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.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Joe Biden, American Hero

I was skeptical of the Joe Biden selection, as I hadn't really heard of him and his biography would seem to make it easy to caricature him as another Washington Insider. However, something changed my mind...

My informed, yet distant Argentinian Christmas focus group said the election was going to be about Clinton vs. Giuliani, and that Giuliani would probably win. I suggested the Iowa Democrats might surprise them, but didn't think much on the Republican side.

Yet Giuliani dropped out, and Joe Biden just might have had somehthing to do with it.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Stop hurting small businesses!

This might be a good time to bring up my perennial question:
Why is S-Corporation income taxed at the same rate as personal income while C-corp income is taxed at a different rate?

It seems if the problem with raising marginal income tax rates is that it hurts small businesses, you could just come up with a separate tax rate for small businesses - right?

crossposted to yglesias

Thursday, August 21, 2008

DNCDG: Monday Night

Finish your drink if:

Jimmy Carter....................................Threatens to bomb someone
Nancy Pelosi..............................Announces an impeachment vote
Jesse Jackson Jr...........Says he's going to cut someone's nuts off
You've heard of.........................................................Clint Borgen
John Hickenlooper.....................Puts "change" in a parking meter
Amy Klobuchar.........................................Tells an Al Franken joke
Manny Diaz.............................Apologizes for voting Pat Buchanan
Alexi Giannoulis, Dan Hynes, and Lisa Madigan............................
................................Designated bathroom break
Tom Balanoff....Demands a card check for the "delegates union"
Reg Weaver..................................................................................
...............Nominates Robert Byrd as he's had tenure the longest
Randi Weingarten............................................Vouches for Obama
Nancy Keenan.....Says Roberta McCain made the wrong 'choice'
Sen. Claire McCaskill........................Invites Obama to Mizz-er-E
Lee Hamilton..............Challenges James Baker to a death match
Miguel del Valle............................Gives everyone a parking ticket
Michelle Obama.........................................Does a terrorist fist jab
Craig Robinson.......................................Refers to doing time in HP
Maya Soetoro-Ng...............Refers to her and Barack as 'mullatos'
Jerry Kellman...............................................................................
............Explains to Ann Althouse what a community organizer is

If during the program...
The analysts don't analyze the speech..................Take a drink
There'a a "clean coal" ad..................Drink a non alcoholic beer
There's a McCain ad.......................................................2 drinks
A demonstration 'spontaneously' erupts...................................
................................................'Spontaneously' finish your drink
PUMAs attack..........................................................Find a cougar

Bob finally found a Mickey Replacement

To my satisfaction, Bob finally found a conversation partner as irritating as Mickey.

Bob's mode of argument tends to be:
Wouldn't you agree that A?
And you have a previously stated the principle B.
So therefore you agree with me.

See the discussion of Clarence Thomas. Bob's implicit argument is: Wouldn't you agree that Clarence Thomas is not sufficiently brilliant to be a jurist? And you believe that SCOTUS judges should be the best legal minds. So therefore you agree that Barack Obama was right to say he wouldn't have voted for Thomas.

The Jonah Goldbergs of the world would go after premise B and say it's not enough to have a brilliant legal mind, you also have to have the right opinions (or judicial philosophy). Ann and Mickey, however, see where the argument is going, and attack premise A. Since premise A tends to be something widely believed but which is difficult to prove, this leaves Bob sputtering.

It is that Coffee/Tequilla/Tabsco taste that has been missing from the previous Kaus replacements. Bravo Ann!

Crossposted to forum

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Democratic National Convention Drinking Game

I'm a civic-minded fellow, which extends to involving my peers in civic events. Knowing the college student's love of drinking games, I introduced my friends to the State of the Unions via Melzer and Deutsch's always timely rules.

As further education, I recommend watching the conventions...

The Democratic National Convention will run 8/25-8/28. There are almost 60 speakers, so a SOTU-like precision is not possible. Instead, I propose the following general rules:

Whenever a speaker says..........................Take this many drinks
George W. Bush...................................................................1
Change..............................................................................small 1
Barack Obama....................................................................0
Barack Hussein Obama.......................................................3
God damn America.............damn your drink (into your stomach)
A euphemism for John McCain...........................................1

Specific Speakers to follow

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Frat boys?

Via Andrewsullivan:
A wise social scientist once commented to me that the most important task facing any society is the socialization of its young men.... The most powerful shaper of popular attitudes is the entertainment industry, and what is it doing?

This mentality can be summed up simply: Young men have no minds, souls, or characters worth bothering about; they care about nothing, respect nothing, and aspire to nothing. They are pure appetite and aggression, just waiting to be pandered to for money. So may the best panderer win.

Already I am tired of the fuss over Michael Phelps, who has won eight gold medals but seems to have less charisma than a carp. But at least he aspired to greatness and achieved it. Without sports -- and, of course, war -- what other challenges are presented to young men? Being the biggest gross-out on the block?
- Martha Bayles

Excelling academically, being published, being popular, getting laid, brewing beer, winning at trivia, buying a house before your friends, forming meaningful relationships, getting achievements in Team Fortress, maintaining your college weight, running a marathon, asking cute girls out, edward 40-hands, naming a gene, pattenting something, compiling your linux kernel, learning to drive stick, being financially independent of your parents, cooking well, getting to level 20.

Most of us are not constitutionally frat boys. We have appetites, fortunately, or else we should starve. And yet... Consider the psychological gambit de jure - participants in a psychological study will accept a penalty just for the avoid the loss of an option they wouldn't have taken anyway. Of course having read about the study, one can avoid the error described therein when given the same task, however strong the tendency may be in a naive subject.

The gross-out character in modern film is a focus of attention, which I crave, however he is also a character for the viewers scorn, and in most films ultimately mends its ways. A thoughtful young man might conclude it's best to skip the gross-out phase and steal a march on the less thoughtful...

Friday, August 15, 2008

The bin Laden Doctrine

I just started watching Yes, Minister (Banana: It's really funny). "Open Government," the first episode, is about the co-opting of a new minister that comes in on a reformist platform.1

In one scene two permanent undersecretaries (the highest ranking civil servant) are educating one of the juniors:

PUS1: You can be open, or you can have government
Jr: But surely the citizens of a democracy have a right to know.
PUS2: No, they have a right to be ignorant. Knowledge only means complicity and guilt, ignorance has a certain dignity.


This reminded me of The bin Laden Doctrine:
p1) In wartime, the command and control of an enemy is a fair target.
p2) In a democracy, control of the government ultimately rests on the public.
c1) Therefore in wartime, the population of democracy is a fair target.

The only answer I can come up with is that the populace exercises weak control in the day-to-day functioning of the military, and only occasionally exerts real power, but this would seem to warrant attacks around election time, probably the worst time for them to happen. How shall I puzzle my way out of these dark thoughts?

1. It shows why Gov't departments should have a few ranks of political appointees loyal to the president at their top. The Goodling incident of late shows this can go too far, but one or two men thrown in a hostile department are already on the plane to Stockholm.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The most important thing about foreign aid

Is making sure everyone knows where it comes from.

Raq Rabbit

If Tom Clancy wanted to be really relevant, he could tell the semi-fictionalized story of how Jack Ryan and the British went to Iraq and recruited the head of Iraqi intelligence, then managed to get him out of Iraq without anyone noticing.

When Ryan and Clark ignore the Iraqi intelligence guy telling them there are no WMDs, then use him to fabricate evidence that Mohammed Atta met with Iraqi intelligence, we would all cheer that they beat back those irritating politicians and their 'peacetime' mindset.

This is opposed to the real world where we found out about Habbush and did nothing.

Monday, August 11, 2008

N. Things to know about scientists before passing judgement on Bruce Ivans

The story that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax attacker came out with a bang, surprising, I think, everyone. I find the idea that the attacks were an inside job appealing, because they tie up the strings of how someone would get the equipment and expertise, and how they would smuggle the anthrax into the country if it were made overseas. The evidence is circumstantial, but of course the evidence in a case like this would be... Yet doubts remain.

Taking into account my never having worked in a biodefense lab, I think it might be worth noting some things about scientists in general that shed light on this case.

1. Scientists are really bad at security. Without compromising the security of my own lab, the only thing I can say is that passwords are routinely left lying around becuase people routinely log into one another's computers to get old data, DNA sequences, etc. etc. Getting scientists to lock up the lab is a major issue. Labs that routinely collaborate will exchange keys so that people can get into each other's freezers and borrow materials.

Depending on security at Detrick, either it was really hard to get into the anthrax wing, yet once inside one could move freely, or it was hard to get in and one needed different codes to get into different labs. Even if the latter case was true in theory, the more open case would likely pertain in fact with people moving between labs with impunity. Moral: Just because something is in your lab doesn't mean you're the only one with access.

2. Most scientists are disorganized. Most obviously in their lab notebooks, but also in keeping their vials of stuff arranged, whether they be flies, DNA vectors, or anthrax cultures. Did that culture get here 9 years ago, or did we get it as part of the forensic work 7 years ago? The poor hand-writing of most bench workers means that going through an old lab mate's notebook looking for details on some bit of DNA they constructed is a crapshoot. Many experiments will be completely ignored if they failed. Non-frost-free freezers fill with ice and tubes get lost in the permafrost. Material gets moved form project to project or from lab to lab depending on who thinks they might need it next, not on where it makes most sense. Moral: Just because something is in your lab, it doesn't mean you know about it.

3. Wet work looks like wet work. Which is to say, the guy at the next bench doesn't know whether the bacteria I'm working with are expressing delta sarcoglycan or botulinum toxin. If he sees me growing a large culture, he doesn't know if I'm preparing a lot of DNA to inject into mouse embryos, or to dry out and mail to my congressman. The label says Drosophila-dsg, and who are they to question it.

4. Scientific knowledge is a mile deep and an inch wide. This includes technique. Despite dozens of lab meetings from colleagues talking about cell culture, I couldn't even keep them alive without personal instruction. Even well written books will forget to convey the little things necessary for success (e.g. there is no "any" key). If my lab had a spore aerosolizer the odds of my not breaking it, much less successfully weaponizing anthrax would be very low. This also argues against the defense of a scientist being too clever to leave the clues the FBI relied on. Which will they find more believable - That you didn't recognize what the vial was and burned it, or that you lost it in the back of the freezer? A scientist wouldn't know. A cop would.

5. Living things have their own schedule. Mice are born on Thanksgiving, Taq only goes so fast, I just got back from putting on a primary antibody at 9 at night. So unless you're 2 out of 3 lucky, well organized, or not in a hurry, you'll show up at some strange hours.

6. Scientists are weird. Weird hobbies, weird ideas of the world, weird personnae. Maybe I read Watchtower and don't want anyone to know so I subscribed under an assumed name. Maybe the best Harold's Chicken is in by the DG house in Evanston. If you excluded weird people, all science would be brick laying science, and there would be a lot more intense baristas with 'theories.'

There's not much original here, but I hope it helps your understanding, or perhaps prompts the FBI to be a bit more open.

Any more oversimplifications to consider?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Goose-stepping morons like you should try reading books instead of burning them

Saw the opening ceremony last night. Made me feel very warm about China in general and specifically Olympics. Some regret at cheering Olympic Torch relay protestors. Only jarring note was when 8 athletes run in the Olympic Flag (5 interlocking rings on white1), then hand if off to 8 Chinese Army soldiers who do a very robot / precision creepy goosestep (R. foot into air, swing arm, R. foot down, L. foot up, arm swing...) then walk it in. Couldn't decide whether to laugh, or get upset. Currently reading collection of Orwell essays. Orwell:

One rapid but fairly sure guide to the social atmosphere of a country is the parade-step of the army. A military parade is really a kind of ritual dance, something like a ballet, expressing a certain philosophy of life. The goose-step, for instance, is one of the most horrible sights in the world, far more terrifying than a dive bomber. It is simply an affirmation of naked power: contained in it, quite consciously and intentionally, is the vision of a boot crashing down on a face.* Its ugliness is part of its essence, for what it is saying is "Yes, I am ugly, and you daren't laugh at me," like the bully who makes faces at his victim. Why is the goose-step not used in England? There are, heaven knows, plenty of army officers who would be only too glad to introduce some such thing. It is not used because the people in the street would laugh.

Emphasis, Orwell's.

1. Reminds me of when IOC sued "Legend of the Five Rings" for having five interlocking rings on the backs of cards for a trading card game (a la Magic).

*: A la 1984.