High fives in the White House

Much more important for Obama’s reelection than any stupid things Mitt Romney may say about his wealth, etc., is the jobs situation.  The best news about the latest unemployment figures is not just that the unemployment rate when done, but we seem to be creating jobs at an increasing rate.  That great news for pretty much everybody except Mitt Romney.  While the big picture economic picture is still not good by any stretch, I think there’s pretty good evidence that it’s the trend, as much as anything, that matter in elections.  Of course, this is just February and much could happen, but, if the trend in job growth actually continues to accelerate, things would be looking very good for Obama in November.   As for the jobs numbers, I liked Jared Bernstein’s take and that he included a handy trendline in his graph:

It’s not easy being a Mormon

A friend of the blog (and the blogger) sent me a link to the Pew study on Mormons released earlier this month.  I assume he wanted me to do something about it.  I recalled hearing one particular finding that caught my attention when this came out.  Apparently, it’s tough being a Mormon.  Worse than being Black, in fact.  As we can see from a portion of this awesome infographic Pew made to highlight key findings.


The politics of resentment

Sure, it’s just a quote from one man, but I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue for a conference paper I should be working on right now instead of blogging, but it just seems that so much of the blue collar support for Republicans is all about the politics of resentment.  Not just that the government takes from you, but to give it to those other unworthy types.  Short little post by Dave Weigel gets at this perfectly:

A lot of Nevadans had given Obama a chance in 2008. Not Kent.

“This is going to sound rough,” he said. “But if you’re a Democrat, you are my enemy. Democrats piss me off. They’ve gotten extremely socialistic.” What did that mean? “Every time they get in, they raise taxes. They screw things up. I’ve got a jeep I’ve had for ten years; I pay $100 a year on the license plate. We just got a new Dodge; $600 to license it. You pay your money, they pass it on to the Mexicans, the colored people. Free education, handouts, all of that.”  [emphasis mine]

No sort of reasoned explanation about how public policy works is going to get past that type of gut-level thinking.

Photo of the day

Like Alan Taylor, I’m a sucker for photos of North Korean dictators.  From a set entitled, “Kim Jong Un Looking at Things,” this is my favorite:

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches a demonstration by members of the Western Area Aviation Club in an undisclosed location in this undated picture released by the North’s KCNA in Pyongyang, on January 28, 2012. (Reuters/KCNA)

It also reminds me that I recently read this article about the increasing popularity of a men’s hairstyle similar to that of the character Jimmy Darmody in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” (a show I’m a big fan of, by the way).  Kim Jong Un was, in fact, cited as being on this cutting edge of men’s follicular fashion.

Diagnosing Asperger’s

You may have heard that they are going to change the diagnostic criteria for autism and Asperger’s.  As a parent of a child who clearly has autism and another child who is clearly socially awkward– yet just as clearly does not have Asperger’s– this seems good to me.   Both Autism and Asperger’s are very real problems and the people with these conditions deserve all the help and support we can offer.  What I don’t think does any good is labeling every kid who has trouble making friends or who can be awkward in social situations to be on the Autism spectrum– it’s much more complicated than that.  Thus, I really enjoyed this essay in the Times by a man who was formerly diagnosed with Asperger’s, but no more:

I exhibited a “qualified impairment in social interaction,” specifically “failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level” (I had few friends) and a “lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people” (I spent a lot of time by myself in my room reading novels and listening to music, and when I did hang out with other kids I often tried to speak like an E. M. Forster narrator, annoying them). I exhibited an “encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus” (I memorized poems and spent a lot of time playing the guitar and writing terrible poems and novels).

The general idea with a psychological diagnosis is that it applies when the tendencies involved inhibit a person’s ability to experience a happy, normal life. And in my case, the tendencies seemed to do just that. My high school G.P.A. would have been higher if I had been less intensely focused on books and music. If I had been well-rounded enough to attain basic competence at a few sports, I wouldn’t have provoked rage and contempt in other kids during gym and recess…

The biggest single problem with the diagnostic criteria applied to me is this: You can be highly perceptive with regard to social interaction, as a child or adolescent, and still be a spectacular social failure. This is particularly true if you’re bad at sports or nervous or weird-looking.

Asperger’s is a real problem, but I don’t think it helps anybody to try and label every socially awkward kid as having it.

The campaign is over when…

In our NCSU forum on the Republican primaries the other day, I had a bit of a disagreement with another participant (a Communications professor– what do they know about politics) about whether the race was over or not.  He argued that it still has a long way to go due to the delegate count.  The delegate count matters as far as you can throw a delegate.  Anyway, I said the race would be over when A) the media stopped caring and basically had two minute segments along the lines of “Romney, as expected, won XX primary” and B) Sheldon Adelson decided that Newt Gingrich was no longer wasting his millions on (even though it is pocket change to him).  How nice to see TNR’s Noam Scheiber share pretty much the same sentiments:

Here’s why Adelson matters even at this late date: Newt is still popular enough with conservatives, and Romney still sufficiently unloved, that another $5 or $10 million haul would create more than a minor annoyance for the ostensible frontrunner in the coming months, a time when Romney would like to be training his fire on Barack Obama. Even amid his general evisceration in Florida, Newt still beat Romney handily among the Republican voters who consider themselves “very conservative” (42 percent to 30 for Romney) and strong Tea Party supporters (45 percent to 33), both of which accounted for about one-third of the electorate. The combination of that rump of support and the Adelson money could produce several victories for Gingrich on Super Tuesday alone, when voters in Georgia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee all go to the polls.

Without the Adelson money, on the other hand, the primary campaign goes poof. As former television executive (and George W. Bush cousin) John Ellis explained onBuzzfeed, the major media outlets have already spent more than they intended to on primary coverage. After Florida, all the embeds and bloggers who provide 24-hour “man-to-man” coverage will be summoned back to their respective mother ships and redeployed into cubicles. The era of so-called free media has abruptly come to an end, at least to any candidate not named Romney. “On the day after the South Carolina primary, [Gingrich] had two busloads of reporters, bloggers and electronic media types following his every word,” Ellis wrote. “Tomorrow, he won’t need two buses. He’ll be lucky if the seats are filled on one.”

When the media are convinced the race is done, it’s done.  There’s no comebacks without all the free media helping to build momentum.  Accumulated delegates have nothing to do with that.   This is especially true as the media would much prefer an actual contest, as it is a much more interesting story for them to report.  And, as the only other substantial source of money not going to Romney in this race is Adelson, it’s hard to see how the race continues if he stops backing Newt.  Scheiber thinks this will be now.  I suspect that there may still be some interesting stories and maybe even surprises– and these two factors are not definitive yet.  But when they are, that’s it, regardless of the other stuff.

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