society in which much history is passed on orally through the generations. I would not be surprised to learn that in 1973 – when these history books end – students learned more history from their grandfathers than from their history teachers.

That being said, this is a fair attempt, and one against which I don’t have another and better solution. Omitting certain periods of Afghan history is better than reading Afghan history written by a foreign power. Attaullah Wahidyar, director of publication and information for the Education Ministry, said, “We aren’t mature enough to come up with a way to teach such a sensitive history." Until then, just omit it.

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I believe I can fly.

“The feeling of freedom is something you can’t describe.”

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David Brooks on the importance of a rigorous alternative vision.

For generations people have been told: Think for yourself; come up with your own independent worldview. Unless your name is Nietzsche, that’s probably a bad idea. Very few people have the genius or time to come up with a comprehensive and rigorous worldview.
If you go out there armed only with your own observations and sentiments, you will surely find yourself on very weak ground. You’ll lack the arguments, convictions and the coherent view of reality that you’ll need when challenged by a self-confident opposition. This is more or less what happened to Jefferson Bethke.

The paradox of reform movements is that, if you want to defy authority, you probably shouldn’t think entirely for yourself. You should attach yourself to a counter-tradition and school of thought that has been developed over the centuries and that seems true.

The old leftists had dialectical materialism and the Marxist view of history. Libertarians have Hayek and von Mises. Various spiritual movements have drawn from Transcendentalism, Stoicism, Gnosticism, Thomism, Augustine, Tolstoy, or the Catholic social teaching that inspired Dorothy Day.
These belief systems helped people envision alternate realities. They helped people explain why the things society values are not the things that should be valued. They gave movements a set of organizing principles. Joining a tradition doesn’t mean suppressing your individuality. Applying an ancient tradition to a new situation is a creative, stimulating and empowering act. Without a tradition, everything is impermanence and flux.

Most professors would like their students to be more rebellious and argumentative. But rebellion without a rigorous alternative vision is just a feeble spasm.


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Why is store-bought ground beef red on the outside but dark inside?

Have you ever noticed that the ground meat you just brought home from the supermarket is red on the outside but dark purple or brown on the inside? Is this an indication of meat past its prime? Fortunately, no.

The color in meat comes from a muscle protein called myoglobin. When the meat is freshly cut, this protein is deep purple. As the meat sits in its packaging (or in the butcher’s display case), the myoglobin will convert to bright red oxymyoglobin on the meat’s exterior, where it is exposed to more oxygen. Inside the meat, where less oxygen can penetrate, it will slowly convert to brown metmyoglobin. Color changes of this nature are purely cosmetic—they have no bearing on the meat’s flavor or wholesomeness.


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Joe Nocera on Karen Petrou and “keeping it simple.”

What has caught me up short recently is the emergence of a new critic of the banking regulations that have been pouring forth from Washington and Europe. Her name is Karen Petrou, and she is the managing partner of Federal Financial Analytics, a consulting firm that, among other things, analyzes bank regulations for clients.

Unlike many in the banking industry, Petrou is not ideologically opposed to regulation. For instance, she was a critic of the lack of regulation that allowed so many sleazy subprime mortgage originators to emerge from the precrisis ooze. Yet, now, she’s worried about something different: that the hundreds of new mandates required by the Dodd-Frank law are creating a new kind of risk. She calls it “complexity risk.” As she put it in a speech she delivered last week in New York: “If we don’t understand the cross-cutting effects and inherent contradictions in all of the stringent standards now being written into final form, we risk doing real damage to the sound, stable and — yes — profitable financial industry regulators say they support and the economies sorely need.”

In a paper she wrote in November, Petrou laid out a number of examples of new regulatory proposals that were either mind-bogglingly complex or contradictory — or both. For instance, she told me recently, bank board directors will have 184 more things they will have to acknowledge responsibility for under the latest systemic standards. “I think boards have to be responsible for what happens at their institutions,” she said, “but requiring them to be on the front lines of forward-looking cash flow is ridiculous.”


Why does complexity risk matter? One reason is that the more complex the rules are, the greater the likelihood that smart bankers will find ways to game them. Another is that contradictory regulations, however well meaning, simply don’t make the system safer. But the most important reason is that complexity risk is having an effect on business — and that’s not helping the still-fragile economy.

Petrou says that in her own practice she has seen deals fall through — especially in the mortgage industry — because nobody can figure out how the new rules will be applied. Given how badly the country needs a revived housing industry, this is nothing short of tragic.

In her paper, Petrou offers a series of solutions, revolving around simpler regulations, a reliance on market discipline and transparency. She also calls for the regulators themselves to be held accountable, something that is nowhere to be found in Dodd-Frank, despite their obvious shortcomings in the years leading to the financial crisis.


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