I’m a typical poor parent

The Times has an interesting article today on kids’ use of electonic gadgets.  As I read it, the kids were playing away on the Ipads (Alex was actually at an educational site, but I don’t think he was interested in the education).  Anyway, as to the headline:

In the 1990s, the term “digital divide” emerged to describe technology’s haves and have-nots. It inspired many efforts to get the latest computing tools into the hands of all Americans, particularly low-income families.

Those efforts have indeed shrunk the divide. But they have created an unintended side effect, one that is surprising and troubling to researchers and policy makers and that the government now wants to fix.

As access to devices has spread, children in poorer families are spending considerably more time than children from more well-off families using their television and gadgets to watch shows and videos, play games and connect on social networking sites, studies show.

This growing time-wasting gap, policy makers and researchers say, is more a reflection of the ability of parents to monitor and limit how children use technology than of access to it.

Well, I guess I need to work on my ability to monitor.

Romney and Trump

Mitt Romney has many failings, but he’s clearly a smart politician.  Thus, one really has to question what he’s thinking choosing to associate himself with Donald Trump at this time.  Chris Cilliza has a nice piece that concludes the ledger on this clearly comes out on the net cost side:

All of this Trump talk begs a simple question: Why is Romney associating himself with a man who is the public face of the debunked idea that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States and, perhaps more importantly, a man whose sole principle in life is self-promotion?…

The argument forwarded by defenders of the Romney-Trump alliance is centered on two ideas: money and the base.

On the money front, these defenders argue that Trump’s celebrity brings in a different kind of donor — including precious small dollar givers — that Romney might not otherwise attract. (The fact that the donation point — $3 — is so low is indicative of the belief within Romney finance world that Trump does have appeal among these small dollar donors.)

In regards to the base, Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody laid out the argument this way:

“Associating with Donald Trump gives Mitt Romney a way of being brash without being brash. Trump is popular with a certain portion of the GOP, the portion that Romney doesn’t connect with. Trump’s bravado is not necessarily a bad thing for Romney because it connects him to a flamethrower and his audience without having to throw the flames himself.”

True enough — on both fronts…

In terms of money, does anyone really think that Romney is going to have trouble raising the cash he needs to be competitive with President Obama?

When it comes to speaking directly to the base, it’s absolutely true that Trump’s brashness is more appealing than Romney’s stuffed-shirt business pragmatism.

But, poll after poll suggests that the conservative base of the party quickly aligned behind Romney once it became clear he was the nominee. The simple reality is that while Romney makes very few conservative hearts go pitter patter, the base of the Republican party so dislikes/distrusts President Obama that they are going to be with whoever offers an alternative to the current occupant of the White House.  [emphasis mine]

Romney’s task is not then primarily to unify his base but rather to reach out to independents. And, polling suggests Trump won’t help in that regard.

Okay, Romney’s not going to win or lose the election on Donald Trump, but really strikes me that aligning himself with Trump is not a good idea.  Though, I’m happy for Romney to have plenty more not good ideas over the next few months.

God’s Will

You know, there’s a lot of stuff in the bible people really shouldn’t take literally.  From today’s Post:

Mack Wolford, a flamboyant Pentecostal pastor from West Virginia whose serpent-handling talents were profiled last November in The Washington Post Magazine , hoped the outdoor service he had planned for Sunday at an isolated state park would be a “homecoming like the old days,” full of folks speaking in tongues, handling snakes and having a “great time.” But it was not the sort of homecoming he foresaw.

Instead, Wolford, who turned 44 the previous day, was bitten by a rattlesnake he owned for years. He died late Sunday.

Mark Randall “Mack” Wolford was known all over Appalachia as a daring man of conviction. He believed that the Bible mandates that Christians handle serpents to test their faith in God — and that, if they are bitten, they trust in God alone to heal them.

He and other adherents cited Mark 16:17-18 as the reason for their practice: “And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

And if they so trust God, why just stop with rattlesnakes.  It’s pretty clear from the verse above that Wolford should have been drinking drano, bleach, cyanide, etc.   I also recall a verse in the bible about not putting God to the test.  So much for that one.

Why the Republicans had to have a flip-flopper

Seth Masket, Hans Noel, and Gregory Koger have kicked off a new group blog focusing on political parties, mischievously titled, the Mischiefs of Faction (I long ago gave up on making my students actually read Federalist #10, but it’s good stuff).  Anyway, Seth gets the ball rolling with a really nice post on the inevitability of Republicans nominating someone who would be considered a flip-flopper:

But here’s the key point about that: No one taking the stances Romney needed to take to win this year could have had the sort of résumé needed to be a typical major party nominee. The Republican Party has been moving to the right very quickly in recent years. Almost no one taking the stances that Romney is taking now could have been elected as a senator or a governor from most states just a few years ago. So, if you were consistently conservative (like, say, Bachmann or Santorum), you were either doomed to service in the House or to being kicked out of the Senate. If you had a presidential résumé, conversely, it was probably because your views were pretty moderate a few years ago. Arguably, the only person who can get nominated in the current Republican Party is someone who has pivoted to the right rapidly in the past decade. Rapid polarization makes flip-flopping a necessity.

As for the “arguably,” personally I mostly buy the argument.  Of course, if Romney had not been running, I think that Pawlenty would have been the nominee due to the extreme weaknesses in the other candidates and I think that by the end of the nomination, Pawlenty would have, of necessity, had to be a “flip-flopper.”  Same goes for someone like Mitch Daniels or Chris Christie.   That said, if Rick Perry wasn’t just so unbelievably dumb, it could have been him– no flip-flopping.  That is an awfully big “if” though.

Photo of the day

Via Time’s photos of the week:

PEER GRIMM / EPA

Images of President Barack Obama (R) and British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) are projected behind the photographers’ stand during the NATO summit in Chicago, USA, 21 May 2012.

PEER GRIMM / EPA

Curing Washington’s ails

Well, this was over a week ago, but sometimes I’m slow on the draw.  Following up on their Op-Ed about what’s gone wrong in Washington (and, yes, it is disproportionately Republicans fault), Mann and Ornstein hit the Op-Ed pages again to argue about some possible solutions to improving things.  In addition to offering potential solutions, they also kindly point out what won’t work: a third party, term limits, a balanced budget amendment, just waiting for things to get back to normal, (and just because they want to hit a beloved liberal idea as well), public financing of elections.  Now, Mann and Ornstein are right– public financing won’t “restrain special interest spending” but unlike some of the other ideas, it certainly would help make for a more functional democracy.

As for what they advocate, I am a big fan of instant run-off voting,  and certainly eliminating the filibuster, but I find their expanding the electorate (the actually recommend Australian style mandatory voting– we did steal their secret ballot 100+ years ago), recommendations most interesting:

In the United States, such near-universal voting could eliminate the parties’ incentive to diminish the turnout of their opponents’ supporters and to mobilize the ideological extremes. Boosting overall turnout would help tilt the balance back toward where most Americans actually are: closer to the middle.

Other promising avenues to expand the electorate include automating the registration process (so voters can register online and carry their documentation with them when they move from one state to another) and to open up the primaries, as California has done, to all voters. Over time, open primaries could produce more moderate elected officials.

Finally, if we can’t persuade more Americans to vote with the threat of a fine, how about the promise of untold riches? Millions lined up — sometimes wasting all night — for a shot at the Mega Millions lottery in March. How about another lottery, where your vote stub is a ticket, and where the prize is the money collected from the fines of those who didn’t vote? The odds of the mega-jackpot were about 1 in 176 million — we’d like to believe that the chances of fixing American politics are a bit better than that.

Now, I’m not sure any of these things would really “save” our democracy.  But, they are all worth doing and would all certainly improve things.  And, of course, we’re not likely to see any of them.

Photo of the day

I’m feeling kind of lame for not even knowing this is one of the Seven Wonders of the World (via Alan Taylor and a Brazil photo set):

View of Iguazu Falls, one of the Natural Seven Wonders of the World, from the Brazilian side, on April 11, 2012, in Foz de Iguazu, Brazil. The waterfall system, 2.7 km long, consists of 275 falls, and has an annual peak flow of some 6,500 cubic meters a second. An acute drought has hit the famed falls, cutting back the tumbling waters to reveal the rocky sides. Only a third of the usual volume of water is now flowing over the top. (Norberto Duarte/AFP/Getty Images)

And here’s a much less dramatic rainbow, but it actually appeared right in the middle of my back yard:

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