Read me

1) Really enjoyed this Jedidiah Purdy piece on being anti-war as a patriotic value:

If you hate the foolish and destructive wars that have defined a decade of foreign policy, Paul is the only candidate who will tell you that those wars are mistaken and un-American. This is so even though 51% of post-9/11 veterans told the Pew Center last fall that US military adventures abroad were creating “hatred” that “leads to more terrorism.” Only a third of veterans, and a little more than a quarter of the general public, said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were worth fighting. 59% of those veterans and 58% of the public told Pew the country should be less engaged abroad and concentrate on problems at home.

The country deserves politicians who can believe this sort of thing without joining Ron Paul in embracing the gold standard and declaring the 1964 Civil Rights Act unconstitutional.

2) Love this Dahlia Lithwick piece about how much smarter the Montana Supreme Court is on campaign finance than is the US Supreme Court:

More fundamentally, the majority and one dissenter seem to understand perfectly how much the American people resent being lied to about the burning need for courts to step in to protect the oppressed voices of powerless corporate interests. As Judge Nelson wrote in dissent, “the notion that corporations are disadvantaged in the political realm is unbelievable. Indeed, it has astounded most Americans. The truth is that corporations wield enormous power in Congress and in state legislatures. It is hard to tell where government ends and corporate America begins: the transition is seamless and overlapping.”

 

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The charmed candidate

I was giving an interview to the local news today about Romney, the SC primary, etc., and could not help but thinking what an amazingly charmed candidacy Mitt Romney has had.  Sure, he’s done his part just fine, but in terms of all the factors he could not control, he could hardly have planned it better had he tried.  His opponents have self-destructed or inevitably self-imploded of their own weight once their deep and fundamental weaknesses were exposed to the light of front-runnerdom.   Yet, almost none of them have dropped out, preventing the very strong Tea Party/anti-Romney vote from coalescing behind any single opponent.  Gingrich and Santorum’s numbers together surpass Romney in SC, but neither of these guys is dropping out.  Had Santorum never had his Iowa surge, much of that vote would surely go to Gingrich.  And even Gingrich didn’t possess a truly Herculean ego, surely some of his vote would go to Santorum.  Meanwhile, Ron Paul’s supporters just keep sucking up 15-20% that just isn’t going anywhere else and allows Romney to win/lead primaries with the support of only 1/4 – 1/3 of voters.  In short, it’s good to be Mitt.

I like the way Chait describes all this:

The unchallenged march of the formerly pro-choice, self-described “progressive” father of national health insurance to the Republican nomination is one of the most bizarre political spectacles of my life. I am running out of explanations for it, including explanations that require party-wide conspiracies or science fiction. (Perhaps Romney has a force field that turns to mush the brain of anybody who threatens him.)

Not to mention the others that didn’t run, or those who clearly made a huge mistake by dropping out so early (yes, I’m talking about you, Tim Pawlenty).  Anyway, hard to imagine a candidate who inspires so few voters, has such real weaknesses, and such narrow and begrudging support, having a more charmed path to the nomination.  That said, like most Democrats, I think he’d easily make the best president of the lot.  Of course, that’s also because I believe he is a soul-less, conscience-less panderer who will say whatever it takes to get elected who also happens to have pragmatic and technocratic tendencies he’s doing his best to hide.

Disqualified by Fully Myelinated!

So, busy day trying to get ready for my first classes tomorrow, but I did want to take a moment to share the recent amusing experience.  I’m signed up to do Focus Groups with a local company L&E Research.  After at least 5 years, I’ve only ever qualified to do one of them, and I actually had the flu on the day I was supposed to do it and missed out.  I just got off the phone for the latest– I often make it to phone screenings– and was saying “no” to all sorts of standard questions about whether relatives worked in media, PR, etc., when they asked me if I have a political blog.  Well, you know the answer.  So much for me earning $100 on Wednesday night.

Best way to stay thin: never get fat

Tara Parker-Pope had a fascinating article about weight loss in a recent NYT magazine piece.  The long and short of it: once you’ve put on a lot of weight it becomes incredibly difficult to keep it off.  This is not just a matter of willpower.  You’re body goes through permanent hormonal and physical changes that make it extremely hard, but possible, to keep weight off.

The data generated by these experiments suggest that once a person loses about 10 percent of body weight, he or she is metabolically different than a similar-size person who is naturally the same weight.

The research shows that the changes that occur after weight loss translate to a huge caloric disadvantage of about 250 to 400 calories. For instance, one woman who entered the Columbia studies at 230 pounds was eating about 3,000 calories to maintain that weight. Once she dropped to 190 pounds, losing 17 percent of her body weight, metabolic studies determined that she needed about 2,300 daily calories to maintain the new lower weight. That may sound like plenty, but the typical 30-year-old 190-pound woman can consume about 2,600 calories to maintain her weight — 300 more calories than the woman who dieted to get there.

That’s a huge disadvantage.  Imagine being told you would have to eat 300-400 calories less per day simply to maintain your current weight.  Obviously, then, the best strategy to not being fat is to never let yourself get fat whereby you undergo these changes that make it so hard for you to stay thin.  The good news is that scientists are now figuring out the mechanisms at work, so there’s at least hope on the medium-long term horizon.  Also, before you question the willpower and discipline of an overweight person, you might ask yourself just how well you’d do if you literally felt like you were starving every day if you were at a healthy weight.

Two important questions seemed left unanswered to me, though.  1) Just how much weight can you put on before your body undergoes these permanent changes?  That’s important to know, as obviously you really want to take control of your weight before it gets that far.  2) Almost all the studies this research is based on had people lose weight on fairly strict calorie restriction diets.  Certainly worth knowing if a much more gradual weigh loss, e.g., 1/2 1 pound a week, or something like that, might be more effective.   As for me, I’m going to assume that with my recent 20 pound weight loss, I did this before any permanent changes took place in my metabolism.  I guess we’ll see.

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