Hater’s Guide to Williams Sonoma catalog

I was just sitting here reading this and just laughing out loud with my eyes tearing.  I swear this is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.  Here’s my favorite:

Item #02-410423 Assumption Abbey Fruitcake

The Hater's Guide To The Williams-Sonoma Catalog

Williams-Sonoma says: “Baked by trappist monks at a monastery in the Missouri Ozarks. Order early. Supply is limited.”


Notes from Drew: Everything about that sales copy just blew my skull. There are trappist monks in the Ozarks? Do they brew artisanal meth?

That last line just killed me.  I read that and I had to share it here.

Election coverage and hindsight bias

Terrific piece by Brendan Nyhan in CJR about the hindsight bias of how the media covers elections:

The media has undergone a strange change of mindset. Immediately before last Tuesday’s election, many reporters and commentators ignoredor dismissed the consensus among forecasters and betting markets that President Obama was very likely to defeat Mitt Romney and acted instead as if the candidates were neck and neck or Romney was ahead. Afterward, however, coverage of how Obama won betrayed far less uncertainty about the outcome of the election, which was frequently portrayed as a fait accompli—an inevitable consequence of how Romney’s image was defined by Obama’s early ads or overwhelmed by the President’s superior ground game.

Before the election, for instance, Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot saidon the October 27th edition of Journal Editorial Report that “Polls continue to show the race in a dead heat nationally, and too close to call in no fewer than 10 swing states.” Afterward, however, Gigot asserted on ABC’s This Week that while Romney “could have won,” he “never recovered” from the negative ads Obama’s campaign ran against him during the summer. “[I]f he wanted to win, clearly they needed to respond somehow, and they didn’t.”

And plenty more examples.  And here’s my favorite oh-so-true part:

The hindsight bias we have seen is fueled in part by the wave of post-election spin that follows every election. Inevitably, the press reports, as it has this time around, that the winner won due to the strategic genius of the candidate and his campaign (often based on source-greasing interviews with staffers taking a victory lap) and the loser lost due todisarray and mistakes within his campaign (typically fueled by internal leaks seeking to deflect blame).

And in the end, we can fall back on political science instead of journalists’ campaign narratives:

Of course, it may actually be true that Obama won this election because of his superior ground game or devastating barrage of negative advertising, but convincing evidence does not yet exist to support either claim. Obama performed about as well as we would have expected given the political and economic fundamentals of the race. Until proven otherwise, little credence should be given to post-election narratives that are constructed after the fact to “explain” the outcome we have observed.

Photo of the day

Apparently Venice has had some flooding.  And some amazing photos (In Focus) result:

Tourists sit in floodwater covering Piazza San Marco in Venice, on October 27, 2012. (Reuters/Manuel Silvestri)


So, I gave an interview with the Gaston Gazette yesterday about this absurdist secession movement taking hold.  What I really wanted to say is, “you should absolutely not be writing a newspaper article about a bunch of crackpots just to give them undeserved attention.”  But journalists generally don’t like you to tell them not to write the stories they are working on, so I gave some nice political-science-y stuff about the role of the internet instead (still it would have been nice for them to get my name right):

Dr. Stephen Greene, an associate professor of political science at N.C. State University, sees the online petitions as mostly expressions of anger and dissatisfaction in the wake of a bitter election. He does not think it will result in a serious political movement.

“If this was something serious that would go somewhere, that would take a lot more work offline as well,” he said. “(The Internet) is a fabulous organizing tool and it helps bring people together but, in the end, it’s a matter of people meeting in the real world to get together and make a difference.”

He expects the online secessionist movement to gain support in the South because those states typically vote Republican. If the petitions gain momentum by being discussed on conservative talk radio and by television pundits, the movement could gain steam.

“I would be surprised to see any major response from the Obama Administration,” Greene said.

Actually saw someone post on FB yesterday that it is literally in defiance of the NC Constitution to try and secede from the United States.  Here’s my favorite response– a petition to deport everyone that signed a secession petition :-).

The future of the GOP

Interesting “Room for Debate” in the NYT about what the Republican Party needs to do.  For the most part, those who were most clear in their analysis of the problems had the most struggle coming up with good solutions that weren’t mealy-mouthed talking points, i.e., on attracting more women:

The party’s commitment to empowering individuals through pro-growth policies and fiscal restraint provide an opening with soccer moms, who are often the chief executive officers of the family, holding the purse strings and calling the financial shots.

And business need not be a four-letter word on the campaign trail, considering there are more than 8 million women-owned businesses in the United States, generating more than a trillion in revenue and employing millions of Americans.

For my money, the best analysis by far came from Norm Ornstein (who also had a fabulous post-election interview on Fresh Air last week):

First is the nomination process, for both the presidential nomination and other offices from the U.S. Senate and the House on down. The G.O.P. has effectively been captured and dominated by its right-right wing — as opposed to its right wing or its center-right wing. When a party faces the spectacle of all its presidential candidates pledging in a primary debate that they would not accept a deal of $1 in taxes for $10 in budget cuts, and rejecting any candidate who acknowledges that scientists might have something to say about the climate, and when a party purges upstanding, problem-solving conservatives like Bob Bennett of Utah, Richard Lugar of Indiana and Bob Inglis of South Carolina, it has a big problem…

Second, the party needs to abandon the tribal approach of the past four years — “if President Obama and Democrats are for it, we are against it (even if we were for it yesterday).” A party that puts its own short-term political advantage ahead of solving problems for the country, that puts obstruction ahead of compromise, will win elections only if it can manipulate the process or wait for catastrophe great enough that voters will accept any alternative.

Now, I’m not exactly sure what this reform of the nomination process would look like, but the evidence that Republicans have been shooting themselves in the foot with nominees and turning off educated, science-believing voters in droves is pretty indisputable.

Democrats’ white problem is only a Southern white problem

Among the things I’ve been most intrigued about in this election, is the huge variation in the white vote across states.  For example, among the swing states, whites in NC voted 68% for Romney, versus 51% in Iowa in New Hampshire.  Nate Cohn has a nice piece on this:

Romney’s strong national showing among white voters was almost exclusively driven by historic support from Southern and Appalachian white voters. In many counties, Obama’s performance was the worst by any Democrat since McGovern or, in some places, ever. Even a quick glance at overwhelmingly white, Southern, or Appalachian counties with a history of offering even limited support to Democratic candidates shows Obama performing anywhere from 15 to 30 points worse than Kerry did eight years ago. Obama even lost more than 50 points compared to Kerry’s performance in several “coal country” counties in southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.

Outside the South, Romney’s performance among white voters was anything but historic. He ran behind Bush’s tallies in most of the northern half of the United States. While some believed that Obama’s weakness among white voters would translate into opportunities for Romney in overwhelmingly white states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin, Obama ultimately won these three states by 5.6 to 6.9 points, even though Bush never lost any by more than 1.3 points. More broadly, you can quickly consider changes in Democratic support among white voters between ’04 and ’12 in the nine states where whites represent at least 85 percent of the population. These states aren’t exactly representative of white voters elsewhere, but the big picture is about right: outside of the South, Romney ran behind Bush among white voters, but he made up for it in Appalachia and the rest of the South.

Or, to put it in blunt visual terms, here’s a graph Kevin Drum made

And finally, Yglesias make a point about the composition of the electorate over time that’s largely been overlooked:


This chart above that I made is a little bit of context for claims that Republican operatives were surprised to see the white share of the electorate down from 2008 rather than up. Their theory, I guess, is that putting Obama on the ticket led to a one-off increase in minority voting that would head into reverse when he ran for re-election for some reason.

The truth, however, is that there’s no discernable “Obama surge” of minority voting here at all. The white share of the electorate has evolved as far back as exit polling is available in a pretty steady fashion. The only year in which the white share rose was 1992. Ross Perot, not Barack Obama, was able to reshape the electorate by perhaps engaging some set of disaffected white people who are totally tuned out of the regular political process. Be that as it may, there’s no secret Obama sauce in this—it just reflects the evolution of the country. In any given year, the cohort of new 18 year-olds is less white than the national average and the cohort of people who die is whiter than the national average.

White identity politics is just a political strategy whose effectiveness is in terminal decline.

Obviously, many Republicans have been able to figure this out.  The question is will the party as a whole be able to before they’ve lost a whole generation of non-white voters.

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