Yesterday, I attended a forum on the 2012 US elections. The WaPo's Chris Cillizza was there and kept returning to this point: yes, issues such as voter ID and the forthcoming Supreme Court ruling on the PPACA have really energized the bases of both parties. But the 10% of the electorate that decides elections, those truly undecided voters, are low-information voters, who will almost certainly cast their ballots based on the very mushy criterion of how they feel about the candidates.
First, I was aware, prior to attending this forum, that swing voters matter and that they tend to be checked out until after Labor Day. Still, something about this particular framing is depressing.
Second, does anyone here know any real, live undecided voters? I'm given to understand that they exist.
Ginger Yellow sends along this email correspondence between lawyers in Texas. I wouldn't say I run my math class this way just because it's in Texas, but if my student happens to be a gutless slut, I'm certainly going to point that out, red-faced and at full volume.
I got a 3 on this color test.
I know it's hiding in plain sight, but I still find this fascinating:
Did you ever solve the question posed to you when you were first hired -- what caused the obesity epidemic?
We think so. And it's something very simple, very obvious, something that few want to hear: The epidemic was caused by the overproduction of food in the United States.
Beginning in the 1970s, there was a change in national agricultural policy. Instead of the government paying farmers not to engage in full production, as was the practice, they were encouraged to grow as much food as they could. At the same time, technological changes and the "green revolution" made our farms much more productive. The price of food plummeted, while the number of calories available to the average American grew by about 1,000 a day.
Well, what do people do when there is extra food around? They eat it! This, of course, is a tremendously controversial idea. However, the model shows that increase in food more than explains the increase in weight.
I'm not totally clear on what constitutes available food. If I walk past a vending machine, is that 300 available calories? Once you're in a grocery store, there's infinitely many calories available, regardless of whether it's a corner store or a Megalo-mart. Or do they mean that if you tally up the total calories produced each year by companies, that it's grown by 1000/per day/per capita since the 1970s?
This is something I've read elsewhere, before:
Obesity began to rise in earnest in the early '80s, right about the time when the Farm Bill stopped paying farmers to not-grow crops and started paying them to grow as much as they could. As the number of calories available to every man, woman and child in America grew from 3,200 per day to 3,900 per day, the food companies ensured that it all got processed, marketed and consumed. The more I learn about economics, the more convinced I am that this, above anything else, is why we're all fat.
I like reframing the obesity issue away from willpower and discipline (which I don't actually believe exist) and blame, etc, and towards blaming capitalism.
If you're a social smoker, should you make an effort to hide it from your young child?
A meetup is proposed by Stranded in Lubbock, who writes: "Hey, all. Anybody interested in dinner/drinks in London the evening of Thursday, May 17? My wife and I will be staying in Pimlico, but we're happy to tube to wherever's most convenient for others. Our internet access will be spotty starting May 11, so let us know before then if you can..."
Update: Stranded in Lubbock asked me to move this post to the front sometime before Wednesday night and I said I would and I almost forgot but then I saw a comment in another thread and that reminded me PHEW. He says: "Looks like we're set for Thursday, May 17, 7:30pm, at the Queens Arms in Pimlico. Looking forward to seeing everybody there!"
If analogies are banned, then this is like the a super-long, extensive dead animal, perhaps a brontosaurus, that has come roaring back to life in order to question your privilege, you living homo sapiens you.
Imagine life here in the US -- or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world -- is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let's call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?
Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, "Straight White Male" is the lowest difficulty setting there is.
But you know, maybe it would be an effective analogy for a doofus little college freshman. OR WOULD IT?
His main gripe - my words - that in order to get thorough data, you need to approach problems like a historian, not like a sociologist, and know a lot more context. So he's very suspicious of any alleged predictive power of sociology.
Specific gripes: the tendency to:
1. Have a very small n and claim your findings are widely applicable
2. Have very huge n and claim your understanding of the topic is absolutely complete.
3. Use a model which was created in a very specific context, and apply it to a far-distant context, thereby erasing all the history and differences that would prevent it from transferring.
And also something about how sociology has really driven left-wing politics and activism over the past 120 years, and their ability to create a compelling narrative has been really clunky, compared to the right, coming out of Business schools. That sociologists get bogged down in theoretical jargon wars, while the right generates pithy memorable lies with large impact.
I admire this project but have to wonder: why no Herman Cain model?
"Grand Old Party" is a data visualization project. It is also a set of butt plugs. Each shape is determined by voter approval ratings amongst registered republican voters for each of the GOP presidential candidates. The height is a measurement of time, beginning December 10, 2011 and ending on April 1, 2012 (bottom to top). The width of each object is the quantity by percentage (out of 100%) of approval for that candidate. All data comes directly from Gallup polls.
The link is safe for work, btw.
I thought this was a pretty good article—guy reflects on the possibility that his life might have gone much differently, in particular, that he might have had the kind of bohemian life one entertains fond thoughts of when one is younger. So he finds someone he decides is the version of him who did do that, hangs out with him, and returns from the experience not a whole lot wiser. (In that respect it is true to life.) Also, he is correct that "Look At What the Light Did Now" is a good song.
In at least one way, the US is strikingly homogeneous.
Sort of via Oudie.
I ought to be able to say something about both of these items but I'm preoccupied with acquiring coffee right now.
He served time in prison for drug possession and had been out about a year when the white van pulled up at the park where Smith was playing chess. A friend lured him on board. He said he had heard the farm labor contractor in the driver's seat was fair and ran a clean camp in Hastings, a small town not far away...
Specifically, he found an overcrowded bunkhouse full of elderly, drug-addicted black men and one decrepit bathroom. Before he even arrived, the man in the driver's seat had loaned each of the 15 recruits in the van $10 for a bite to eat, on the condition they pay him back with 100 percent interest.
At the bunkhouse, he said, the men formed three lines. One was for loans, also at 100 percent interest. One was to buy shots of Wild Irish Rose or grape "Mad Dog 20/20" out of an ice chest. And one was to buy crack. By the end of the first night, penniless Smith already owed $50.
Over the course of the two months Smith was at the camp, he never received a paycheck. Though he mowed and scrubbed toilets and cleaned shower stalls, he ran up $210 in debt. The thought that he was being bilked, that there was no way out until he paid his debt, angered him.
"I had no idea where we were," he said. "All there were was potato fields and asphalt roads. ... You're just stuck there. This is where you reside until the season is over or until you get out."
Via Minivet, on facebook
Here is the video for Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs", which is fine, whatever. I like the song. The video is directed by Spike Jonze.
I want to talk about the video, aside of the song. I feel so emotionally manipulated by this video! It's like there is an easily created puppet for my demographic, and then they're just making me dance and dance emotionally. I end up feeling vaguely ridiculous and also hugely gripped. But rationally there is nothing that great going on. It's just a series of hipster and violent images and my heart obediently connects the dots.
(Other things which have emotionally gripped me recently: VH1 documentaries on Notorious B.I.G, The Last Days Of Lisa Lopes, and Behind The Music on Aaliyah. Especially the part of Notorious B.I.G's documentary when they talked about his short marriage to Faith
Hill Evans*. So sad, and I fall so hard for the manipulation.)
* I'm so embarrassed.