Saturday, December 31, 2011

Your Andy Borowitz...

...tweet for the day:

Did some random pizza guy run for President, or did I dream that?

Friday, December 30, 2011

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

"It's no fun wearing my Tintin shirt now that the masses know who he is."

If you don't follow...

...comedian Andy Borowitz on Twitter, you need to start -- now.

He's hysterical!

Before everyone falls...

...too much in love with Rick Santorum, it should be mentioned that the former senator from Pennsylvania (who, by the way, lost his last contest for reelection by eighteen points) homeschools his seven children, regularly attends Latin Mass and has never, apparently, met a gay person in his life.

This is clearly someone who's just not comfortable with the modern world.

If Mitt Romney wins the Iowa caucuses... week (as some are now predicting) and then goes on to win the New Hampshire primary, he could have the GOP nomination sewn up by the State of the Union Address.

Would the Republicans -- in this angry, anti-Washington, Tea Party age -- really ratify the choice of the party establishment? Will Iowans go to the trouble next Tuesday night of getting in their cars and driving somewhere to cast a vote for a member of the East Coast elite? A Harvard-educated, French-speaking, former governor of -- Massachusetts! -- who appears to have no ideological moorings and has been all over the map on issues, such as abortion and gay rights, which are important to them? A guy who not only governed as a moderate problem-solver, i. e., a Democrat, but who also signed a health care reform bill that became the model for the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans have been raging against for three years now? A fabulously wealthy Wall Street-type who spent most of his career as a partner in a private equity firm? A guy who was practically born into the GOP establishment as the son of a former Fortune 500 CEO, governor, candidate for president and member of Richard Nixon's cabinet?

Oh, and did I forget to mention that Romney is a practicing Mormon? (Who may -- or may not -- wear magic underwear, but it's not a cult.)

This is the guy Republicans are going to nominate in 2012? Really?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I've been reading everything...

...I can get my hands cursor on this morning about Rick Santorum and his recent surge in the polls. (Must be that sweater vest.)

Could the former senator from Pennsylvania actually come in third in the Iowa Caucuses next Tuesday? Could he come in second? Could he win?

I could see three viable candidates emerging from Iowa next week: Mitt Romney, the establishment choice; Ron Paul, the libertarian; and a Ronald Reagan-type who's conservative on economics, foreign policy and "values."

Maybe that last one is Santorum.

P. S. I should have listened to my mother (my one-person focus group); she's been speaking favorably of Santorum for a while now.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

To get a sense of just how...

..."fluid" the race in Iowa is, consider this: according to a recent Iowa State University/Gazette/KCRG poll, over 70 percent of likely caucusgoers are either undecided or only leaning towards one candidate.

In other words, anything can happen next Tuesday.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Helen Frankenthaler, abstract expressionist...

...painter, died yesterday at age 83. Apparently, she liked to dance as well:

Ms. Frankenthaler’s passion for dancing was more than fulfilled in 1985 when, at a White House dinner to honor the Prince and Princess of Wales, she was partnered with a fast stepper who had been twirling the princess.

“I’d waited a lifetime for a dance like this,” she wrote in a 1997 Op-Ed article for The New York Times. “He was great!”

His name meant nothing to her until, on returning to her New York studio, she showed her assistant and a friend his card. “John Travolta,” it read.

What if the 2012 election...

...isn't about the economy? What if it's about foreign policy instead? Then what?

If you'll remember, the 2008 election was supposed to be about foreign policy: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran, etc. That's one of the reasons the Democrats nominated Barack Obama; he was against the Iraq War from the beginning. And that's also one of the reasons the GOP nominated John McCain; he was thought to be stronger on national security than either Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee.

But then a funny thing happened: Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in the fall of 2008 and the country stared into the abyss of another Great Depression. Suddenly, McCain's presumed edge on foreign policy was negated. The professional War Hero had never shown much interest in the economy; and the young, skinny guy from Chicago was thought to be cooler in a crisis.

Now, everyone has assumed for quite some time that the election next year would be about the economy. And, therefore, Romney has been seen to have an edge over the president. After all, Romney's a Harvard MBA and a founding partner of Bain Capital. (Never mind the last president with a Harvard MBA -- pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.)

But what if -- what if -- the economy recovers in 2012? And, what if things get dicey in the Middle East? (Or dicier?) Then who has the edge, the former governor of Massachusetts, who would presumably bring back all the Republican foreign policy hacks from the Bush years? Or the incumbent president who ended the Iraq War and got bin Laden and Qaddafi?

Is it too late for Sarah Palin... swoop into Iowa and endorse someone at the last minute? Talk about a game changer!

Ms. Palin could give quite a boost to one of the three cultural conservatives in the race, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum or Michele Bachmann, vaulting one of them into a solid third place finish. Or, dare I say it -- second? -- behind Ron Paul and ahead of Mitt Romney? Remember, this thing is very fluid.

(My guess at this point would be Santorum. He's already moving up in the polls.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

First my right-wing friend...

...posted a rant on Facebook about President Obama's Hawaiian vacation and now my own mother has joined in. Don't all presidents take vacations? What is going on here? Consider this (my emphasis):

As of August of this year, President Obama had taken 61 days of vacation, a number that paled in comparison, at the same point in their presidencies, with George W. Bush's 180 days at his ranch, and Ronald Reagan's 112 days at his. The Daily Kos estimated George W. Bush's Crawford ranch trips to cost taxpayers about $226,000 a trip in flight costs alone ... so do the math. At the very, very least, the pricetag for Bush's vacations to Crawford cost us $17,407,544 -- and that's before factoring in the costs of security detail, press corps, staff and the like.

What causes such otherwise normal people to come completely unglued whenever the subject turns to this president? To paraphrase Dana Carvey, above, could it be ... Fox?

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

"Why don't you try one before you start comparing them to oranges?"

You send your kid to a fancy school...

...out East and he comes home at Christmas and shows you videos like this.

James T. Farrell, who wrote...

...the Studs Lonigan trilogy in the 1930s, attended Mount Carmel High School, according to a biography I just started reading. 

An Honest Writer: The Life and Times of James T. Farrell, by Robert K. Landers, mentions that the future writer entered what was then known as St. Cyril High School on Chicago's South Side in 1919 (the year my parents were born). His friend, "Studs" Cunningham, on whom Farrell's famous character was based, attended Loyola Academy on the city's North Side.

A week from tomorrow, Iowans...

...will vote in their state's caucuses for the Republican nominee for president. Some GOP candidates will exceed expectations and move on to New Hampshire, while others will underperform and probably drop out. (Remember Tim Pawlenty? He withdrew from the race in August after losing the Iowa Straw Poll to Michele Bachmann, who isn't even expected to finish in the top three next week.) 

Some people say that Iowa is too small, or too rural, or too white, or too ... whatever to have such out-sized influence in national politics. After all, how many people do you suppose are expected to actually cast ballots next week? Thirty percent of the population? Twenty percent? Ten?

According to a piece in the Times today (my emphasis): 

About 119,000 Republicans voted in the 2008 caucuses, just under 4 percent of the state’s population.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ron Paul is having trouble...

...answering some simple questions about the newsletters he published back in the 1990s: Ron Paul Political Report, Ron Paul's Freedom Report, Ron Paul Survival Report and Ron Paul Investment Letter. The newsletters contained some offending passages that have been described as "racist, anti-gay and anti-Israel." (I'll let you read about them yourself here.)

Granted, as Mr. Paul has said over and over, this is not a new story. In fact, I can remember hearing about it myself when the Texas Congressman ran for president last time, in 2008. And, as a True Believer, I dismissed them. Why? Because, I thought, Paul was so right on the issues that I just couldn't accept any contrary information about him.

But now, with a clearer head, I want to know how he could let stuff like this be published in his name. And his answers are just not good enough. From the Times (my emphasis):

Mr. Paul ... repudiated the writings in 2008. Likening himself to a major news publisher, he said he did not vet every article that was featured in his newsletters. “I absolutely, honestly do not know who wrote those things,” Mr. Paul said.

Major news publisher? The article says he had only "7,000 to 8,000 subscribers." The blog you are reading had about that many pageviews last month. And I write it in my spare time!

On Monday, his deputy campaign manager, Dimitri Kesari, reiterated that Mr. Paul “did not write, edit or authorize” the language.

“He totally disavows what was said and disagrees with it totally,” Mr. Kesari said. “The only responsibility he takes is for not paying closer attention.”

Come on! Mr. Paul doesn't know who wrote this stuff in his publications? That just doesn't pass the smell test.

Again, I write a blog with about the same circulation as Mr. Paul's newsletters. And what I don't write myself, I provide a source and a link to the original and print the passage in either italics or the original font. But, in any case, I am 100% responsible for what appears in this blog under the heading, "Boring Old White Guy." No one else writes on this blog, and if someone were to hack into it somehow, I would be in touch with immediately. I take a small amount of pride in this hobby and would be very upset if something were to appear here that I didn't endorse.

At the very least, ten or twenty years from now, if someone were to bring up a particular post from this blog, I would hope to be able to say, "Yeah, that was my blog and I'm responsible."

And Ron Paul should be able to say the same thing today.

Friday, December 23, 2011

I once knew a family...

...of five boys who each gave each other a twenty dollar bill for Christmas. Brilliant! I thought.

I'm reminded of this by a piece I read this morning, "Against Gift Giving," by Dave Bry (which I found through Andrew Sullivan's blog):

Why do we buy each other gifts? Why do we go to the trouble? So everyone can have to fake more excitement and gratitude than they actually feel upon opening them? “Oh, thanks for this book I told you I wanted that I could have just as easily bought for myself! Thanks for these gloves, this blouse, this bottle of wine. I’m so glad to have this pile of stuff to pack into the car or check at the baggage claim when I could have just bought it on my own time nearer to my own home, or even had it delivered directly to my door. Here, I got you something, too.” It’s like we’ve all entered into this mutual pact that makes everybody's lives a little bit worse. All anybody really wants is money anyway. And since there is a quid pro quo element to the stupid gift-giving tradition, we should all be getting back pretty much what we’d pay out. So let’s just skip it. Or establish a credit system. My gift to you is relieving you of the obligation of getting a gift for me. The gift of relaxation. The money you would have spent on me? Go buy yourself something you want with it. There. We’re even and happier. 

Jacob Goldman, founder...

...of Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), which invented the modern personal computer, died at age 90. From the New York Times obit (my emphasis):

Established in 1970 in an industrial park next to Stanford, PARC researchers designed a remarkable array of computer technologies, including the Alto personal computer, the Ethernet office network, laser printing and the graphical user interface.

The technologies would later be commercialized by both Apple Computer and Microsoft, among others, and Xerox would be criticized for not capitalizing enough on the technologies it had pioneered. Years later, Dr. Goldman explained Xerox’s failure to enter the personal computing market early on as part of a large corporation’s unwillingness to take risks.

“A big company will not make the investment to bring out a new product unless they see it makes a big difference,” he said in a 1988 interview in The New Haven Advocate. “Look at the personal computer industry today. It’s a multibillion-dollar industry today. And we at Xerox could have had that industry to ourselves.”

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The chart of the day... from Andrew Sullivan's blog.

I think Republican David Frum...

...had stories like the one below in mind when he wrote in October, "Who Burned the GOP Brand?"

To quote the former Bush speechwriter: "Head shake. Face slap."

From the Times today, "In Islamic Law, Gingrich Sees a Mortal Threat to U. S." (my emphasis): 

“I believe Shariah [law] is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it,” [Newt] Gingrich said in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington in July 2010 devoted to what he suggested were the hidden dangers of Islamic radicalism. “I think it’s that straightforward and that real.”

“Stealth jihadis use political, cultural, societal, religious, intellectual tools; violent jihadis use violence,” Mr. Gingrich said in the speech. “But in fact they’re both engaged in jihad, and they’re both seeking to impose the same end state, which is to replace Western civilization with a radical imposition of Shariah.”

The idea that Shariah poses a danger in the United States, where the census pegs Muslims as less than 1 percent of the population, strikes many scholars as quixotic.

Even within that 1 percent, most American Muslims have no enthusiasm for replacing federal and state law with Shariah, as some conservatives fear, let alone adopting such ancient prescriptions as stoning for adulterers, said Akbar Ahmed, chairman of Islamic studies at American University in Washington, who spent a year traveling the United States and interviewing Muslims for his 2010 book “Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam.”

The notion of a threat from Shariah to the United States “takes your breath away, it’s so absurd,” Dr. Ahmed said. He sees political demagoguery in the anti-Shariah campaign, which fueled rallies against mosques in the last two years from Manhattan to Tennessee.

All of the Republican presidential candidates have been asked about the supposed threat from Shariah. Representative Michele Bachmann told the conservative Family Research Council in a November speech that Shariah “must be resisted across the United States,” endorsing moves by several states to prohibit judges from considering Shariah.

Mitt Romney said in a June debate: “We’re not going to have Shariah law applied in U.S. courts. That’s never going to happen.”

To paraphrase Frum: "Given the terrible economic fundamentals, this reckless self-branding by Republicans may in the end be enough to save President Obama from himself."

John Chamberlain, who created sculptures...

...from old auto parts, died at age 84. From the Times (my emphasis):

In a restless career of almost half a century, Mr. Chamberlain worked with a broad range of materials, some as pliant as foam rubber and as ephemeral as brown paper bags. But he returned again and again to the more substantial stuff of the scrap yard, explaining the attraction as one of practicality. “I saw all this material just lying around against buildings, and it was in color,” he said, “so I felt I was ahead on two counts.”

Mr. Chamberlain felt that even the word “sculpture” was limiting in describing art that, while functioning in three dimensions, could be made from almost anything.

“A sculpture is something that if it falls on your foot, it will break it,” he said. (Well into his career, some people still had a tough time seeing his sculptures as works of art; in 1973, two 300-pound metal pieces were mistaken for junk and carted away as they sat outside a gallery warehouse in Chicago.)

That's the artist above, with his fourth wife ... Prudence Fairweather.

Congressman Allen West is in trouble...

...for comparing the Democratic Party to the Nazis. Last week the Florida Republican said:

“If Joseph Goebbels was around, he’d be very proud of the Democrat Party, because they have an incredible propaganda machine.”

Now, West is one of those wacky tea partiers who was elected in 2010 and is expected to be out next November due to redistricting. So it's really not worth getting too upset about what he says. And, actually, it's not the Nazi reference that bothered me so much; that happens all the time. No, what irritated me was the way West referred to the Democratic Party as the "Democrat" Party. An accidental slip of the tongue, you say? Hardly. According to Media Matters (my emphasis):

The ungrammatical conversion of the noun "Democrat" to an adjective was the brainchild of Republican partisans, presumably an attempt to deny the opposing party the claim to being "democratic" -- or in the words of New Yorker magazine senior editor Hendrik Hertzberg, "to deny the enemy the positive connotations of its chosen appellation." In the early 1990s, apparently due largely to the urging of then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and Republican pollster Frank Luntz, the use of the word "Democrat" as an adjective became near-universal among Republicans.

How did I know Frank Luntz was involved?

Hertzberg wrote that "among those of the Republican persuasion," the use of " 'Democrat Party' is now nearly universal" thanks to "Newt Gingrich, the nominal author of the notorious 1990 memo 'Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,' and his Contract with America pollster, Frank Luntz." While Hertzberg noted that Luntz "road-tested the adjectival use of 'Democrat' with a focus group in 2001" and "concluded that the only people who really dislike it are highly partisan adherents of the ... Democratic Party," he also wrote that Luntz had told him recently that "[t]hose two letters ['ic'] actually do matter," and that Luntz "recently finished writing a book ... entitled 'Words That Work.' "

(Can you imagine a party that thinks about stuff like this instead of working on policy? No wonder people like me no longer vote Republican.)

Now what do you suppose the right would do if Democrats started referring to the GOP as the "Republic" Party? Or the "Repub" Party? Or better yet, just the "Repuh" Party?

They'd probably compare them to Nazis.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Have you heard the latest...

...talking point from the Republican establishment? Fox "New's" Chris Wallace said recently (my emphasis):

“Well, and the Ron Paul people aren’t going to like me saying this, but, to a certain degree, it will discredit the Iowa caucuses because, rightly or wrongly, I think most of the Republican establishment thinks he is not going to end up as the nominee. So, therefore, Iowa won’t count and it will go on.”

Sounds like sour grapes before the fact. Makes me wonder, if Ron Paul wins the New Hampshire primary, does that discredit the Granite State's contest as well?

The chart of the day... from Andrew Sullivan's blog.

I think Ron Paul's numbers would be much smaller in a general election, probably single digits. But if Paul can carry just one or two percent in a swing state like Ohio or Florida it might be enough to get the president reelected.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New York Times columnists...

...David Brooks and Thomas Friedman think that national character is at the root of the current financial crisis in Europe.

According to Matthew Yglesias, writing in Slate (my emphasis):

David Brooks, for example, wrote on Dec. 2 that the underlying issue in the European debt crisis is that people in prosperous northern European countries "believe in a simple moral formula: effort should lead to reward as often as possible ... self-control should be rewarded while laziness and self-indulgence should not." Over the summer, while the crisis was in a less-acute phase, Thomas Friedman informed us that the key question was why can't a Greek learn to be like a German. "Germans are now telling Greeks: 'We'll loan you more money, provided that you behave like Germans in how you save, how many hours a week you work, how long a vacation you take, and how consistently you pay your taxes.' " 

Not so fast, says Yglesias (my emphasis):

It's true that Germans and Greeks work very different amounts, but not in the way you expect. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the average German worker put in 1,429 hours on the job in 2008. The average Greek worker put in 2,120 hours. In Spain, the average worker puts in 1,647 hours. In Italy, 1,802. The Dutch, by contrast, outdo even their Teutonic brethren in laziness, working a staggeringly low 1,389 hours per year.

An article in the Times...

...this morning, "Arrest Order for Sunni Leader in Iraq Opens New Rift," mentions a guy named Tommy Vietor, above:

In Washington, where officials have been quietly celebrating the end of the war, Obama administration officials sounded alarmed about the arrest order for Mr. Hashimi. “We are talking to all of the parties and expressed our concern regarding these developments,” said Tommy Vietor, the National Security Council spokesman. “We are urging all sides to work to resolve differences peacefully and through dialogue, in a manner consistent with the rule of law and the democratic political process.”

Tommy? (Does his mother know he has that job?)

Oh well, at least it's an improvement over his predecessor in that role, Mike Hammer. Now where have I heard that name before...

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Wilford Brimley's greatest role:

Bloomberg has an interesting piece...

...this morning on the devastating effects of the current recession on the top 1 percent of America. In short, their feelings are really, really hurt.

Jamie Dimon, above, CEO of JPMorgan Chase and the highest-paid chief executive officer among the heads of the six biggest U.S. banks, sounded like a guy sitting at a bar, nursing a drink with his head down:

“Acting like everyone who’s been successful is bad and because you’re rich you’re bad, I don’t understand it.”
John A. Allison IV, a director of BB&T Corp., the ninth-largest U.S. bank, admits to feeling "lonely," but has an idea:
“Instead of an attack on the 1 percent, let’s call it an attack on the very productive,” Allison said.
Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman was asked if he were willing to pay more in taxes, but deftly turned the question around to lower-income U.S. families who pay no income tax.

“You have to have skin in the game,” said Schwarzman, 64. “I’m not saying how much people should do. But we should all be part of the system.”
Translation: No, I wouldn't. If the government needs more revenue to close the yawning budget deficits they should get it from poor people.
Time for a brief history lesson.

In 2001, when George W. Bush took office, the federal budget was in surplus and the government was projected to pay off the national debt. After taxes were cut (primarily on the rich), the current deficits were created. The two wars that followed, the unfunded Medicare drug benefit and the recession didn't help matters, but the prime cause of the federal budget deficits were the Bush tax cuts.
So what happened after a Democrat was elected to the White House? Republicans and tea partiers screamed that entitlements were bankrupting the country.

(I even saw a bumper sticker the other day that said: IT'S THE SPENDING, STUPIDBut it's really not; it's the revenue.)

Back to the Bloomberg piece.
Ken Langone, 76, co-founder of Home Depot, takes a more defiant tone:

“I am a fat cat, I’m not ashamed,” he said last week in a telephone interview from a dressing room in his Upper East Side home. “If you mean by fat cat that I’ve succeeded, yeah, then I’m a fat cat. I stand guilty of being a fat cat.”
Nice image. That'll help.
Wilbur Ross, 74, another private-equity billionaire, said in an e-mail that entrepreneurship and capitalism didn’t cause the financial crisis.

“Tearing down the rich does not help those less well- off,” said the chairman of New York-based WL Ross & Co. LLC. “If you favor employment, you need employers whose businesses are flourishing.”

Ah, the old "job creators" argument.

That view is shared by Robert Rosenkranz, CEO of Wilmington, Delaware-based Delphi Financial Group Inc., a seller of workers’-compensation and group-life insurance.

“It’s simply a fact that pretty much all the private- sector jobs in America are created by the decisions of ‘the 1 percent’ to hire and invest,” Rosenkranz, 69, said in an e- mail. “Since their confidence in the future more than any other factor will drive those decisions, it makes little sense to undermine their confidence by vilifying them.”

Leon Cooperman, the Omega Advisors Inc. chairman and former CEO of Goldman Sachs's money-management unit, says capitalists:

“Are not the scourge that they are too often made out to be” and the wealthy aren’t “a monolithic, selfish and unfeeling lot,” Cooperman wrote. They make products that “fill store shelves at Christmas” and provide health care to millions.

Cooperman, 68, said in an interview that he can’t walk through the dining room of St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida, without being thanked for speaking up. At least four people expressed their gratitude on Dec. 5 while he was eating an egg-white omelet, he said.

“You’ll get more out of me,” the billionaire said, “if you treat me with respect.” (My emphasis.)

Another great image. The downtrodden 1 percent crying over their omelets at a country club in Boca Raton. Does Mr. Cooperman really think he's going to get sympathy from those who've lost their jobs, life savings or homes (or all three)?

Look, I'm not interested in tearing down the rich (or anyone else for that matter). Just let the Bush tax cuts expire so the nation can get back on a sound fiscal path.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Matt Strawn, chairman...

...of the Iowa Republican Party, says (my emphasis):

“There is always some segment of the caucus electorate that is undecided going into caucus night, but the fact that over half of likely Iowa caucus attendees are telling pollsters they could change their mind in the final two weeks on which candidate to support is unprecedented.”

This race is really fluid!

Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff...

...wrote the book, This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, with Carmen Reinhart. Today he asks, "Is Modern Capitalism Sustainable?" (my emphasis): the broad sweep of history, all current forms of capitalism are ultimately transitional. Modern-day capitalism has had an extraordinary run since the start of the Industrial Revolution two centuries ago, lifting billions of ordinary people out of abject poverty. Marxism and heavy-handed socialism have disastrous records by comparison. But, as industrialization and technological progress spread to Asia (and now to Africa), someday the struggle for subsistence will no longer be a primary imperative, and contemporary capitalism's numerous flaws may loom larger.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Ellsworth Wareham... a 97-year old former heart surgeon who only stopped working two years ago. The Times has an interesting piece today on the longevity of the residents of Loma Linda, California. Wareham (my emphasis): often used as an example of someone with more energy than someone half his age. Dr. Wareham attributes his health at least partly to the fact that he has been a vegan for the last 30 or 40 years (he does not remember precisely).

Eating at home, he said, is the best way to ensure that one is eating healthy food.

Almost a third...

...of Americans under the age of 23 have been arrested for a crime. From an article in today's Times (my emphasis):

The study, the first since the 1960s to look at the arrest histories of a national sample of adolescents and young adults over time, found that 30.2 percent of the 23-year-olds who participated reported having been arrested for an offense other than a minor traffic violation.

That figure is significantly higher than the 22 percent found in a 1965 study that examined the same issue using different methods. The increase may be a reflection of the justice system becoming more punitive and more aggressive in its reach during the last half-century, the researchers said. Arrests for drug-related offenses, for example, have become far more common, as have zero-tolerance policies in schools.

Newt Gingrich is...

...finished. Looks like all the pounding he's taken from the Republican establishment is working. Just check out Intrade this morning:

Republican Presidential Nominee in 2012

Mitt Romney 68.2%
Newt Gingrich 9.6%

Iowa Caucus Winner

Ron Paul 39.5%
Mitt Romney 36.2%
Newt Gingrich 11.0%

New Hampshire Primary Winner

Mitt Romney 78.9%
Ron Paul 10.0%
Newt Gingrich 2.4%

South Carolina Primary Winner

Mitt Romney 49.9%
Newt Gingrich 22%

Florida Primary Winner

Mitt Romney 55%
Newt Gingrich 15%

So Romney appears to have the nomination sewn up, right? The only remaining question is: Does Ron Paul mount a third-party bid and what percentage of the vote does he carry?

Elizabeth Krents, the admissions...

...director of New York City's prestigious Dalton School, goes by the nickname, "Babby."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The cartoon of the day:

To understand the Occupy Wall Street...

...Movement, or "Moment," as John Heilemann calls it in an interview with Charlie Rose, it's important to consider what Mattathias Schwartz said on the same show, at about 12:45 (my emphasis):

"If people thought they could get the changes they wanted through that system they wouldn't be camping out all night and waving around signs and marching in the streets. This is what people do when they want to opt out of the existing power structure ... They feel they're not going to get what they want that way."

But what, you might ask, is wrong with the "existing power structure?"

Well, consider what Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says in this Vanity Fair piece, "Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%" (his emphasis):

Virtually all U. S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent. When pharmaceutical companies receive a trillion-dollar gift -- through legislation prohibiting the government, the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price -- it should not come as cause for wonder. It should not make jaws drop that a tax bill cannot emerge from Congress unless big tax cuts are put in place for the wealthy. Given the power of the top 1 percent, this is the way you would expect the system to work.

My concern, like Stiglitz's, doesn't stem from envy or a sense of personal resentment. While I'm not in the top 1% of the country, I'm probably in the top 5 or 10% (and have been there my whole life). Let me stress that I am comfortable, I'm fortunate. My concern is more with a system that doesn't benefit the vast majority of its citizens. And what happens if the vast majority don't have "buy-in" to that system anymore? Revolution, as we've seen in the Middle East this year.

Let's get this country back on track.

The is just one...

...of a number of interesting charts from a presentation, "To Have and Have Not," by bond manager Jeffrey Gundlach of the DoubleLine Funds. See the rest of them here.

Meanwhile, Charles Blow writes in the Times today (my emphasis):

An October report from the Congressional Budget Office found that, from 1979 to 2007, the average real after-tax household income for the 1 percent of the population with the highest incomes rose 275 percent. For the rest of the top 20 percent of earners, it rose 65 percent. But it rose just 18 percent for the bottom 20 percent.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The license plates of the day:

MRS NUKE (Yikes!)
DR WONG (Sounds like a Bond villain.)
I A VE 8 (Cute...)

Speaking of "Five Easy Pieces," here's...

...the second best scene. (Or is it the best?)

I think I might know...

...what's going on in Iowa. (Doesn't every blogger think he -- and only he -- knows something?)

After last night's debate and all of the bad press Newt Gingrich got this week, the other four non-Mitt Romney candidates in Iowa -- Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum -- are still alive. And, because they are all still alive, they may split the non-Mitt Romney vote on January 3, handing the caucuses to the former governor of Massachusetts. (Intrade now has Romney winning Iowa.) 

Here's how (I think):

Romney 23% (Which is about his ceiling.)
Gingrich 22% (And falling fast.)
Paul 21% (About his ceiling.)

Perry 15% (He's been barnstorming the state lately and working hard for the evangelical vote.)
Bachmann 13% (Also rising, and had a good debate last night.)
Santorum 6% (Has a following among cultural conservatives, like my mother.)

Think the numbers for the second tier are too high? Perhaps. But I didn't even include an Undecided column.

At any rate, that's what my tin foil hat is telling me.

The chart of the day:

Who woulda thunk it?

Our son...

...comes home for Christmas today!

Edie Stevenson, who created...

...this famous ad for Life cereal, died at age 81.

The hat of the day:

This picture appeared in Andrew Sullivan's blog yesterday under the title, "The Face of the Day."

What's with those hats, anyway? And why doesn't she pull it down on her head more?

Mitt Romney has opened up...

...a huge lead over Newt Gingrich on Intrade this morning.

The Irish betting Web site also has the former governor of Massachusetts favored to win in Iowa, with Ron Paul coming in second and Newt in third. And it even has Romney crushing Gingrich in Florida.

What the heck is going on here?