Thursday, December 04, 2008

Lay off Barack Obama's Birth Certificate

In re:
I’m sure the comments section will fill with various conspiracy theories over Indonesian school records, Kenyan births, and so on. None of it — absolutely none — has any real, solid evidence showing that Obama was born anywhere else than Hawaii apart from sheer speculation and hearsay, and even less evidence that Obama’s stepfather renounced Obama’s birthright citizenship, which he didn’t have the power to do anyway. It’s a conspiracy theory spun by conspiracy theorists (Philip Berg is a 9/11 truther) who use their normal thresholds of evidence for this meme.

Ed Morrisey via Andrew Sullivan

There are two ways to be a native born American citizen.
1. Be born within the United States (14th Amendment, *1)
2. Have a parents that was a U.S. dwelling U.S. citizens (U.S.C. Title 8 thingy 1402-g *2)

1. Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, therefore he is a native born citizen.
2. Barack Obama's mother was a U.S. citizen, therefore he is a native born citizen.

Hardly anyone belives #1, but even if they did, they still run up against #2.

*1: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside

*2: The following shall be nationals and citizens of the United States at birth:
(g) a person born outside the geographical limits of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is an alien, and the other a citizen of the United States who, prior to the birth of such person, was physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than five years, at least two of which were after attaining the age of fourteen years: Provided, That any periods of honorable service in the Armed Forces of the United States, or periods of employment with the United States Government or with an international organization as that term is defined in section 288 of title 22 by such citizen parent, or any periods during which such citizen parent is physically present abroad as the dependent unmarried son or daughter and a member of the household of a person
(A) honorably serving with the Armed Forces of the United States, or
(B) employed by the United States Government or an international organization as defined in section 288 of title 22, may be included in order to satisfy the physical-presence requirement of this paragraph. This proviso shall be applicable to persons born on or after December 24, 1952, to the same extent as if it had become effective in its present form on that date; and

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Submitted to UrbanDictionary

1. When you try to bail someone out, and fail.

2. A level of failure more severe than an epic fail.

use 1. After David got picked up for public drunkenness, I tried to get him out of jail, but didn't have enough money, that was a real failout.

use 2. Henry Paulson - failout.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Notch, updated

2008 Primary results
Democratic Primary: (10 voters)

* Barack Obama - 7
* John Edwards - 2
* Bill Richardson - 1

Republican Primary: (7 voters)

* John McCain - 4
* Mitt Romney - 2
* Rudy Giuliani - 1

Therefore, Obama got all the independents and 1 of the Republicans to switch to him. DN went 19-7 for Bush over Kerry. Obviously Obama will win the national popular vote 70-30.

Note that Hillary got 0 votes in the primary, so DN may not be all that representative... small n, damn!

Edit: Silver!

Dixville Notch

The New Hampshire township where the polls open at 12:01 November 4.

General Election: (21 voters)

* Barack Obama - 15
* John McCain - 6

This is the first time Dixville Notch chose a Democrat since 1968.

Meh meh meh meh.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Latest outrage

The Economist has set up a mock electoral college where people from around the world can 'vote' to determine who America's next president should be. Of course, Barack Obama is winning. It's practically an indictment of him! After all, what kind of elitist Francophile, wine snob, Democrat would think we should show, "a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind?"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Meta voting for the nigger

From 538:
Last week, Julie Hensley made one of her thousands of phone calls on behalf of Barack Obama. A woman answered. As Hensley ran through her short script, the husband impatiently broke in.

"Ma'am, we're voting for the n***er." And hung up.

Hensley wasn't having it. "I went and made a couple other calls but chafed over this absurdity," she told us, "so I called them back, as I still had a couple questions for the wife." This time the man answered, asked pointedly who she was, and when she replied he hung up again.

If I were a journalist, I would put this in the 'too good to check' category. I'm not, so I went looking for evidence. Surely in 2008, some Western PA canvasser with a cell phone camera caught the evidence and posted it... right? So, I check on the YouTube and got the image above. I guess YouTube is worried about the racism, but should I be forced to guess which letters of nigger to star out? Also, what does it say about latent racism in the U.S. that YouTube seems to have replaced "nigger" with "devil?"

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fruitfly v. Palin

D.M. and Olbermann both reference Sarah Palin's attack on frivolous fruit fly research.

There's been a major pushback. I note this is the third time biology research grants have come up in the campaign. First McCain attacked earmarks for studying those undeserving grizzly bears. Then, Democrats shot back with Palin's earmarks to study harbor seals.

One of the many P.R. problems of science is that virtually all research topics can be made to sound silly - who cares about glowing jellyfish, and who wrote that grant for counting the number of cells in a worm, anyway?

Perhaps the real reason Palin hates the fruit fly isn't about wasting money, it's about the culture wars. The fruit fly looms in this arena, even to a greater extent than it is loomed over in everyday life. Think you can pray away the gay? Meet fruitless. Some mutations make male flies try to mate with other males, others remove gender preference, or create flies with no interest in mating.

There isn't a gene in mammals that seems directly related to fruitless (a homolog, in the parlance). However, such genes do exist for other diseases, for instance myc, a determinant of cell growth, and thus cancer. Our ability to productively apply research from Drosophila myc to our understanding of human cancer blows a huge practical hole in Genesis Creationism, or the 'Orchard Model' of several special creations. If everything was created separately, why are they so similar? And if they were intelligently made similar enough to be studied, why not make them identical?

If you just want to ignite the culture wars, any attack on science will do, but an attack on the fruit fly covers so many more bases.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why I don't care about Sarah Palin's clothes

A few months ago, I was trying to mock John McCain's $520 loafers, and a friend pointed out that as a politician, he can probably write off his suits as a business expense, which means we get to pay for them (sort of).

If the RNC wants to spend that money on Sarah Palin, more power to them, it's money they can't spend on ads or turnout. As a non-RNC donor, I don't care. If I were an RNC donor, I would think I got my money's worth. Other than isolated comments about one Tarkin-esque outfit, Palin's atire has never been a source of embarrasment, which compares quite favorably to Hillary Clinton's Sisterhood of the Travelling Pantsuits.

Ballot folding: Official reply

Dear p.e.
Thank you for your questions...and no these are not dumb questions although my answer may seem a bit...never mind. We prefer as you stated that the ballot be folded as received. We would like them in the order received, i.e.., page with President first but any order you send (folded any way that allows you to put them back in the envelope) will suffice. We request they are in order to make our lives easier at tabulation where they must be in the correct order and sequence to tabulate properly. We have a team of assistant that will review all ballots prior to scanning to insure proper order and tabulation with minimal interruptions and thereby deflect any problems to sort. We are pleased at the interest in this year's election and I am grateful for your query. If you have other questions, please contact me personally. Thanks again for your questions.

Small Town Values and Real America

One reads about the idea of "Real America" - small town, rural. This is explicitly Republican leaning. Because it is also implicitly not black, it has been interpreted as racist. But, this kind of appeal is not solely directed against blacks, but also against Catholics - Irish(1)/Italians, recent immigrants, Jews, asians, Hispanics... A little something to convince your touchy, fence-sitting Irish friends.

Arguing for small town values seems like a loser - just over 20% of the population lives there. Insofar as arguing for small town values is a dig at city- and suburb-slickers, it seems likely to piss off big parts of the electorate.

It doesn't seem that most people take my zero sum urban/rural view. Perhaps urbanites just see it as part of the dumb pander that politicians have to do, a source of cynicism, but not outrage. Since every state has both urban and rural areas, urban voters will have been conditioned by a lifetime of watching big city politicians pitchforking hay.

The 20% also misses a large group. One aspect of modern small towns is that the young are constantly moving away. There will always be a cohort, then, which can be guilted into voting for the party identified with the values of the parents they 'abandoned.'

So, no negatives, diffuse positives, pander me up!

1. I think there was one Irish kid in my high school class

Monday, October 20, 2008

The youth vote

From an interview by Ken Silverstein of Tom Edmonds in Harper's
The other big thing is the youth vote. There’s been a lot of hype about it, but it’s not going to materialize on Election Day. Roughly 33 million people voted in the 2004 primaries, and 58 million people voted in this year’s primaries. The youth vote was up, but not nearly as much as voting by middle-aged people and old fogies. The polls are capturing the enthusiasm for Obama, but college students are not going to turn out.
There are two possible arguments that this piece is actually making:
A. A technical argument, about whether polls are properly projecting turnout. Note that all polls weight their numbers for turnout based on their model. The appropriate thing to do, then, would be to weight polls based on their previous ability to do this and average them. See here.

B. A pre-game Mad Libs style of prognostication along the lines of:
If (local sports team) can (active verb) (vague accomplishment), (conjunction) (preventing / avoiding / derailing / keeping ) (opposing team) from (another vague accomplishment) they will (statement of probability) (synonym for win).

e.g. "If the Panthers can effectively deploy Riggins, while shutting down Arnette Mead's running game, Coach Taylor's gettin' some free ribblets at the Applebee's on Saturday- if you know what I mean"

Often self satirizing as in: "If the Tigers can get at least 14 points, while holding the Browns below 14 points, they very well may win this ballgame."

The self satirization makes a point - of necessity, the only prognostication that is always true is also trivial - If Barack Obama can ammass majorities in states, the District of Columbia, or the congressional districts of Maine or Nebraska sufficient to give him a majority in the electoral college, or if neither he, nor anyone else can reach a majority, and he receives a majority of votes on a state-delegation bases in the House of Representatives, he will almost certainly be the next president of the United States.1

Consider a statement such as "If Barack Obama cannot connect with white, working class males, he cannot win this election." It is meaningless. First: white, working class males are not modems. They cannot be connected with. Second: Every white, working class male could vote against Barack Obama and he could still win, since wwcm's do not make up a majority of voters in states, the District of Columbia, or the congressional districts of... Third, if Barack Obama wins 35% of the wwcm vote and becomes the next president, he will have connected sufficiently. If Barack Obama wins 35% of the wwcm vote and does not become president, he will have connected insufficiently, even if he has received the same number of votes. The wwcm vote is not only part of a larger system, it is interconnected with, say, the wwcw vote, or the bwcch vote.2,3

The short of what I'm saying is that Barack Obama won the nomination of his party primarily due to votes from the young, the middle aged and old fogies. If he continues to do well in these age groups, he could be getting a very good night's sleep this November 4th.

1. And that statement still requires caveats!
2. black working class cracker hatin' vote
3. This is a variant of Matt Yglesias's 'these people's votes don't count' argument.

Ballot update

I called the Obama office in Boulder, and they said just fold it up so it fits and send it in.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sent to the Boulder County Clerk's Office

From: p.e.
Subject: Ballot folding

Let me begin by apologizing. I know this is a really, really dumb question, and if you want to pass this around and make fun of me, I understand. The voting instructions say "refold ballot exactly as you received it." Now, does that mean "we sent you your ballot folded in quarters, you should send it back folded in quarters," or is it more precise? If it's just the folded in quarters (along the folds that it came with), don't read the next paragraph and just send back o.k.. Otherwise, I'm sorry.

Here's what I've done:
I have two pages. Page 1 has the U.S. presidential election on the top left of the front side. Page 2 has amendment 57 on the top left of the front side. I have put the pages in order. Next, I folded the two pages together along the short fold, giving me something with the dimensions of a piece of paper, still with the U.S. presidential election on the top left of the front page. Next I folded that along its long fold. This gave me something eight pieces of paper thick, and of the right dimensions to fit perfectly in the secrecy sleeve. I oriented the secrecy sleeve so that I could read the instructions, and the opening was on the right. I then held open the sleeve and inserted my folded ballot, again with the U.S. presidential election on the top left. I then inserted the secrecy sleeve into the return envelope closed edge down, with the instructions facing the front (addressed) side of the envelope.

Again, I apologize for the question, but this election seems rather important, and I'd rather people didn't start to think of us as the Florida of 2008.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Epic Fail

An article on Slate asks, "When did fail become a noun?" It then talks about the emergence of fail in modern culture, along with epic fail. Then the author attributes it to the proliferation of Engrish (bad translations from Japanese).

It's from D&D. I've been saying fail and crit fail (critical) since third edition, and from critical, the next logical step is Epic.

Sorry slate.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Liveblogging II

I'm not sure I can go any further.
8:25 Schieffer - take the shot.
8:25 Mc - lack of town halls made me so angry! Mc regrets that John Lewis said he was a bad person. Mc "every time a republican has said something out of bounds" O manages not to smirk. Mc goes after O for opting out of public financing.
8:28 O - dirty campaigning doesn't matter, issues matter.
8:31 O - 'kill him' 'that's out of line'
8:32 major mc snort
8:33 - mccain repeatedly tries to interrupt. obama keeps going over him. finally with s' help, mc cuts in. mc says that obama is getting fake offended at mil vets going to palin rallys
8:34 is Schieffer napping, or what?
8:35 O keeps trying to move on, but can't help but take a shot. would have done better if he skipped off.
8:36 Mc - "AYERS." equates Ayers with ACORN O keeps chucking and shaking his head
8:38 O gets a long time to rebut the charge
8:39 Mc gets the foundation name wrong
8:39 Mc "my campaign is about getting hte country on track" O giggles
8:41 Obama has a red tie. McCain has a blue tie. Discuss
8:44 Mom despises Palin's exploitation/mistreatment of her autistic kid, so she's probably hopping right now.
8:44 Obama punts on Palin's qualification, pivots to go after spending freeze.
8:45 Mc - Biden is wrong about national security. "Why do we always have to spend more?" All those Federal employees shoudl work for fluffernutter!
8:46 Mc corrects Shieffer.
8:47 Mc - canadian oil is fine
8:47 Mc thinks he's gonna get 47 nuke plants built in 4 years. Oh, no, 7-8 10 years. Well, why not manhattan project if we're looking at that much.
8:48 Obama goes after the 10 year number. Gore's number.

Screw it, I'm going for the highlights.

Third debate liveblog 1

8:02 Schieffer's tie is awesome. I love the reading of the opening rules. All debate sets small, easy to replicate on SNL. They were so close to hugging!

8:07 S. "would you like to ask him a question?" Mc. "no" then attacks O.

8:09 O's new economic plan sounds a lot like a package oh his old position.

8:10 How long are we gonna argue about Joe the plummer? Seriously.

8:12 I reiterate my question as to why small businesses cannot be taxed under their own rate.

8:13 McCain did not just interrupt Obama. OH YES HE DID.

8:14 Deficit questions. beware neo-hooverism. I note that FDR attacked hoover for an unbalanced budget, then started the new deal.

8:18 McCain just lost the corn vote. And the boeing vote. And the astronomy vote.

8:19 Unbelievably painful. I could have written this by mashing up debates #1 and #2.

8:21 Mc: If senator Obama wanted to run against President Bush, he should have fun four years ago. - oh snap.

8:24 long long long list of disagreements.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

re: The bailout

"Something must be done.
This is something,
therefore we must do it." - Bernard Woolley, Yes Prime Minister

Monday, September 29, 2008

Old Joke

FDR used to tell a joke about a Wall Street plutocrat. Everyday, this fellow would go up to a newsstand, buy a copy of the paper, look at the front page, then throw it away in disgust. Finally, the newsboy gets up the courage and says, "Hey mister, what are you lookin' for?"
The plutocrat says, "an obituary."
"But the obituaries are in the back" the newsboy says.
And the plutocrat says, "Not the obituary that I'm looking for!"

Unless we can update this joke to be about Bush or Paulson, or Henry Reid or Nancy Pelosi, they're not doing their jobs.

Bailout with me oh yeah

It seems that from a practical standpoint, the two people that most need to approve of the bailout are Barack Obama and John McCain because one of them will end up implementing most of it. Of course that makes it hard to dodge responsibility. Perhaps it's best to just hope the Bushies don't spend all the 'blank check' money before you get your mits on it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

If I overpay you for the box, then that makes the sawdust inside taste better!

In the most truthful and honest and non-snide way, I don't understand how buying assets backed by mortgages makes the mortgages less likely to foreclose. I can't get my head wrapped around it.

This came up in the comments I last posted about. One of the other commenters posted this link to a Jim Cramer column. Cramer says,
It doesn’t address the real problems of people losing their homes.
Wrong. Declining home prices are the reason owners are either walking away or being forced out. Paulson’s plan puts a stop to the root cause of this: foreclosures. Other housing-related problems, from making mortgage money available to shrinking inventories, are being solved. This plan takes care of the last one.
I just don't see the linkage. It seems like the value of the mortgage should be driving the value of the security, not the other way around.

The p.e. bailout:

At heart, the problem is that people can't pay their mortgages, and no one can be found to come in and buy the houses when they foreclose, which means the securities can't get paid off.

One of the problems with buying those securities as a market stablization strategy is that no one knows what they're worth or what the risk involved in them is. Indeed, that's how we got to where we are right now.

My solution: Buy foreclosed or foreclosing houses. Houses are still being sold, so you can calculate a price, and there's a concrete asset that you get. The banks get some of their money, so that should get the securities moving.

The best part: you can remortgage the house to the previous owner on a different set of terms (i.e. the fixed rate, long term, variable payment model I saw and can't find the link to).

Note that my plan is basically ripped-off from the Center for American Progress's plan, except that they call for the financial companies to undo the securitization and put the mortgages back together before the government will buy them. I think that step will be 1. Hard and 2. Invites manipulations because it is hard. Also, houses are easier to price than mortgages (i think).
Paraphrased as a comment at mDubious

The theodicy of the Paulson Bailout

A. You must give us our money by Friday
B. We didn't know before last Friday that we needed the money this Friday.
C. You can trust* us.

One of these premises is false.

*: in the sense of both wise and honest.
theodicy: the philosophy of why G-d is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, yet bad things still happen.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Stop the presses

"Half the teens that died in car crashes in 2005 were killed between 3 p.m. and midnight. Check your local teen driving curfews."

So, half the people were killed in a third of the day, and another third of the day is when everyone is asleep. Wow.

This is from one of those Allstate adds trying to get the driving age raised. Blech.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Why I don't read National Review

National Review is one of the key intellectual havens of the right, founded by William F. Buckley. Their group blog, The Corner, is a good place to go if you want to know what The Right is up to (insofar as it is monolithically 'up to' anything).

National Review is the kind of place where you would hear the intriguingly counter-logical, yet somehow plausible facts that can really change how you view things. e.g.:
House Democrats on June 11 blocked Rep. John E. Peterson’s (R., Penn.) legislation to allow oil drilling 50 miles from America’s shores. Obstructionist Democrats could not fathom such activity, even 38 miles past where the horizon gobbles everything. Nor is the Just Say No crowd impressed that Hurricane Katrina slammed Gulf oil platforms with nary a spill.

Of course, then we read things like this, from a Reuters article on Hurricane Ike:
Ike plowed a destructive path through the state after slamming into the Texas coast early on Saturday and moving inland to Houston, the heart of the U.S. oil industry, forcing many refineries to shut down as a precaution.

President George W. Bush, who will visit his home state on Tuesday, said it was too early to determine the damage to U.S. energy infrastructure. The storm also halted crude oil production in the Gulf of Mexico, representing a quarter of U.S. output.

The U.S. Coast Guard said the storm damaged some offshore oil production facilities but did not yet know the extent.

But, just because an oil facility is destroyed, will it necessarily leak? This answer comes from a Guardian (UK) article in the aftermath of Katrina.

Initial aerial reconnaissance by the environmental protection agency suggests no serious chemical damage but has revealed several large oil spills.

About 85,000 barrels of crude is now known to have escaped from a Murphy Oil plant in Chalmette, Louisiana, and a further 68,000 barrels were spilled by a damaged storage tank at the Bass Enterprises site in Venice.

So, why don't I read National Review? I'm too logical. Bad facts have a way of overcoming my innate emotional sympathies and giving me bad, yet persuasive views. See: We should invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein tried to buy some high-speed switches.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


I know I should be pointing out that JOHN MCCAIN WANTS TO RAISE YOUR TAXES AND SIMULTANEOUSLY CUT OFF YOUR EMPLOYER HEALTHCARE but I can't stop looking at the shiny distraction.

In her first serious interview, Sarah Palin talked to Charlie Gibson. Someone pointed out that she said his name instead of "um," to some ridicule.

Personally, I couldn't stop thinking of the absolutely awesome "Charlie the Unicorn" series. So, watch the interview, watch Charlie the Unicorn, and then watch the Mashup. Go web go.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Kerry Error

It turns out, the SURGE is not over. If the 8000 troops that Bush promised to pull out of Iraq do leave (an if, considering he won't be Commander in Chief anymore), we will still have more troops in Iraq than we did before the SURGE started.

This despite widespread support for getting the hell out. When Rachel Maddow asked Matthew Continetti which presidential candidate was going to get the troops out and he said, more or less, both of them, then proceeded to equate Obama's reactionl force idea with McCain's slow, milestone based withdrawl. The quote is about 2:30 in.

Coincidentally, Continetti happens to have changed his assesment in the last 12 days.*

More significantly, people understand (by which I mean I'm trying to persuade you, people) that Obama and the Dems very much want to get troops out of Iraq, and that McCain and Bush don't so much want to get troops out of Iraq. What that wanting leads to is that in a case where Iraq is a mixed bag of good and not so good news, Barack Obama is going to be more likely to withdraw troops, and McCain will be more likely to not withdraw troops, or even to add more troops.*2

The reason I call this the Kerry Error is that in 2004, Kerry tried to sound exactly as hawkish as George W. Bush on Iraq. Because Kerry had previously been critical of the war, people didn't believe him.*3

I guess this means character counts, but not in the way that you think.

*: Washington Post, August 31, 2008 Sounds Nice, But Will It Get Votes?
BYLINE: Matthew Continetti

Relevant quote in context, bold italics mine:
The converts whom Obama has attracted to his cause? He has been endorsed by Jim Leach, a former liberal Republican congressman from Iowa; Lincoln Chafee, a former liberal Republican senator from Rhode Island; and Jim Whitaker, the mayor of Fairbanks, Alaska. Not exactly the Rat Pack.

But that doesn't matter. Postpartisanship makes for good headlines. It heightens the self-esteem of goo-goo sophisticates who want to be above disagreement. But the truth is that you can't have democratic politics without disagreement. The sharp differences between the two parties are there for a reason. Folks think differently about how much income you should take home, what sort of judges should sit on the bench, what type of light bulb you ought to use, how and when the troops should come home from Iraq, how great a role religion ought to play in public life, who was the greatest Beatle, etc. In this evenly divided nation, political success depends on motivating the groups that agree with you to go to the polls in greater numbers than the groups that don't.

And that is the postpartisan's dilemma. Partisans will happily pull the lever for one of their own. But how many will turn out for a maverick?

*2: Add more troops? Why not? The Army is constantly cycling brigades in and cycling them out. It would be simple to keep the cycling-out brigades a few weeks longer and bring in the cycling-in brigades a few weeks earlier. After all - that's how they pulled off the surge. And who would notice? When was the last time you checked the number of U.S. troops in Iraq?

*3: And with good reason. Would Kerry have done the SURGE, or would he have followed the Iraq Study Group recommendations? Obviously the latter, which is less hawkish, but arguably would have been better for the country.

Monday, September 08, 2008


Obviously the 'skeletons' being 'dug up' by the media in Alaska were put there by Satan to fool those with weak beliefs.

Bananapoint: Sarah Palin is a young earth creationist who thinks creationism should be taught in schools.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Vogelstein is smarter than I thought

A.K.A. an argument for reading the actual article.

A couple of days ago, I wrote about whole genome studies of human tumours. My post whined about the difficulty of digging anything out of such studies, and used the popular press reports to back that up.
As promised, I went back and read one of the original articles - the one about pancreatic cancer. These articles are significantly more successful than advertised. Methodologically, they didn't just look at the less than 1% of the genome that directly codes genes, they also looked at expression levels of those genes, which gets at mutations in the other 99%.
Aggregating those two pieces of information gave them the ~60 mutations in each of the pancreatic cancers. As expected, few genes came up consistently. At this point, the authors took advantage of what we know about cell biology: few genes act independently, they work in networks, or pathways.
Consider how I'm typing this paragraph now - ideas enter my mind, I pass the signal to my fingers to type, the keyboard converts the mechanical movement of the keys into electricity, the computer reads the signal from the keyboard, the wireless card transmits the data to the internet, a server stores the data, etc. etc. You might simplify it as:
Brain->Fingers->CPU->Network card->Server->Your Network Card->Your CPU->Your Monitor->Your Eye->Your Brain
Two things to notice. 1: A breakdown at any step of the process will cause the same end effect - you perceive nothing. 2: The exact physical thing is not being transmitted. Now, consider a molecular pathway, the Insulin-like Growth Factor pathway:
Pure poetry, I know. It's known that Ras is mutated in about 25% of cancers. Perhaps Ras is particularly succeptible to mutation, but there's little reason why Ras has to be the point of mutation. And, indeed, while Vogelstein's group failed to find specific genes that were universally mutated, they found several pathways that were very frequently or always mutated.

This brings us to why this is good news. 100% of patients with pancreatic cancer had a mutation in this pathway (they refer to it as KRAS). This means A: You don't need to alter specific members of the pathway, you just need to change the output toward normal and B: If you find something that does affect the IGF pathway, you can give it to all your pancreatic cancer patients.

C: Read the actual article before you go off.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

More evidence that Sarah ain't ready

email sent to AndrewSullivan
Sarah Palin (literally) not ready for prime time.
Or Sunday morning, or late night, or the View

Questions and answers

In re: Palin not taking interviews

Isn't not being ready to answer questions on day 7 an admission that you're won't have answers on day 1?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Genetic Map of Cancer Reveals Unexpected Complexity

The Vogelstein group sequenced the coding portions of 20,000 human genes for 22 brain cancer patients and 24 pancreatic cancer patients. Patients had a mutation in, on average, 60 genes. None of them overlapped completely.

How is any of this surprising?

Vogelstein is famous (in science, at least) for identifying the stereotypical steps undergone as a colon polyp becomes larger and more aggressive before finally graduating to full cancer-hood.

Large numbers of polyps and easy access to pre-clinical tumors made that story possible. Also helping were patients with Adenomatous polyposis, who quickly develop large numbers of polyps because every cell of their body already carries the first mutation in Vogelstein's series.

Consider if they had done this classical study not by grabbing polyps, but by looking at full-on cancers. The sequence of mutations would be impossible to determine. By the time that colon cancer is symptomatic, it will have acquired mutations in DNA repair genes, which means mutations will occur much more frequently, not just in areas where they are evolutionarily advantageous, but also in completely random places.

Basically, you would expect to get a mess, which is exactly what Vogelstein found. Now to read the paper and see if we've learned anyting.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

John McCain: The unknown

Nate has a post up, arguing that people aren't going to trust Sarah Palin's take on Barack Obama because 63% already have a strongly entrenched positive or negative perception of him while she is relatively unknown, only 45%. He provides this data:

Percentage viewing as Very Favorable OR Very Unfavorable
Obama 63
B. Clinton 63
Gore 61
H. Clinton 60
Bush 60
Cheney 59
Pelosi 51
T. Kennedy 48
Palin 45
Kerry 45
McCain 43
Romney 38
Biden 33

I think he's burying lede. Look more closely:

Percentage viewing as Very Favorable OR Very Unfavorable
Obama 63
Palin 45
McCain 43

More people have a strong opinion about Palin than McCain! Talk about the man from nowhere.

crossposted as a comment at 538

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sarah Palin is a Petro-Dictator

Let's send Brian Schweitzer after her!

Seriously, Alaska is a frozen emirate / welfare state. Seriously, $243 million for a bridge to be used by 7500 people?

Guiliani just made my least favorite mistake

Guiliani: Barack Obama was a community organizer
RNC: hahahahaahahahahaah!

see my comments below

Following Bin Laden to the gates of Waziristan

William Safire wrote an op-ed about the Obama acceptance speech. Quote:
Then came a strange one: “John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin Laden to the gates of Hell — but he won’t even go to the cave where he lives.” What’s that supposed to mean — that McCain is a coward, unwilling to lead a charge into the hills of Pakistan?

Wow, that's so confusing. How can I figure out what that possibly means? Perhaps I'll go to the Barack Obama article on Wikipedia and Ctrl+f 'find' any reference to Pakistan. Serendipity!
Obama said "it was a terrible mistake to fail to act" against a 2005 meeting of al-Qaeda leaders that U.S. intelligence had confirmed to be taking place in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. He said that as president he would not miss a similar opportunity, even without the support of the Pakistani government.

Whew, that research was really hard! John McCain opposes strikes without the permission of the Pakistani government. Hmmm... Maybe Safire did do his research, and is just counting on you not knowing? In that case, he wouldn't have to tell you that Barack Obama is to John McCain's RIGHT on going after bin Laden.

Coincidentally, the U.S. struck into Pakistan today without getting permission first. So, once again, we see Barack Obama propose a policy, get laughed at for six months, then Bush finally follows the policy, and John McCain (eventually) praises Bush. Makes you feel sorry for John McCain. Where's he gonna get all 'his' great ideas from once Barack stops running?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The atmospherics of diversity


One way in which McCain and Bush really do seem different is that McCain isn’t committed to the atmospherics of diversity in the way Bush was.

Then what do you call Sarah Palin? It turns out that the window dressers of America aren't finished yet!

Mdubious is, of course a reference to this

Monday, September 01, 2008

The NPR Accent

Listening to Wait Wait... Don't tell me from the NPR site. The voice in the ad for NPR CDs had that strange, stereotypical accent of NPR announcers.

Since I'm reading George Orwell's diaries, it reminded me of his hatred of the BBC accent, which isn't used by any actual English people and just has the virtue of carrying well on the radio. Is there an NPR accent that marks one as a liberal American?


From NYT:

The selection [of Palin] was the culmination of a five-month process, described by Mr. McCain’s inner circle and outside advisers in interviews this past weekend, and offers a glimpse into how Mr. McCain might make high-stakes decisions as president.

At the very least, the process reflects Mr. McCain’s history of making fast, instinctive and sometimes risky decisions. “I make them as quickly as I can, quicker than the other fellow, if I can,” Mr. McCain wrote, with his top adviser Mark Salter, in his 2002 book, “Worth the Fighting For.” “Often my haste is a mistake, but I live with the consequences without complaint.”

McCain made his decision slower than the other fellow. Much slower if you consider he had 3+ months to do it while the Clinton/Obama show was going on. Note his refusal to make a decision until the very last moment, and when he couldn't get who he wanted (Lieberman) he picked someone out of right field "Oh,you say you want a conservative? Well I'll show you."

If you like a politics based on overreaction to perceived insults, McCain is your guy. If you think chest thumping is leadership...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

It's not about experience, it's about judgement

I'm listening to Tim Pawlenty trying not to sound sore he wasn't picked. When Tom Brokaw asks him about Palin's experience, he points out that Barack has about the same amount and that Palin's experience is Executive (TM). Experience is the wrong question. As the man said, it's not about experience, it's about judgement.

When Barack Obama was a state senator (district size 30x larger than Wasila, AK, 1/3 the size of Alaska) he opposed the Iraq war, predicting we would be bogged down and distracted from the real war against the people the attacked us.

Focus Group of Two

Punkideas and the Cavendish have both recommended the DailyKos list of things wrong with Sarah Palin. I resist digging up too much dirt on her for the simple reason that under fair questioning, she will fold like Ted Stevens's reasoning.

Cav wonders whether we shouldn't see more of a convention / Palin bounce. The tracking polls released Saturday are a three-day composition of Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and show a two point improvement for Obama compared to T-W-R. I would say that's a big bounce from the Obama speech. My guess would be that most people reacted to the Palin pick with curiousity and a slight "thank G-d he didn't pick Romney," so that effect is muted. It my high-information-Feiler- Faster self over 24 hours to get into panic mode (for the country, not the campaign), so the public level backlash could take until next Thursday (i.e. after VP talk nite in St. Paul). Becasue of the overlapping convention bounces, we may never see a specific 'Palin effect' in the polls.

Evidence of McCain buyer's remorse? It will appear in the form of shrinking Palins on the campaign literature. Thus, the real 'Palin Effect' may occur when people step into the voting booth, are reminded in evenly sized type that if McCain doesn't make it, she'll be vice president, and then punch for the other guy.

What are the odds of an OMGWTFBBQ moment, i.e. a Meiers switch, wherin we spend all week criticizing an obviously unqualified token, saying, "gosh I wish McCain would select someone qualified," and then when he does we're forced to accept them, no matter how conservative, like Alito? I think those odds are good.* I would welcome a switch, because no matter how whackadoodle a vice president he picks, John McCain has about a 50% chance of being the next president. If you're politically opposed to McCain, then you say A: What does it say about him if he thinks she's qualified? B: If he switches, how trustworthy can he be?

*: McCain is steadfast on some primciples, like staying in Iraq forever, but he has switched some principles, like offshore drilling. He picked Palin for political reasons, he'll ditch her for political reasons.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

But what does the platform say?

For the last post, I tried to look up the RNC platform for 2008. Can't be found. There are select quotes from it, but I cannot find the document itself.

John McCain (2008 version) wants to overturn Roe v. Wade and send it back to the states.

John McCain (2000 version) wanted to overturn Roe v. Wade and make abortion illegal, except in case of rape, incest, or safety of the mother.

Is John McCain against contraception?

John McCain voted against requiring insurance companies to cover contraception.*

NARAL says the McCain voted against federal funding for contraception.

So, it looks like John McCain won't take away your condoms, but he won't make sure you get them either. This increases the spread of HIV and other STDs, and causes increased unwanted pregnancies, likely increasing the number of abortions. It 'heightens the contrast' as it were.

*: If I were an insurance company, I'd cover birth control because covering hospital expenses for a birth, or an abortion, is going to be much more expensive. I guess I could just be one of those insurance companies that doesn't cover anything...

Tell you friends, tell your parents, tell your parakeets

John McCain wants to overturn Roe v. Wade. It's a position he's held consistently from 2000 onward, so it's not faux conservatism. It's real conservatism.

Sarah Palin just had a kid at 43. Why? Because she doesn't believe in contraception. Not for her, and not for you. Or your friends. Or your parakeets.

Let's watch it again

It's not just that I want to get to one post per day, and that I feel bad about 10 posts on Sarah Palin. The Obama speech was very very good. The last five minutes are classic, tear-of-pride jerking Obama. The middle attacks on McCain were very reassuring.

That's exactly what we needed.

Alaska Fun fact V

in re: yglesias
Population of Wasilla, AK: 8471
Population of Alaska: 683,000

Average Illinois state senate district: 218,000

Palin - are we going to need her?

Via AnnaMarieCox
Charlie Black: She’s going to learn national security at the foot of the master for the next four years, and most doctors think that he’ll be around at least that long.

O.K. - let's get it out on the table. What is the probability that John McCain is going to die in office? What does it mean if 'most doctors' think he'll be around that long? And what evidence are they basing it on?

I refuse to make a guess about McCain's health. I don't have enough data. Here's what I do know:

Died in office

  1. William Henry Harrison (1841)
  2. Zachary Taylor (1850)
  3. Abraham Lincoln (1865, assassinated)
  4. James Garfield (1881, assassinated)
  5. William McKinley (1901, assassinated)
  6. Warren G. Harding (1923)
  7. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1945)
  8. John F. Kennedy (1963, assassinated)
WAIT WAIT! You say, what makes you think the death rate for presidents will stay the same? Not much. Harding's pneumonia or heart attack would be treatable today. FDR's cerebral hemorrhage... maybe, maybe not. Again, we don't know enough about McCain's medical condition. We might think we've upped security around the president, but then it's not like other presidents felt insecure. Let's agree that the odds of presidential death might be 10 times higher or lower than the historical average, but let's calculate it first:

8/44 = 18.2%

I guess it can't be 10 times higher. But even if the risk of death in office is 1.82%, that's still very high. If we're good Republicans, then we believe Dick Cheney's 1% doctrine:

Cheney observed that the US had to confront a new type of threat, a "low-probability, high-impact event" as he described it, "If there's a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It's not about our analysis ... It's about our response."

Is there a 1% chance that John McCain will die in office? Yes. Then Republicans should treat it as a certainty. And get Sarah Palin off the ticket.

Strategy memo to the Roves of the left

Listening to David Bender on the Rachel Maddow show. He says, "We don't need to attack her. We should dismiss her."

He's half right - no need to attack her. But don't dismiss her. Simply insist that expectations not be lowered for her. Talking points, "Osama bin Laden doesn't grade on a curve." "Putin doesn't grade on a curve." "Ahmadinejad doesn't grade on a curve." "The global economy doesn't grade on a curve."


The 90 second policy test

From James Fallows:
Quick, without pausing in the next ninety seconds, tell me what you think about: the balance of relations between Taiwan and mainland China, and exactly what signals we're sending to Hamas, and what we think about Russia's role in the G-8 and potentially in NATO, and where North Korea stands on its nuclear pledges -- plus Iran while we're at it, plus the EU after the Irish vote, plus cap-and-trade as applied to India and China, and what's the right future for South Ossetia; and let's not even start on domestic issues.
Leaders set the tenor and tempo, we keep it peaceful; need to show they can run a nation, not just an insurgency; Stay in, but add PRC; can't have people in the club attacking one another; trust but verify; trade sanctions for inspectors; Great progress in the European Project in keeping Europe safe, Ireland is an internal matter; cap'n trade is a market-based spur for innovation in the U.S. that we will sell to India and China when they get sick of pollution; A matter for Russia and Georgia with the proviso of no bullying; o.k. don't start.

TIME! How'd I do?

Election vs. Selection

Something's been bothering me about the Palin selection, beyond out great policy disagreements or my dismay at her stepping on Obama's speech story.

Where could I find a bright, clean, articulate person to help me express this?
I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don't fit the typical pedigree, and I haven't spent my career in the halls of Washington.
Pedigree... pedigree... When I think about Pedigree, I don't just think about the races of your parents, I think of how you got a seat at the table - your professional pedigree. That was part of my trouble with Hillary Clinton. She got to be a figure of national prominence not as her own person, but as a piece in the make-up of her husband. People might disapprove of her, but still vote for Bill, just as they might disapprove of his tax policy and still vote for him. Thus, if she were to become the first woman president there would always be an asterisk by her name. She would always be a Christina Fernandez, not a Margaret Thatcher.

Unlike Fernandez, who immediately succeeded her husband, Nestor, when he was termed out, Hillary actually started to make a place for herself as a separate force. To a significant extent, this campaign has done that, as has her time in the senate. And time in the senate will slowly convert that asterisk to a plus, then a dash, then a dot...*

Of course, just because a Gore, or a Bush, or a Clinton, or a Kennedy is thrust at as a figure of automatic prominence, it doesn't mean they automatically get a position of power. We can elect them. Or not. Our hands are tied in only two situations - who the president chooses to marry, and who the president selects as their running mate. It's one thing for Hillary Clinton to put 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, it's quite another thing for Sarah Palin to slipstream into the 'white males only' door behind John McCain.+

*: And, no, 68 is not too old to run for President, especially as women tend to live longer than men

+: Second thoughts - what if McCain selected someone like Colin Powell - a significant person in his own right, a real asset (at least before W. ruined him), etc. etc.? I still don't think it means much. It's not nothing, but it's small ball, like the first black governor of New York.

The vice president, like the first lady, has as much governing power as the president lends them. If you select a Ferraro / Quayle / Palin chew toy, then they won't have much impact on the governing philosophy.

The Four Day Infomercial

That's exactly what low information voters need.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Maybe McCain even surprised himself...

People were suspicious when John McCain claimed he hadn't decided on his running mate yet. But the Palin selection makes sense in that context.

A Pawlenty trial balloon went up... and got BB'd. A Romney trial balloon was met by an eerie silence. The Barack Speech went fabulously, and all of a sudden John McCain finds that the only card he has to play might not be enough to get people to stop talking about his speech.

So he called the only person that could possibly capture everyone's attention as strongly as Barack. Colin Powell demurred - he said he had to wash his hair today. Yes, all day. So McCain called Palin. That's why it doesn't seem like he's spent much time with Palin. That's why she seems a little un-vetted.

Now we know:

Why the Obama people took all the gas out of Brian Schweitzer's speech.

Why John McCain spent real money to put a soft ad on TV last night.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Am I paranoid?

Or is this a cynical attempt to make Obama look mean-spirited if he attacks McCain in his speech tonight?

I wouldn't spend the money airing this ad (as Ambinder reports McCain is doing) simply because I was a nice guy. Perhaps in the spirit of congratulation, Barack will congratulate McCain on making it to 72?
If someone spots Barack furiously rewriting his speech...

Memo to Nate Silver is awesome, my go to place for polling. I have a question for its proprietor, Nate Silver:

Will high gas prices would decrease turnout? And will rural and exurban (read: red) precincts would show the largest drop? If these rural voters are trying to save gas, they would also be more likely to be home when a pollster calls. Rural districts are also the part of the state where driving people to the polls and other Get Out The Vote is least efficient. Since most states are a 'plum pudding' mixture of red rural pudding and urban blue raisins, I would expect this to produce a small but significant 'blue shift' on election day.

Evidence against would be that people who drive a lot tend not to mind driving a lot - witness that among my friends in Chicago, gas prices are a frequent topic of conversation, but when I was in Colorado during $4 gas season, I didn't hear a word.


Portrayal Of Obama As Elitist Hailed As Step Forward For African Americans

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The trouble with creationism

Unlike Megan, I'm not ok with parents pulling their kids out of biology class. A stronger knowledge of biology would behoove the general public, and bio class in high school is where they will get it. Incidentally it's also where future scientists come from. For that reason, it does matter how Megan's friends feel about evolution, because it will influence whether their children go to biology class.

It would be better still if those friends could master the evidence and scientific reasoning that support evolution. Unfortunately, evolution is a singularly bad subject to teach the scientific method because most experiments are ridiculously long. Many non-long experiments, like Tracking the evolution of multidrug resistance in Staphylococcus aureus are both grizzly and the rhetorical equivalent of threatening non-believers with eternal damnation.

This means that saying we should teach the controversy is, in fact, punting.

Crossposted to: Bloggingheads!

DNCDG: Tuesday Nite

Speakers: Finish your drink if...
Your rep, senator, or governor speaks - and you can identify them.
The announcer mentions whistfully how good a non-picked VP hopeful would have been.
Jennifer Granholm gets floated as a good VP opportunity Obama missed
Rahm Emanuel earns his nickname "Rahmbo"
Janet Napolitano reveals that the people of Arizona actually hate John McCain, but every time an election gets close, Cindy threatens to choke off the beer supply.
Kathleen Sebelius appears highly caffeinated
The camera spends more time on Dennis Kucinich's wife than on him
You think Barack Obama is speaking and it turns out it's just Deval Patrick
Bob Casey and Ed Rendell talk about Scranton

Keynote Speakers:
Have a shot of Crown Royal when Hillary comes on (there's just no way to make this funny)
If Mark Warner's videoconference with Barack gets interrupted by Warner's kids saying "I love you daddy!" finish your drink.

Progam notes:
When the pundits cut out an entire speaker to hold a navel gazing session on why the convention message, "isn't being heard in the heartland" - take a drink (having you finish one each time this happens just wouldn't be fair)
When a clean coal ad comes on, do five shots of Svedka (distilled five times)
If the graphics on the podium make you seasick - you need another drink.

Note also another drinking game, written by a professional comedian. I think mine is funnier.

Update: Ed Rendell talked about Scranton as a futuristic transit city. drink drink! I have to say, I didn't think Rendell's speech was very good - he was just running through it as fast as possible, and didn't seem to be really enjoying himself.

Now for something light and refreshing

Wow. It strikes me as fantastic, tongue and cheek, and provocative. Not exactly kid friendly,* but certainly not obscene. Disney really sets the ground here.

*:Should it be? Orangina might claim to be 'aimed at kids,' but if so, it's clearly aimed at parents looking for an alternative to orange pop. I never drank it as a kid, but I will drink it now, which sort of makes me think 'hey, it's for everyone!'

Monday, August 25, 2008

In Hyde Park, there's only one class--upper! And middle! And lower

In my (overlong) response to "Mr. Obama's Neighborhood" (below), I despaired of replying to the idea that in Hyde Park, upper class whites and blacks united together to force out the poor. Somehow I forgot to mention that Hyde Park is chock full of biology graduate students who are getting paid $26,000 this year (woo-hoo, top 70%!). It's also chock full of post graduate fellows pulling down $40,000 - almost all the way to the national median, $44k. And junior faculty really rake it in with ~$80,000 (actually in the top quarter).

So I guess I'm upper class. (obligitory 'McCain thinks you're only rich if you make $5mil a year' joke) Or I don't count (although the hit piece uses the students as a cultural marker...), or I'm pre-rich, salivating wildly when I put my one leaf of arugula on my sloppy joes.


OMG DATA: Median household income $44,142 That's below the median! O NOES!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What's the matter with Hyde Park?*

Obama has been taking flak for his neighborhood, and seeing as how I actually know a bit about that subject, I thought I'd muddle through.

The linchpin*1 piece seems to be Mr. Obama's Neighborhood by Andrew Ferguson of the Weekly Standard, so I'll use quotes from that as my skeleton.

Hyde Park, Chicago

Note the explicit claim that the author has actually been to Hyde Park.
When Barack Obama was briefly embarrassed earlier this year by his association with the onetime bomb-builder and wannabe bomb-exploder William Ayers, he blamed his neighborhood, sort of. "He's a guy who lives in my neighborhood," Obama said with a shrug... Obama's casual dismissal led people all across America, people who live in all kinds of communities without bombers, to look at each other and say: "Wow, what kind of neighborhood does Barack live in?"
Confession: I don't know a blessed thing about the Weathermen, or Weathermolls or whether their activities demand the withering condemnation recently applied. It occurs to 'all kinds of communities' have ex-cons in them. Furthermore if Chicago or Illinois or the Federal Government felt that Bill Ayers hadn't paid his debt to society they could have prosecuted him more vigorously or sentenced him more harshly. As it is, we should welcome ex-cons that have returned to the straight and narrow - no?*8
It's not a trifling question. Like a gabby relative or a crooked business associate, a membership in a restrictive golf club or a long-forgotten bisexual fling, a neighborhood can be a problem for a candidate. Voters often feel that incidentals like these reveal something essential about a potential president.
Because when I pick a place to live that's close to my job, that says deep things about who I am. By the way, that thing in college, where I "experimented," that was a long time ago. In my youth. I'm a new man. And I didn't realize it was white's only.
Just as important, political consultants often go to great lengths to make voters feel that way.
This is one of those trifling little incidentals that tell you you're not reading an honest piece about the HP, you've reading a strategy paper for Republican operatives.
Recall poor Michael Dukakis, the hapless Democratic presidential nominee in 1988.
Yes my little Roveies, it worked so well that time, we should try it again!
He lived in the Boston suburb of Brookline--a "progressive" village where the townsfolk congratulate themselves for riding mass transit, eating fibrous bread, holding Winter Festivals in place of Christmas parties, joining committees, attending meetings that last many hours and result in the appointment of more committees, growing organic Chinese vegetables in sideyards, and hanging potted plants in macramé hammocks on the front porch.
This sentence (yes it's only one) is a Mortgage Backed Security of policies and lifestyles. There's grade AAAA conservative canards, like you can't trust anyone that eats whole wheat toast (Real Americans get heart attacks!). Mixed in is the BBB stuff - mass transit. Fast, safe mass transit that goes where people want to is nothing to sneeze at. It'll keep home prices in HP from going the way of Prince William County, and while I can't stand the people that turn up their noses and say 'oh, I don't drive' any more than you can, with gas prices stuck in the $3.50-4.00 range, mass transit is looking for an upgrade. Finally, the Junk Bonds like committees which, rather than being a liberal prerogative, are the spinach and lima beans of any organization - church, corporation, or condo association. Did you know they have taxes in Brookline? Did you know there are lines at the grocery store?
Brookline was an eddy of American life, a pocket of preciosity set apart from the world that most Americans struggle through, and Republican operatives made it a symbol of Dukakis's disconnection from the common man. Maybe this was a low blow (you listening Rovies? -p.e.), but the Republicans had a point. Anyone who knew Brookline would not have been surprised to learn that Dukakis, as one of its favorite sons, liked to take books about Swedish land-use planning with him to the beach, thus disqualifying himself from the presidency.
Did you know that Penicillin was discovered in Scotland, and that other key antibiotics were discovered in Germany? Hope you've never had strep throat, or Andy Ferguson doesn't think you can be president.
As Republicans felt about Brookline, so Obama supporters feel about Obama's neighborhood: It's a measure of the man.
I had to read that a couple of times. Obviously Republicans felt that Brookline was a club to beat Dukakis about the head with and feel the same way about the HP and BHO. So, no, I don't think supporters agree. I would say that Democrats should try to beat John McCain about the head with his adopted neighborhood, but we'd have trouble figuring out which of the 7 McCain-Hensley houses to use as a starting point (did you see that coming? Of course you did).
"What better way to define what you're all about than where you choose to live and bring up your family?" said Obama's friend, neighbor, and campaign adviser John Rogers in USA Today. Obama's neighborhood, Hyde Park, is on the South Side of Chicago, about seven miles from the Loop.
I hope you know more about Chicago's physical and social geography than I did when I accepted here, or that statement won't do you much good. Chicago sits along Lake Michigan, which forms the eastern border of the city, and spreads west. The loop is centered on the North-South axis and sits at the waterfront. It's (approximately) where the Sears Tower, Hancock Building, Millenium and Grant Parks, Trump Tower, Twizzler etc. etc. are. It's also the center of the mass transit system, the El. North of there is Wrigly Field, Lincoln Park, Northwestern Medical center, and great piles of yuppies.

The loop runs to 600 S. (3/4 mi south of the Chicago River). Tourist maps cut the city off at 1200 S. (1.5 mi). Hyde Park is 5.5 mi south of that at 5100-5900 S. It is surrounded on three sides by ghetto (and on one by water). High crime, high poverty - the kind of place where if you get off the train and try to walk around, the best outcome is that someone will quickly suggest you get back on the train. Massive meddling by the university and the second largest police force in Illinois make Hyde Park relatively safe. This is no leafy green college town. Reality is not an abstraction. And it would like your money. And your iPod.
Not counting time spent in college and law school, plus part of a year working for a consulting firm in Manhattan, Hyde Park is the only place Barack Obama has lived as an adult.
I hope this will be the last of those attempts to describe Barack Obama as rootless.
He first moved there in 1984, when he came to Chicago as a community organizer, and he returned after graduating from Harvard Law School. Here he courted his future wife, who grew up in the nearby neighborhood of South Shore, and here his children were born and now attend (private) school. Here, too, is the mansion he bought in 2005, with the proceeds from his two bestselling books in which he speaks fondly of the life he has built here.
Congratulations on finishing page one! Watch Barack Obama marry! Watch Barack Obama buy a house!*2 Watch Barack Obama procreate! There's really nothing here to critique, except the old "you would expect a conservative to be happy about someone privatizing their child's education" / "it's just a commentary on our failure to better educate the least of us."
The affection is mutual. The Hyde Park Herald printed a gala issue when Obama announced his candidacy, in February 2007. "Despite national fame, Barack Obama remains a Hyde Parker to the core," read the banner headline. Inside were display ads from local businesses, full of good wishes and exclamation points: "Good luck, neighbor!"; "Wish Hyde Park's very own Barack Obama and family all the best!"; "Congratulations to Barack, our hometown hero!" There were pages of testimonials from neighbors, shopkeepers, political activists, and his barber, too. All agreed he's "down to earth." One local mother recalled standing next to him at a Halloween parade. "He greeted me with a friendly 'hello,' " she testified. A waitress at his favorite restaurant: "No matter what might be on his mind, he always asks how I'm doing." "He was always one of my quietest customers," said the owner of the local video store. "But when he did have something to say it was always soothing and stimulating at the same time. When he walked away he would leave that thought in your mind. It made you wonder." America has been having the same reaction, but Hyde Parkers experienced it first.
OMG we like having a national celebrity. It sounds like Fergie wishes we would trash him, but that's just typical Rovie stuff - find the guy at the Med Bakery that Barack told off that one time.
If you think this sounds improbably quaint and Norman Rockwellish, like Anytown, USA, Hyde Parkers think so too. They often refer to their neighborhood as a "small town."
Not that I'm a 'Comprehension Stickler,'*3 but if Hyde Parkers think saying Hyde Park is quaint is improbably quaint, they're unlikely to refer to it as a small town, the USMLE Buzz Word for "quaint."
Hyde Park isn't a town (it used to be before being incorporated into Chicago in the late 1800's -p.e.) but, with a population of roughly 35,000, depending on who's counting and how, it is pretty small: 15 city blocks from north to south, another 15 or so from Washington Park on the west to its eastern boundary at the shore of Lake Michigan.
wrongo. Hyde Park proper is 8 blocks N->S, 51st St to 59th St. and 8 blocks E->W, Cottage Grove (800 E) to Lake Michicagn (circa 1600 E). Technically, Barack Obama doesn't live in HP, he lives in Kenwood. I can't speak to the population numbers, but if Fergie wants to keep characterizing the HP as small town America, I'm happy to ignore him while he shoots his left foot and angrily claims it's the right.
Its sense of urban intimacy is reinforced by its isolation. It is the most racially integrated neighborhood in the nation's most racially segregated city.
I note that racial integration is not a characteristic of presciosity, but rather of precociousness. We want America to be integrated, as witnessed by the shameless tokenism of the Republican't convention schedule, and the fact that they don't even complain about how shamelessly they tokenize.
On three sides it is closed in by some of the most hellish slums in the country, miles of littered streets, acres of abandoned lots, block after block of shuttered storefronts and empty apartment buildings left over from the 19th century.
While I thought the previous characterization was woefully short, this one again misses the point. The neighborhoods surrounding Hyde Park are economically depressed, racially unintegrated, and not particularly safe, but they are not dead zones. A casual drive from the highway would have revealed many many open storefronts and people going about their lives. Some appartment buildings are shuttered, others are being rehabbed, others are still inhabited. That's why it's not incongruous for a community organizer to live in Hyde Park and work in the larger South Side. HP is not Grinnell, Iowa teleported alongside Lake Michigan. It is the nice part of the area, but it is of the area. I note that Barack Obama's "mansion" is also a "building left over from the 19th century."
These terminate abruptly at the edge of Hyde Park and give way to shade trees and lawns and stately brick mansions and huge, tidied-up apartment houses.
Again with the not knowing the borders of Hyde Park. Kenwood to the north is very nice. Woodlawn has a lot of freshly rehabbed appartment buildings, and the Washington Park neighborhood abruptly terminates at Washington Park, the park.*4 Again with the 'casual drive from I-90/94 would have found trees in Washington Park.' Again, I note that a Hyde Park mansion is a Washington Park shuttered brick house.
Surrounded, Hyde Park is different from any neighborhood in Chicago--different from anywhere in America, for that matter.
Finally, Premise A. Marks off for not underlining it. Marks off for burying it on the second page. Others might not have noticed it, but I trained in the Kaus/Althouse school of argument! A: Hyde Park is not like America. B: Barack Obama is of Hyde Park. Therefore, Barack Obama is not of America. However, my Etherised/Isofluranised style will defeat your Kaus/Althouse style since my argument against Premise A has the advantage of being true. In the trivial snowflake sense, Hyde Park is different from anywhere in America, but is Fergie really saying there's nowhere else in America where a nice neighborhood abuts a not-so-nice neighborhood? Is Fergie saying there are no other communities where everyone is all up in everyone else's business?

Perhaps it's just that I grew up one mile from a massive IBM printer plant, but Hyde Park reminds me of nothing so much as a white collar factory town. Our Applebee's says "Medici" out front, but it's got the same random stuff on the walls and the same waitresses that have been there forever. We park along our streets, rather than in our driveways, but you still see kids whizzing by on their bikes and playing ball in the park. It's 5 miles to the nearest Target, and 7 to the nearest movie theater. The goals of my circle of acquaintances are to have fun, to get married and have kids, to get ahead by working hard and to own their own homes. We have our liberal blowhards, and our conservative blowhards.
Some people call it a college town (REMEMBER THIS BIT), since its largest inhabitant, the institution that defines the neighborhood's character, is the University of Chicago, one of the world's most prestigious universities.
Coincidentally, some of our blowhards actually know what they're talking about (others are the tin-foil hat email forwarders... just like anywhere else, I suppose)
A friend once described Hyde Park as "Berkeley with snow,"
And the bag of Ramen in my cabinet once described Fergie as "A douchebag, except larger."*5
and it does indeed have the same graduate-student flavor,
What is a graduate student flavor? Chicken? Tears and hard work? How many years of eating it does it take to taste like Cobb lentil soup? Seriously. The grad students I know are alarmingly hard working 20 somethings on the lowest rung of an extremely important profession.
the same political activism and boho intellectualism, the same alarmingly high number of men wandering about looking like NPR announcers--the wispy beards and wire rims, the pressed jeans and unscuffed sneakers, the backpacks and the bikes.
Hey, another Collateralized Debt Obligation! Except it's almost pure junk. Every political activist I've seen was an undergrad, and there were very few - no demonstrations, no marches, no sit ins, no flower children, no bombings (doubtless to Fergie's disappointment). Again, Boho intellectualism, by which I guess he means the sort of big think fostered in undergraduates by classical college education seems to be largely an undergraduate pasttime. Sadly, I don't know what an NPR announcer looks like, but on my typical walks on the quad, I see distressingly few wispy beards, wire rims, pressed jeans or unscuffed sneakers. The backpacks and bikes are the BBB bonds of this example. I must confess, I see a lot of college students CARRYING THINGS ON THEIR BACKS. And travelling TO AND FRO USING NEITHER THEIR FEET NOR THEIR CARS. Quelle f'ing horror my friends.

(This is a pretty good description of William Ayers, by the way.)

Wow, he sounds just like Ted Kaczynski. Let's rend him, extraordinarily. Good job tying the article together, though. Fergie makes no mention of the women though... presumably they're not afflicted by "NPR announce disease," or at least if they are, they look more like Michele Norris than Carl Kasell Come to think about it... Carl Kasell: wispy beard - uncheck; wire-rim glasses - uncheck; pressed jeans - presumably uncheck; unscuffed sneakers - presumably uncheck; backpack - uncheck; bicycle - uncheck. Perhaps it's because I spend a lot of time in the hospital (like many many other Hyde Parkers, but apparently unlike our correspondent), but I see an 'alarmingly high number' of people that look like Carl Kasell.
But the similarities can be overdone. "Not 'Berkeley with snow,'  " a U. of C. professor said, when I mentioned my friend's comment to him. "It's the snow that keeps us from being Berkeley. The snow and the cold keep the street people away. (actually, it doesn't - I suppose that is one way HP differs from the 'burbs -p.e.) It drives everyone inside. (unlike the parts of America that don't get cold, or where it gets cold but people don't go inside? -p.e.)You don't have all the students who dropped out of school or graduated and refused to leave. If they stay, they do something. If not, they get out of town. It's too cold just to hang around."
I actually have several alternative theories for why 'they' don't just hang around - they've just graduated and they're ready to start their lives; they have big piles of debt to pay off; they don't have ultra-rich parents to support a few extra years of partying; they want to see other parts of the country; their friends are leaving... One wonders what department this professor is in.
This contributes to the neighborhood's relatively low crime rate
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA compared to what? Seriously, relative compared to what. If he means "relative compared to your average (read: suburban, white, upper middle class - more on that later) neighborhood," I think the value of my condo just shot up 25%. If he means relative to the surrounding areas, he's just dead wrong. Maybe it's dropouts and post-grad losers that do the crime at Berkely, but in the HP it's bad actors from the neighboring neighborhoods, and the 'relatively low crime rate' is due entirely to the UofC police department (God bless 'em). If you needed evidence the dateline is just a line, look no further.
and, in part, to the university's reputation as a home for squares and nerds,
So the wispy bearded NPR announcers are actually squares and nerds?
a buttoned-down "bastion of conservatism," in the phrase of one magazine writer. And the conservatism, by popular account, infects the neighborhood at large, tempers its politics, and adds to its diversity. But the reputation for right-wingery is based on a simple if imprecise bit of data that shocks the delicate sensibilities of college professors: Of the tens of thousands of faculty who have taught at the University of Chicago over the past half-century, perhaps as many as 65 have, at some point in their lives, voted for a Republican.
Data? Seriously. There are more than 65 business professors right now, and don't tell me the lawschool is all Stevens and no Scalia. As for the med school, one of my professors (yes that's an ironic use of authority) said of a group of med students "there go a gaggle of democrats on their way to being republicans." Fergie may be surprised to find that the hospital contains more than a few doctors.

On a deeper level, there's a shift going on - throughout the piece you've been getting impressions and reputation, with little hard data. Now, we're shown a piece of reputation and told not to believe it. Again, the audience for this piece is the Rovies, we just happened to Google it.
Many of these insurgents were either disciples of the university's most famous faculty member, the free-market economist Milton Friedman, or were drawn to the school because of him; others came under the influence of Allan Bloom, the Straussian philosopher, who ran the university's Olin Center for Inquiry into the Theory and Practice of Democracy, along with a few classically minded scholars. Bloom is dead. So is Friedman. The Olin Center closed its doors in 2005. Their disciples and colleagues who remain at the university aren't getting any younger. It's unlikely that the school's wobbly reputation for conservatism, and the neighborhood's, will survive them.
The "classically minded scholars" are still in the driver's seat for the undergrad curriculum if my sources are to be believed. Friendman is dead, but the Milton Friedman Institute lives. Strauss's Committee on Social Thought continues as well. The free market centric reality of the business school and economics departments can be seen in the excitement for Obama among fans of Prof. Austen Goolsbee. The nature of the Academy (boo hiss!) guarantees Friedman's disciples will have disciples.

Pause for a second to wonder why it matters if there are 65 or 600 conservatives on the UofC faculty. If the question is - does Barack Obama come from a very liberal neighborhood, the answer doesn't depend on Milton Friedman's continued life. If the question is - were Barack Obama's ideas challenged on a daily basis by people he disagreed with, then you cast aspersions on the authenticity of every Republican that doesn't live in a college town.

As a matter of fact, I do belive it was good for Barack Obama to have his ideas questioned from right and left, from black and white, and latino and asian, from Catholic and Jewish and Muslim - oh darn I started channeling again. And I think it hurts Republican politicians when they don't have a chance to have their posiitons really challenged in a thoughtful way before they make those positions official and are forced to defend them no matter how ridiculous the situation becomes.
The reputation for diversity, though, probably will survive (Fergie admits it's true*6 -p.e.). It's not often noted that the neighborhood's diversity has its limits. "In Hyde Park," a resident told me, " 'integration' means white people and black people (those are the people from the surrounding neighborhoods - p.e.)." The nation's fastest growing ethnic group, Hispanics, is scarcely represented at all; same for Asians (HAHA. FAIL. Obviously didn't walk around -p.e.). The neighborhood is better known as a haven for the black upper class, especially those who don't want to move to an all-white suburb but also don't want the crime risks and miserable schools associated with the neighborhoods to the immediate south, west, and north ("Better known as"? weasel words! -p.e.). Some of these people are famous--Harold Washington, Chicago's first black mayor, lived in an apartment by the lake, and Muhammad Ali lived down the block from Louis Farrakhan, who lives in Elijah Muhammad's old digs, around the corner from the house of Joe Louis's widow. Most are lawyers and business executives from the Loop, doctors and technicians from the university hospital center, administrators and professors from the university--united to the white upper class through shared politics and aspirations, and delighting in, congratulating one another on, their unique neighborhood.
O.K. Muhammed Ali, Farrakhan and Louis live in Kenwood. Kenwood. Kenwood. I check Wikipedia before I write my hit pieces, o.k.? Anyway, Fergie says the neighborhood isn't all professors, but then says it doesn't matter because everyone is happy about their little town. And it's well known that enjoying where you live makes you a liberal bastion incapable of producing real leaders. The attempt to say that the black professionals aren't really black seems part of the old line questionign whether Obama was black enough. I have to tell Fergie he's out of date and the new line is questioning whether Obama isn't too black. Too black. Not to mention the negative effects of assuming that education and a salary prevent someone from being authentically black.
Hyde Park has always been relatively affluent, but the neighborhood's character was changed forever beginning in the mid-1950s, when university officials orchestrated an ambitious scheme of urban renewal, paid for by the city and federal governments. The project was the first of its kind in Chicago, and one of the first in the country, and it served for a generation as a model for other cities, for better or worse--usually worse. But in Hyde Park urban renewal worked like a Swiss watch.
Throwaway (thank G-d, my computer's getting tired)

"You have to understand the mindset," a neighborhood preservationist, Jack Spicer, told me. "In the middle of the 1950s, the university thought they were in the middle of an emergency. Alarms were going off everywhere." All around Hyde Park, white flight was transforming Chicago, goosed by racial panic and the sleazy importunities of "blockbusters"--real estate speculators who bought the houses of fleeing whites at fire-sale prices, then flipped them at a high profit to incoming blacks. "The university figured Hyde Park was next," Spicer said. The school was having trouble attracting students and faculty. Administrators considered moving the campus to Arizona or New Mexico--anywhere pleasant--but balked at the expense. At last they decided that if they couldn't move to a nice neighborhood, they would make their neighborhood nice.

The aim of urban renewal in Hyde Park, according to the university's president, was "to buy, control, and rebuild our neighborhood" until it was a "community of similar tastes and interests." The program lasted a decade. By the end of it the neighborhood had been reconfigured physically and redefined socially. Vast stretches of the old Hyde Park were bulldozed, including the main shopping and entertainment (that is, honky-tonk) district along 55th Street. Planners clear-cut an entire subneighborhood of wooden bungalows that housed workers from the nearby slaughterhouses and the Indiana steel mills, scattering the residents to parts unknown. From these razed blocks sprung parking garages, dormitories, classroom buildings, parks, and rows of townhouses suitable for students and faculty.

What survived the wrecking ball was equally desirable: the mansions built during the neighborhood's day as the city's Gold Coast, in the 1890s, when it drew Armours, Swifts, and other monied families looking for a lakeside home. Just to the south, turn-of-the-century apartment houses were saved, refurbished, and offered as housing for the administrators and faculty at U. of C. Having uprooted most neighborhood businesses, the plan concentrated all commercial activity into three small shopping centers, from which most of the old shop owners were excluded. A single saloon survived. Notably absent from the scheme was any public housing for the poor. After ten years of urban renewal, the neighborhood's population had dropped by 40 percent.

More throwaway (i.e. irrelevant to stuff after 1960). The one thing I would say is that many urban medical centers - Yale, Cleveland Clinic, Pitt, are like spaceships. People drive in, move form building to building on elevated walkways, and their feet never touch the ground. One can fault the university for a lot in its management of Hyde Park, but the result is something everyone can hold hands and sing kumbaya about.

Hyde Park's isolation was by design. At its boundaries, the university bought and leveled city blocks that could serve as a buffer, or moat, from the surrounding South Side as it filled with impoverished blacks.
I would love to know what he thinks they blew up. Not the Midway, it was there for the Columbian Exposition in 1893. Not Washington Park, as it was also part of the Columbian Exposition. And Not Hyde Park Boulevard, since it didn't get blown up, or if it did, it's not a moat since they built stuff on it.

The isolation brings a whiff of unreality to the neighborhood. The place seems unrooted. It's neither one thing nor the other. Hyde Park lacks the freewheeling energy of a college town (Oh, really? See above, and below -p.e.), and it lacks the surprises and variety of a healthy city neighborhood (as opposed to the authentically 'bombed out' surrounding ones? or the lily white ones up north? -p.e.). Strolling the quiet streets on a morning in May you'll admire the lilacs spilling over the low stone fences, the mansions with the squares of lawn marching to the edge of the boulevards, the funky, vine-covered apartment buildings shaded by overarching oak and poplar. Only after a day or so do you notice what's not here. There are no movie theaters, for example, and not much commerce generally. There's nowhere to buy a pair of pants or shoes. There aren't many restaurants, and only a single overpriced restaurant catering to the culinary affectations of the yuppie trade--strange for a neighborhood with so many wealthy residents. Only in the last few months did the neighborhood get a reliable, clean, and well-stocked grocery store.

I note that my subdivision in Colorado didn't have any commerce either. It was a mile to the grocery store (same as Hyde Park), Target and theatres we already covered. Hyde Park does have two liquor stores, six bars, four bookstores, a hardware store, two banks, two drug stores, a Fedex/Kinkos, and very many non-yuppie restaraunts. People seem to grossly overestimate an average professors salary, which is perhaps where the idea that profs are elitist comes from. The Banana was appalled when I informed her that somehow 'elitist' had shifted from 'plutocrat' to 'educated person.' Somehow, Fergie thinks that UofC profs fit both definitions... of that professors count as Yuppies. Alas, the Med is much more fitting than La Petit Folie.

And both of these, the fancy restaurant and the new grocery store, are creatures of the university's paternalism. The university has long been aware that the neighborhood it created lacks the amenities that urban dwellers demand as compensation for the discomforts of city living. So when the neighborhood's only large grocery store failed recently--it was a customer-owned cooperative, whose empty shelves and accumulated gunk attested to its Soviet-like disdain for market forces--the university subsidized a new outlet from a "gourmet" grocery chain (This is a complete muck up. There were three slots for grocery stores in the neighborhood and the Co-Op rented all three to preserve its monopoly, going deeply into debt to the univeristy. The university finally killed it. Treasure Island is the replacement at one slot, and it's no Whole Foods. The selection is slightly broader in foreign goods, but otherwise very comparable to a Dominicks-p.e.). Now everybody's happy. The fancy restaurant, too, was encouraged by the university as something its cultured faculty would like, and as a place where parents might take their student children on campus visits; the university keeps the restaurant owners afloat by providing business for their catering service (OMG, large local business encourages development in its neighborhood -p.e.). And, having obliterated the neighborhood's entertainment district 50 years ago, it is now trying to draw bars and clubs back to Hyde Park, either through subsidy or outright purchase. U. of C. recently bought and moved the South Side landmark Checkerboard Lounge close to campus, to restore the nightlife that the 1950s urban planners hoped to kill (and did).

Hyde Parkers sometimes seem strangely unaware of how completely their neighborhood's uniqueness is a product of the university's noblesse oblige (Really? On what basis? I'm painfully aware of where the call boxes are on my way home, and I wave at every police I see -p.e.). An outsider sees it most clearly in the university police cars that patrol Hyde Park around the clock, and in the emergency call boxes spaced throughout the entire neighborhood, far beyond the campus proper, that anyone can use at any time to summon campus cops. (The university police force is the second largest police force in Illinois.) The paternalism is less obvious because it has never been racial. Urban renewal drove out as many poor whites as poor blacks; for university officials in the 1950s, enlightened liberals all, the panic was over a decline in social and economic class. "They wanted a comfortable place for the upper class to live," said Spicer, the preservationist. "They didn't want only black families, or all black families, but black families of the right sort were welcomed." The neighborhood's famous racial harmony is the result. The comedian (and later movie director) Mike Nichols, who got his start in a club on the old 55th Street, defined Hyde Park liberalism for all time: "Black and white, marching arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder against the poor."

Wasn't it the tough-on-crime Nixons and Reagans that told us it's not that they disliked the poor, they were just fighting crime? And if the suggestion is that Barack Obama is against the poor (like that tax increase nonsense) then you're dashed by his community organizing and professing as opposed to selling out for megabucks and poor-screwing (unless you think this is all some secret plot to get powerful enough to screw all the poor at once).

Right out of college, Barack Obama placed himself in the middle of this curious legacy. Culturally he's never been a "South Sider," because no one on the south side thinks of Hyde Park as a South Side neighborhood (despite, you know, all the professionals that live in Hyde Park and work outside - see authentically black above -p.e.). It's an anomaly that the writer and cultural critic Andrew Patner, a native Hyde Parker, tried to explain to me as we drove around the neighborhood one day (apparently while wearing blinders -p.e.).

"There's a certain wariness toward Hyde Park among South Side blacks, most of whom are poor," he said. "If you're from another neighborhood, you might go to Hyde Park on the weekends. But there's a word, sadiddy. It means you think maybe you're better than you are. Pretentious. That's sort of the view of Hyde Park. It's too weird, too far outside what most of Chicago knows."

This had consequences for Obama's political future. Most successful African-American politicians in Chicago come up through the Democratic big-city political machine--either the old machine of Richard J. Daley or the gentler version overseen by his son, the current mayor, Richard M. Daley. Even Harold Washington, now canonized as the greatest of Chicago reformers, was machine-made. By contrast, politicians from Hyde Park, white or black, actively opposed the machine and the headlock it had on the city's politics. "Politically," wrote the Chicago political analyst David Fremon, "Hyde Park has never joined the city." Obama is a politician of Hyde Park pedigree, outside the normal bloodlines of Chicago's black politics.

So Obama is NOT from a corrupt political machine, therefore he's suspect!

"When Barack announced for president," Patner told me, "it was a total ho-hum in the black community"--beyond Hyde Park, that is (I thought Patner was a Hyde Parker and "real" South Siders dont' talk to Hyde Parkers? -p.e.). "It just wasn't that big a deal."

A political rival, State Senator Donne Trotter, put it this way in an interview with the Chicago Reader: "Barack is viewed in part to be the white man in blackface in our community. You just have to look at his supporters. Who pushed him to get where he is so fast? It's these individuals in Hyde Park, who don't always have the best interests of the community in mind."

"That's one of the downsides to his background, coming up outside normal channels," Patner went on. "He's always had to prove himself with the black community. He never had that seal of approval. But there are upsides, too."

One upside is that Obama, the Hyde Parker, was automatically more appealing--less threatening--to white liberals, in Hyde Park and beyond. The other upside, said Patner, is that "because he came up through Hyde Park instead of the machine, he stayed clear of all the corruption that's involved with that."

So one of Barack's rivals trashes him and points out he had low black support outside his immediate community when he started running. A perusal of the south side now would show a very different perspective. Still I'll rehearse the classical explanation of why he wasn't supported in the begining - the widespread perception that Hillary had it locked up, so why throw your vote away? Once Obama showed his viability in Iowa (darn those white liberals anyway!) black enthusiasm exploded.

By Chicago standards, Obama's sweetheart real estate deal with the convicted fixer (real estate developer -p.e.) Tony Rezko--who purchasd the lot next to the house Obama was buying, effectively giving him a bigger yard for free (with the stated purpose of developing it -p.e.)--is almost beneath comment: a cost of doing business or a small professional benefit, typical of machine-backed pols and reformers alike. None of the progressive politicos I spoke with in Hyde Park considered it dismaying--"disappointing," as one oldtimer said, but hardly disqualifying. Most found in Obama instead a mint-perfect expression of their particular brand of politics.

"Barack is perfect for the neighborhood!" Rabbi Arnold Wolf told me, when I stopped by his Hyde Park house one afternoon for a talk. He's as round and white-bearded as Santa, with the same twinkle. He came to Hyde Park before urban renewal and saw its effects firsthand. For 25 years he led the congregation at KAM Isaiah Israel, a synagogue across the street from Obama's mansion. (Recently, the Secret Service contingent has been using its bathrooms.)

"You can't say Barack's a product of Hyde Park. He's not really from here. But everybody saw the potential early on. We had a party for him at our house when he was just starting, back in the Nineties. I said right away: 'Here's a guy who could sell our product, and sell it with splendor!' "

I asked him what the Hyde Park product was.

"People think we're radicals here, wild-eyed!" he said. "Bill Ayers--I know Bill Ayers very well. Bill Ayers is an aging, toothless radical. A pussycat. And his wife, too. I sat on a commission with his wife a few years ago. My god, she was more critical of the left than I was! The two of them, they're utterly conventional people. They had a violent streak at one time. But now--they're thoroughly conventional, just very nice, well-educated people from the neighborhood."

As it happened, I'd spent the evening before reading Ayers's blog, and lingered over a manifesto he posted in early April, after his friendship with Obama became national news. "I've never advocated terrorism," Ayers wrote, "never participated in it, never defended it. The U.S. government, by contrast, does it routinely and defends the use of it in its own cause consistently." Capitalism, he went on, "is exhausted as a force for progress: built on exploitation, theft, conquest, war, and racism, capitalism and imperialism must be defeated and a world revolution--a revolution against war and racism and materialism, a revolution based on human solidarity and love" and so on.

Just another guy in the neighborhood (What did I mention about blowhards? -p.e.).

But back to the product Obama could sell?

"The thing is, it's not what you might think," Rabbi Wolf said. "It's not radical. It's not extreme. It's a rational, progressive philosophy based on experience. You see it here. This neighborhood is genuinely integrated. We did it here, we really did it! Not just talk about it. Look around. And Barack and his family fit right in. This is their neighborhood."

As he walked me to the door he mused about the urban renewal that created the new Hyde Park. He said he'd always been ambivalent about it.

"Even at the time, you could see the university was saving us, and it was destroying us," he said. "It was keeping us afloat, but it was also taking away the old characteristics, the old buildings, the old trees, the old roots. But it made the neighborhood different, unique. You notice there's no class conflict here."

He twinkled.

"That's because there's only one class--upper!"

I been to services from Wolf. He's a good guy. But it's hard to look at this and see anything other than someone not used to giving hostile interviews being used to stab a friend in the back. It's also 'interesting' to see suburbanites go after Hyde Park for being island-ish, unintegrated, mono-cultural and single-classed.

The irony would be funny if it weren't so jarring: Black America, after 400 years of enforced second-class status, offers the country a plausible presidential candidate, and what's the charge made against him? He's an elitist. (Write that down Rovies: Doesn't matter how much he makes, or whether he cares about Americans, he's an elitist - p.e.)

Hyde Park may be partly responsible. Obama does show signs of having imbibed its view of the America beyond the moat. David Mendell, in his indispensable biography Obama: From Promise to Power, quotes a co-worker of Obama: "[Obama] always talked about the New Rochelle train, the trains that took commuters to and from New York City, and he didn't want to be on one of those trains every day. The image of a life, not a dynamic life, of going through the motions. .  .  . That was scary to him." In his own memoir, Obama depicts his mother fleeing the "smugness and hypocrisy" of her small Midwestern town--a town that Obama visited for the first time this year, campaigning. Only a lack of familiarity with the benign flow of middle-class American life could inspire clichés like these.

Smugness - check. Hypocrisy - check. Shall we dump on Leo Bloom because he doesn't want to be an accountant all his life? Shall I roll through the Ferguson oevre looking for derisive references to Des Moines?*7 Obama is getting the Democratic nomination for president. Win or lose, he will be a major figure in the United States for decades to come. By attacking his broad vision and talent for inspiration, his detractors admit he has a broad vision and a talent for inspiration. Barack Obama will be a major figure in the United States for decades. If you don't like his politics, it's no wonder you wish he would have gone to New Rochelle, but if I ever get to bed tonight I might have that same nightmare - Barack Obama trapped in the daily grind, reduced to a clock-watching, solitare playing grey flannel suit man.

"I never had roots growing up," Obama has often said. It's the theme of his life, as he himself tells the story. He even wrote a book, a small masterpiece, about his tortured attempts to locate himself in the larger world. From Hawaii to Indonesia and back to Hawaii, then to Los Angeles and Manhattan and Cambridge, Mass., and finally to Hyde Park: He's never lived in a part of the country that's like 90 percent of the rest of the country.
This looks like the key line of the piece, yet it actually means dog-all. Is there an archetype that describes 90% of the country? I don't think so. Do Barack's experiences in Hawaii, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Cambridge and Hyde Park only cover 10% of the 'likeness' of the country? In that case, we've so finely sliced it that to have covered 10% is a pretty good achievement. It's not geographical diversity, as he's lived on both coasts, the midwest and outside the continental 48. It's not that he's only lived in urban areas as the U.S. is much more than 10% urban. This is the line of attack - he's not like us - he's weird and elite and comes from a crazy neighborhood! But there's nothing to it, the 10% looks like a throwaway... Except, there's one small sliver. No, couldn't be that... Maybe it's a dog whistle? There is that one statistic that's about 10%, but...

This struck me one afternoon when I drove from Obama's house to Trinity United Church of Christ, the now-controversial church where he worshipped for nearly 20 years. It's a long drive, 30 minutes or more (Don't say that, he can't really be faithful, it's just convenience, get on message! -p.e.). Whether you take the freeway or the surface streets, the route jolts you from the manicured quiet of Hyde Park through one bombed-out neighborhood after another (not bombed out, people going about their lives, getting by -p.e.). Then you arrive at Trinity, hard against the roaring freeway, at the edge of a district of blond-brick bungalows, some tidy and trim, others obscured by weeds, the shutters off their hinges. After services, Obama would get the family in the car and go home (as opposed to staring off into space walking in circles for half an hour like all the authentic blacks -p.e.).

Hyde Park's the neighborhood he returned to, the place he'd chosen to live, and its roots were torn out 50 years ago (and what have we got now, astroturf?-p.e.). A college town, it has all the churning and transience the phrase implies (oh really? see above, and farther above -p.e.). Everyone seems from somewhere else. The Armours, Swifts, and the other first families of Chicago left long ago. The working men and their families, who replaced them, were driven out by the university. The poor were secured at a safe distance. Inside, harmony reigned between white and black residents, but the whites drawn by the university were often here only temporarily (except for the lifers -p.e.), and the blacks who moved here have the same sense of displacement, even if they arrived from another neighborhood nearby (evidence?-p.e.).

This is the perfect place for a man without an identity to make one of his own choosing.

I'm glad we agree on the need for Presidential Candidates to be Self-Made Men

Andrew Ferguson is a senior editor at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
You shouldda seen the crap the junior editor turned in. Recitation tomorrow.

P.S. There was a phenomenon in Colorado, probably much less common now, where you'd go down a road you hadn't been down in a month and there would be a new development up, like it had been ka-chunk'd into place by some giant development-making machine. The important thing about a place like that, with its paper-thin walls and white carpet and no grocery store and no La Petit Folie, is that when a family moves into there, it becomes a home. And their lives put meaning and roots and decency into those walls. A guy like Barack Obama settles down, gets a condo and puts down roots, that's meaningful. You can't deny that he chose the neighborhood and it shaped him. Maybe if we're lucky, he'll shape it as well.

Coincidentally, Barack Obama will work a hell of a lot harder to keep that family in their new home than John McCain will.

*: Others have addressed this question. 1. 2.

1: By which I mean Checka (they did love their guilt by association)

2: Side note on the house: It's nicely appointed, about the size of my parents four-bedroom suburban home. The (one) million dollar price tag comes from being detached - no neighbors, no condo assn.

3: Not that I find "grammar Nazi" offensive per se, just that I don't think Adolf would let you off with an angrily sharpied "that's not where the apostraphie goes, jude."

4: Which reminds me of the UofC economics study of prostitution in Chicago which is of a part with the considerable field work also reported in Freakonomics and Gang Leader for a Day. Ivory Tower it ain't (neither is the UofC emergency room, for that matter).

5: Goodbye credibility. Too bad it was so unresistable. Hey Nature, can I cite my friends? No?

6: Rovie definition of true: Incapable of reversing this perception prior to the election.

7: On the other hand, its goo-goo tradition is partly what makes Iowa atypical, hence almost worthless as a national temperature-taker. It is the fourth whitest state in the union -- fewer than 5 percent of its population is black, Hispanic, or Asian. Voter participation is much higher than the national average. Those who do vote are on average whiter, richer, older, and better educated than voters elsewhere, and those who participate in the caucuses are even more so. The large number of farmers guarantee that issues of absolutely no importance to the rest of the country -- ethanol subsidies, for instance -- preoccupy the candidates. The large oldster contingent has the same effect: As the journalist Walter Shapiro points out, the issue-fad of "notch babies," which gripped several presidential contenders in the 1980s, was purely a pander to Iowa's hefty cohort of senior citizens. - Andrew Ferguson, The Weekly Standard Aug. 16, 1999. IOWA GOTHIC; The Thrill of Being Ground Zero of Campaign 2000, p21. Well, I guess nowhere is 'like America' - darn that diversity! Also, gotcha. Also, I love Lexis-Nexis, go UofC! Also, how can I get into the gig of doing hit pieces on places?

8: EDIT: Duplicate quoted paragraph removed here.