Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Myth of 1948

Every major national poll shows Obama leading McCain by at least three points, and the ones with the methodologies I trust the most show him up by even more. John McCain says don't be deceived; the polls are wrong just like they were in 1948.

“When I pull this thing off, I have a request for my opponent,” John McCain said at a rally [in New Mexico Saturday]. “I want him to save that manuscript of his inaugural address and donate it to the Smithsonian, so they can put it right next to the Chicago paper that says ‘Dewey defeats Truman.’”

Let's set aside for a moment the fact that that manuscript does not actually exist, but was merely a public literary device from a Democrat unaffiliated with Obama's campaign months ago. The Washington Post explains the Truman reference, and joins McCain in questioning whether or not the polls are accurate:

Could the polls be wrong? Sen. John McCain and his allies say that they are. The country, they say, could be headed to a 2008 version of the famous 1948 upset election, with McCain in the role of Harry S. Truman and Sen. Barack Obama as Thomas E. Dewey, lulled into overconfidence by inaccurate polls.

I would suggest that Senator McCain and the Post staff bone up a little on their recent American history. The 1948 polls that showed Dewey ahead of Truman were actually accurate. The problem was that pollsters stopped polling a week ahead of election day, and Truman's barnstorming whistle-stop tour around the country lambasting the "do nothing" Congress all week had a huge impact.

It's vital to remember: polls don't predict what will happen in an election several days or weeks down the line; they only tell you what would happen if the election were held at the time the poll was in the field. The Tribune headline got the story wrong in 1948 because it relied on out-of-date polls, not because those polls were wrong. A week prior to Election Day, Dewey WOULD have defeated Truman. But things change.

In 2008, out-of-date polls is the absolute last of our worries. Barring a severe backlash from tonight's infomercial or maaaybe Osama bin Laden's capture, Senator Obama will win this race and handily so; if not in a popular vote landslide, then certainly in an electoral bath.

Enough is enough!!!

Another example of rude, hateful, unhelpful, and unAmerican behavior at a 2008 political rally. And to think McCain got ticked off when asked about unruly people showing up at his rallies. From 538, with pictures at the original post:

After the rally, we witnessed a near-street riot involving the exiting McCain crowd and two Cuban-American Obama supporters. Tony Garcia, 63, and Raul Sorando, 31, were suddenly surrounded by an angry mob. There is a moment in a crowd when something goes from mere yelling to a feeling of danger, and that's what we witnessed. As photographers and police raced to the scene, the crowd elevated from stable to fast-moving scrum, and the two men were surrounded on all sides as we raced to the circle.

The event maybe lasted a minute, two at the most, before police competently managed to hustle the two away from the scene and out of the danger zone. Only FiveThirtyEight tracked the two men down for comment, a quarter mile down the street.

"People were screaming 'Terrorist!' 'Communist!' 'Socialist!'" Sorando said when we caught up with him. "I had a guy tell me he was gonna kill me."

Asked what had precipitated the event, "We were just chanting 'Obama!' and holding our signs. That was it. And the crowd suddenly got crazy.

Garcia told us that the man who originally had warned the two it was his property when they had first tried to attend the rally with Obama T-shirts was one of the agitators. Coming up just before the scene started getting out of hand, the man whispered in Garcia's ear, "I'm gonna beat you up the next time I see you." Garcia described him for us: "a big stocky man wearing a tweed jacket."

Man, this election can't end soon enough. Anyone who behaves this way is an arrogant beast and an embarassment to their country, I don't care who they're voting for.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Five stars and then some for the “Spaghetti Western Orchestra”

Man oh man oh man, I haven’t had this much fun in YEARS!!!

I went to a performance tonight by the Spaghetti Western Orchestra, and I couldn’t recommend them more. If you live in or anywhere even remotely near Kansas, Arizona, or east Texas, you have GOT to see them over the next couple weeks. It’ll be the best 90 minutes you spend all fall! I’ve put a video at the end of this post to help whet your taste.

Here’s how their webpage describes the show:

The Orchestra rides into town, with a wagon train of instruments, to perform all the classic Ennio Morricone music including; The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Once Upon A Time In The West and For A Few Dollars More.

With a fistful of humour and a bucket-load of fun, the orchestra underscores these brilliant musical adventures: all the sound effects of the iconic spaghetti western movies - every punch up, gunshot, and jangling spur - is recreated using coat hangers, cornflakes, nail clippers, rubber gloves and other ingenious ‘instruments’ pulled from their saddlebag of tricks.

It really was something else. These five Australian guys come on stage in white makeup to accentuate their faces from even the back of the room and in complete old west costume. For the next hour and a half, they play Morricone’s famous themes on a wide array of instruments – some traditional, like a trumpet, a drum set, and a bass; some fun, like 6 Jew harps and a theremin; and some absolutely zany and absurd, including the aforementioned corn flakes (that was fun!) and a “Kitchen Knife with Sharpening Steel Latchbolt Sound Effect.” One delight was the use of a small tree to rustle the leaves and bang the bass drum. But, my absolute favorite was neither the tree nor the therepin – it was the voices, truly a divine instrument. These guys really know how to grunt and yah-yah!

It may sound crazy, but it worked – the music was MASTERFUL. And the performance art element really heightened the show. In between some songs, they would read scripts, affecting wonderful American accents while pretending to be in an old western bar or around a campfire. The lines were often humorous and accompanied by little gags and jokes. These routines helped keep the show from being 90 minutes of straight music, thus putting the audience more in the mood for the music when it did come. And the lighting, oh the lighting! Absolutely stunning. The performers were backlit by fun colors and shadows that really helped set the mood. The lighting director was as much a performer as the musician-actors themselves.

Seriously, see this show if you can. I’ve never had so much fun at a performance. The Dartmouth audience gave the group three standing ovations, the first coming before the final song was even over. And the end, oh the end! The audience participation element during the encore was GREAT, I left on such a high. Who know 700 people could sound that good singing, “Ya ya ya!” or “Wah wah wah!” (You'll see what I mean at the end of the video below!) :D :D :D :D

Here’s a clip from YouTube. But as you watch, please remember – the mood in your room is being set by the angles of your windows and the furniture array, not by the lighting from the massive movie screen behind the performers, and the audience participation of someone sitting alone at their desk just isn’t the same as being surrounded by 700 delighted toe-tapping, hand-clapping hummers.

Also, if you’re interested, here are the program notes from tonight’s concert.

The show did prompt me to make both a political observation about one of the presidential candidates, as well as a Freudian observation about myself, but I will hold off on making those observations for a couple days – the show was amazing enough that it deserves a simple laudation with no distractions.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What would St. Paul say about the election?

Earlier this evening, as I was walking through downtown Hanover, I saw a crowd of McCain-Palin supporters on one street corner and a crowd of Obama-Biden folks on the other. I noticed some friends in the McCain crowd, but didn’t get a good look at the Obama group. As I walked through them all and traffic picked up, one driver rolled down his window and screamed at the McCain camp, “You’re all ignorant!!!!”

Well, at least he didn’t swear. But lest we think the hatred and vitriol is one-sided, this was reported at today:

McCain-Palin campaign worker Ashley Todd has admitted to a lying scheme designed to stir up racial hatred. The obvious goal -- create an emotional backlash against black people and against Barack Obama to influence the vote. That's the McCain close. The McCain-Palin campaign pushed it. Nobama.

The message: "Be scared of Barack Obama's supporters. Go vote against him."

(It should be noted, this is the kind of thing that goes beyond campaign messaging. This sort of thing leads to race-based physical attacks.)

I can’t wait for next Wednesday to hurry up and get here. It's been a bitter, bitter election season, with neither major party candidate living up to the potential to unite this country each showed as recently as last winter. We've got radicals on one side calling Democratic voters anti-American socialists; we've got ideologues on the other side calling Republican voters war-mongering rednecks. Such hateful, disrespectful behavior does not help anyone or anything, nor does it speak well of one's character. All it does is drive a nation apart, putting all our common goals further out of reach. It is the last thing our nation needs during what are already divisive and perilous times.

There are over 300 million Americans. Polls show McCain betwen 39 and 46%, or between 117 and 138 million supporters. I will not call 138 million Americans ignorant or, for that matter, anything else, and I would hope that none of them would do the same to 162 million of their countrymen over something as petty as a political disagreement.

In the midst of such a dirty campaign, Christians of all political stripes would do well to step back for a moment, take a deep breath, turn off the talking heads on their TV, and remember the words of the Apostle Paul, who reminds us that reconciliation in Christ is a higher value than any human squabble.

Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body* through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.* So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.

Photos on this blog, or why Doug Lambert is a crook

I have added the following to the sidebar of this blog: "One final note - please ask before reprinting any photos you see on this blog. If you see a copyrighted photo of your own used without permission and want it taken down, please ask and I will do so immediately." I often use photos that are not my own, and try to give credit for them. If folks who do own the photos don't like that, I will comply with their requests. I hope that others will do the same thing.

Doug Lambert of GraniteGrok is refusing to honor this polite request. He has reposted the photo of me and Bishop Robinson at his blog, which I will not link to, in a rather disrespectful post. Now as regular readers of WE and my posts at MyDD know, I have no problem with disagreements and even have a wide conservative streak myself. My only problem is with disrespectful people who can't handle it when others disagree with them (see my next post about the election). Doug's tone in a deleted comment here and various posts on his own blog suggest he is one of those people, so I very politely asked him to remove my photo from GraniteGrok. He refused. Thus I am forced to believe that New Hampshire's Doug Lambert of WEMJ is not only a bully but also in possible violation of intellectual copyright rules. I'm not going to do anything about it, other than this: when folks Google his name, maybe this post will come up. If, however, he decides to honor copyright law, deletes the photo, and lets me know in a comment section on this blog, I'll delete this paragraph right away so that these accusations won't be linked to his name in Internet searches. Maybe I'm being petty and that's certainly not a good thing, but a guy's got to stick up for himself.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What would you ask Bishop Robinson?

I'm talking to +Gene on Friday for a school paper. I've already drawn up a pretty good set of questions, but if there's anything you're just dying to know, please put it in the comment section and I'll see what I can do.

I readily admit my bias as an interviewer. I am a local Episcopalian, a liberal, and a fan of +Gene, and the paper I'm writing for is a liberal one. There is a time and a place for critical interviews, even-handed objective interviews, and friendly interviews all. My publication and I are the latter. So, while tough questions are fine and I respect critics who remain respectful themselves, any sarcastic or hostile "suggestions" will be promptly deleted and forgotten.

(This grainy photo of the bishop and me was cropped from a larger group photo taken during his and ++Katharine's recent visit to Dartmouth. Please forgive the glare on his glasses.)

Opie and The Fonz are back!

Oh, this is just too rich! For the first time in decades, Ron Howard is reprising his roles as Opie from The Andy Griffith Show and Richie Cunningham from Happy Days in this clip, along with Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor and Henry Winkler as The Fonz. All for... Barack Obama! Man, I'm not one for celebrity endorsements, but this is just too much fun not to pass along. And hey, who doesn't love the ever-folksy Andy Griffith?

H/T to my good buddy Daniel back in Idaho.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

How to read, understand, and even trust polls

The other night, a friend asked me who I thought was going to win the election. When I started talking about polls, a second friend said, “Uhh, dude, can you really trust those? Didn’t they show Kerry up at this point?” My answer was, “Yes, you can trust them – if you know how to read them correctly.”

Indeed, while this might sound screwy with the CBS/New York Times poll showing Obama up 13 points just two days after AP/GfK had him up by one, polls can be trusted. You just have to know how to read them. It’s not enough to look at a headline and see “Obama’s lead widens to six points.” Most reporters are quite irresponsible about polls, reporting not what’s scientifically sound but what’s interesting.

To help readers with that, here are a few basic guidelines I’ve drawn up to help readers understand polls and figure out which ones they can trust. This is in no way a comprehensive guide; for a real expert, I suggest Nate Silver’s Silver also provides a handy guide to pollsters, explaining which follow the rules. This post, on the other hand, is a basic guide written off the top of my head for friends and regular readers. I’m just an amateur, or as this blog’s description says, “a young man still learning who he is and where he may be headed.” My credentials are simply an A- in a public opinion class, some campaign experience, an obsession with the news, and a decent legal mind.

Here, then, are nine things to check before knowing whether or not you can trust a poll. The first four are a little longer and more technical, but no worries. Everything is explained in simple language that even a potty-trained labradoodle could understand, because quite frankly, that’s the only language *I* can understand.

  • The sample frame, or the people polled, MUST be chosen randomly. Anything else is forced and might not actually capture the public’s opinion. You can’t trust Internet polls like those from Harris or Zogby Interactive; the sample frame is self-selecting, and reflects motivated thinking voters rather than average voters. The best way to get a random sample is to make sure the poll is RDD – random digit dialing.

  • The next question to ask is, is this a poll of Registered Voters (RV) or of Likely Voters (LV)? While LV models are historically more accurate, I actually trust RV models for this election. LV polls ask RVs if they plan to vote in the upcoming election and if they’ve voted in the past. The problem with this model is that it automatically weeds out newly registered voters and those too young to have voted in the past election, and this year, for the first time, we saw phenomenal turnout from those voters during the primaries. In my opinion, the best models are those used by NBC News/Wall Street Journal and the “expanded” (NOT “traditional”) Gallup Tracking.

  • Similar to LV/RV models is how the sample frame is weighted. If 30% of the electorate is Republican and 35% Democratic, but the sample frame is 35% for both, the pollster will use a formula to devalue the Republicans’ answers ever so slightly and increase the “weight” of the Independents’ answers (except for Zogby, who is fast losing credibility). This approach is used for every major demographic – race, geography, etc. Keep a close eye on weighting, because this is where polls can go horribly wrong. The reason this week’s AP poll shows the presidential race a virtual tie when every other major poll is up around 7-8 points is because a full 45% of respondents called themselves born-again Christians, roughly double the size of the actual evangelical population. This is also why so many primary polls were wrong – youth voters showed up in record numbers, completely smashing the turnout models on which most weighting is based.

  • The most common question about polls is, “How can a poll of 1,000 random people accurately reflect 300 million Americans? I’m never called!” But oddly enough, it works. Exactly why is getting a little beyond me – it involves statistics and formulas and that’s when my eyes glaze over – but history does show that sample frames of at least 500 people are pretty darn accurate. This is also where the margin of error comes in. The MoE tells you how accurate the poll is likely to be, assuming that the sample was representative and the weighing was done correctly. The larger the sample, the lower the margin of error, although it is curved – a poll of 1,000 people is much better than a poll of 300, but not that different from a poll of 2,000.

  • On to the less technical stuff. I only trust polls with live questioners, none of that automated junk. Speaking to an actual person tends to produce better results than talking to a cold, distant machine, so I tend to dislike SurveyUSA and Rasmussen (although both had a good performance record during the primaries).

  • When was the poll conducted? I don't like polls that were conducted over a five day period in the heat of an election, particularly tracking polls. That's too long a timeframe; a lot of things can happen. Give me just two-three days, please, and try not to split them over a weekend like Thursday, Sunday, and Monday.

  • It’s really important to look at question wording. Obviously “Do you support socialized medicine?” will draw very different answers than “Do you support single-payer health insurance?” This also matters, oddly enough, with “don’t know,” “undecided,” “not sure,” and/or “haven’t heard enough.”

  • Studies show that the first answer listed on a test or ballot always gets a slight bump. A good pollster will always rotate the answers – half of respondents should be asked about Obama then McCain, and the other half hear McCain’s name first.

  • Finally, it’s important to know who is conducting or sponsoring the poll. Universities, major non-commercial polling organizations with reputations to protect (like Gallup and Pew), and prominent news organizations are generally the most trustworthy. Political parties and marketing corporations, however, clearly have agendas, and should be taken not with a grain but with a full rim of salt.

    I used to think that excluding cell phones would leave the youth vote underrepresented, but some polls have actually included cell phones this year, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference.

    Remember also that even the bestpolls can only tell you how the electorate feels at the time the poll is taken; none actually predict the future. A lot can change in a couple weeks' time – scandals, effective ads, debates, voter turnout, etc. Don’t let such things affect a pollster’s credibility. Equally important, don't ever measure a campaign by just one poll - always look at the aggregate, or take a "poll of polls."

    FiveThirtyEight is a great place for poll aggregation and analysis, and RealClearPolitics is an excellent clearinghouse for polls and commentary that I check each morning, although I’m a little circumspect about their analysis. 538's polls of polls are probably a little better than RCP's.

    And just like that, I’ve saved you $10,000 in tuition fees. ($8,000 if you were hoping for formulas and equations, but like I said: potty-trained labradoodle.)

  • Friday, October 24, 2008

    What is an elitist?

    On last night’s “NBC News with Brian Williams,” Williams asked John McCain Sarah Palin to define “elitist.” Palin’s reply, methinks, was rather self-incriminating. This post will examine her reply, then move away from politics to provide a definition of my own, one that damns much of Dartmouth culture.

    Did you catch that? “It's anyone who thinks that they're better than someone else.” This coming from the woman who has repeatedly implied that anyone who disagrees with her policies or comes from a large city is inferior and un-American. I also have to wonder a bit when McCain said that elitists are those “who think that they can dictate what they believe to America rather than let Americans decide for themselves.” (Do you think he’ll still feel the same way after the voters decide against him?) On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” today, host and former Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-FL) further defined elitism as, among other things, looking down on anyone who’s from a different city. Though Scarborough has defended Palin in the past, that definition would have to include her.

    Yesterday I decried Palin’s smears as hateful and unethical, and I stand by that. I remember being equally incensed weeks ago when she told CBS' Katie Couric that Americans with passports are all rich preppies who never had a real job:

    Couric: A lot of our viewers and Internet users wanted to know why you did not get a passport until last year. And they wondered if that indicated a lack of interest and curiosity in the world.

    Palin: I'm not one of those who maybe came from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduate college and their parents give them a passport and give them a backpack and say go off and travel the world. No, I've worked all my life. In fact, I usually had two jobs all my life until I had kids. I was not a part of, I guess, that culture. The way that I have understood the world is through education, through books, through mediums that have provided me a lot of perspective on the world.

    Listen, lady; having a passport doesn't mean someone has never worked. I've got a dear friend who went backpacking in Europe this past summer not because her parents were rich, but because she scrubbed dishes in a nursing home all year and sold her own (rather fabulous) knitting on eBay. This girl’s family is hardly super-rich; she is, however, a Fred Thompson-supporting evangelical attending a good state college. And Sarah, by actually seeing England and Germany, my friend understands Europe a lot better than either you or me. Tell me, if I read a few books and then said I know more about Alaska than your own family, wouldn't you be a little incensed and call me an elitist? Well right back atchya, m'am.

    Palin and her boss should be ashamed of themselves and their divisive way. There should be no room for anti-intellectualism. Once upon a time, an elitist was anyone who was elite, and there is nothing wrong with getting a good education or growing a successful business. What’s wrong with learning things? Who WOULDN’T want their kid to go to Harvard? Unfortunately, the Republican Party has twisted that definition into a form of anti-intellectualism. When something scientific or academic doesn’t fit their ideology, it is quickly damned as elite and un-American.

    But having said that, I will say that I am somewhat sympathetic to their point, if not their tactics. There are plenty of smug, arrogant, pop-collared elite Yankee twits hanging around the East Coast. Here, then, is my definition of elitism.

    Elitism is not knowing how privileged you are. Anyone who thinks an annual salary of $100,000 isn’t a lot of money is an elitist. I got into such an argument with a classmate during a spring term budget seminar. It’s the only time I’ve ever gotten into a shouting match during class. I understand that $100,000 isn’t the benchmark that it was thirty years ago and that it may not be much in New York City, but how can anyone claim that an amount nearly 2.5 times the national median isn’t a lot of money? Less than a fifth of all Americans make that much; anyone earning even $80,000 a year is one of the richest people in history’s richest nation. Suggesting that that isn’t wealth is sticking your head in the sand and then super-gluing it in place.

    One of my favorite Dartmouth professors takes time during each of his classes to share with his students some statistics they might not have known – numbers like only 20% of Americans own passports, and a full 83% believe in the virgin birth but only 28% believe in evolution. He talks about median incomes and educational backgrounds because he wants his students to realize how privileged and abnormal they are. While I’m thrilled he takes time to do this, I was appalled at my class’ reaction – THEY LAUGHED. They laughed and roared, rather derisively, at their fellow “simple-minded” countrymen. Now THAT’S elitist arrogance.

    Elitism is also passing derogatory judgment on large groups of people even if you haven’t met a single one of them. Anyone who looks down their noses at this country’s evangelical voters because Pat Robertson is an idiot is an arrogant elitist. Yes, many of the mainstream media’s favorite evangelicals are obnoxious blowhards, but, while I generally disagree with the people in the pews (or padded stadium seats, as the case may be), when you take the time to get to know them you will often find that they are good, decent, and often bright people.

    So that’s my definition of elitism. There’s plenty of it on the east coast and in the Democratic Party, so I can hardly blame heartland evangelicals for feeling slighted and angry. Nevertheless, when they sink to the same level and smear millions of good Americans in one breath, they are no better than the popped-collar country club schmucks they seek to decry.

    I will say just one thing more. If a man believes a person isn’t rich unless they make $5 million a year, and if he can forget just how many houses he owns, then he too is an elitist with no concept of privilege.

    Go ahead, brag about Lieberman all you want

    Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), former Democrat and now ardent McCain surrogate, visited Dartmouth yesterday. I would have liked to attend, but can't afford to miss another PE class if I want to get credit. An active College Republican friend of mine said the visit had a stellar turnout, and expressed his wish that "that there were more leaders in politics with the honesty and integrity of Joe Lieberman."

    I agree that Lieberman is a man of integrity, and if we absolutely had to have a hawkish administration, he'd probably be a good Secretary of Defense, one in the mold of Robert Gates. Unfortunately, I've lost a lot of respect for him over the last two years; his comments about Alberto Gonzalez's performance as Attorney General, Obama's readiness, and even McCain's tax policies (yet we're supposed to believe he remains an uberliberal on economics???) all cross the line he set for himself when he first said he would only prop up McCain and never tear down a Democrat.

    Nevertheless, if bucking party lines and endorsing the other guy is the standard by which you judge honesty and integrity, I've got a heckuva list for ya: where McCain has Lieberman, Obama's got fmr Secretary of State and retired Gen. Colin Powell, fmr Bush press secretary Scott McLellan, fmr Gov. Bill Weld (R-MA), pundit Christopher Buckley, and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE)'s wife. I presume Hagel himself will vote for Obama but is just keeping quiet to avoid making waves.

    Yeah... it's been a good week.

    Thursday, October 23, 2008

    The founder of free markets on the progressive income tax

    Adam Smith, with a hat tip to Andrew Sullivan:

    The necessaries of life occasion the great expense of the poor... The luxuries and vanities of life occasion the principal expense of the rich, and a magnificent house embellishes and sets off to the best advantage all the other luxuries and vanities which they possess... It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion.

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008

    This liberal is proud to be a real American

    The latest smear tactic from the McCain campaign is to suggest that Americans who don't share their political views or who live in big cities aren't actually Americans. Such comments have been made by VP nominee Sarah Palin, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, Rep. Robin Hayes, and McCain advisor Nancy Pfotenhauer. Bachmann's and Hayes' comments were the worst, but they've all made references to the "real America" or "real Virginia."

    These extreme Republican hacks are insisting that only small towns are the "real America." Look, I'm a red-meat eater from two towns - not Wasilla small but still small - and yet I'm downright insulted. A majority of Americans live in urban areas; are we supposted to believe that a majority of Americans aren't actually American? As Sarah Vowell, my future wife, said, "I feel like the east coast was American enough for Al-Qaeda, so it should be American enough for them!" That's an important point - these guys aren't exactly standing in the middle of a small town. To quote Jon Stewart, "So if small towns are real America, that would make big cities like Washington, DC and New York City the capitols of fake America, like the epicenter of fake America, the, the, oh, what's the word I'm looking for, the 'ground zero,' if you will, of anti-America. I bet bin Laden feels like a real a** h*** now, huh?"

    This is a scare tactic. Palin and her allies are trying to make us think that if we don't vote for her, we hate America, and since of course we all love America, we'll all vote for her to prove it. To that I say, as we chant at college football games when refs make blatantly stupid calls, "Buuuuullllllllllll S**T! Buuuuullllllllllll S**T!" Hayes said liberals hate "real Americans" who "believe in God" but I got news for you, Robin! I'm a liberal, and I LOVE JESUS! I also don't recall the Founding Fathers saying anything about opposing affordable healthcare, demanding oil rigs in Alaska, and fighting regulations so that corporations can run amok being prerequisites for citizenship. Culturally speaking, I'm pretty darn red state, but some of the best parents and most moral people I know are champagne-swilling blue state homosexuals. To suggest that patriotism hinges on holding exactly the same views as certain Republicans is dishonorable, hateful, offensive, and above all, as arrogant as it gets. No one who thinks she is special enough or smart enough to be an official arbiter of who is and isn't American is fit for office at any level, not even county register of deeds. It reminds me of the Pharisees. Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Robin Hayes, and those who enable them are making a mockery of everything we claim to stand for in this great nation.

    You know who else used to talk about the real America? This guy. Remember him? Yeah.

    Now more than ever, we need someone who can unite us. Those who would further divide us in our darkest times may have the country's best interests at heart, but that's like saying the kid who got an F on six math tests in a row after not studying still deserves to pass because he really loves his teacher. No, we need someone who can unite us, who can lead us, who can make us feel hopeful about our country's future again. We need an FDR or a Reagan. We need the John McCain of 2000. We need the Barack Obama of 2004, who famously said,

    So to those of you who hate the fact that not everyone in this country is your clone, to those of you who can't stand it when people dare to live in a larger town than yours or hold different views about the minimum wage, who care not for the First Amendment, I say:

    This beautiful melting pot is America. Love it, or leave it.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008

    My life on a map

    I love asking people I just met where they're from. I don't look down on any particular region of the country (Yankee culture notwithstanding), so it's hardly a derisive question; I'm just absolutely enthralled with the diversity of American geography, culture, and geology. So bearing that in mind, here's my life on a map. Each point represents a major regional area (not always exact - for instance, Irvington, VA also represents Blacksburg and DC; Coeur d'Alene, ID takes in eastern WA, and Sundance, WY includes the Black Hills) where I either spent a lot of time or have a few strong memories from a short time, and all the blue lines hold true by car except for the California leg and the Montreal jog - I flew to CA and have never been to Montreal. The rest, however, I have driven or rode along. (If you can't see the blue lines and map points, just click "view larger map" below the map, and it should come up accurately on a separate Google page.)

    View Larger Map

    So why am I sharing this here? Well, partly because it was fun to make and I'm putting of all real work, as usual, and partly because I haven't posted here in a while, but mostly because I love to travel. These geographic points and experiences inform who I am and how I think, which is what dictates the contents of this blog.

    Kind of looks like a giant glazed donut, doesn't it?

    Thursday, October 16, 2008

    Peer pressure doesn't stop at graduation

    Debate analysis to come later today. For now, here's this. I can't stand MoveOn anymore, but it's a great ad, especially the last line. H/T On Transmigration.

    Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    The Presiding Bishop visits Dartmouth

    The highlight of my time here at Dartmouth has been, more than even the New Hampshire primary, the presence and community of the Edgerton House Episcopal Campus Ministry (the “Edge”). Two weeks ago, we at the Edge were fortunate enough to receive a visit from our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, and a very special guest, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori. It was a rather intimate hour with only 15 or so students and a handful of clergy present. Few events have been more spirit-filled or inspirational. Our 45-minute discussion included comments about campus ministry, evangelism, and the MDGs, as well as questions about prayer and Lambeth.

    (I'm the bearded collarless guy next to Bp Robinson on the right.)

    +Gene spent the weekend showing the Presiding Bishop around the Diocese of New Hampshire. After what I assume were typical liturgies and/or Q&A sessions in Concord and Claremont, ++Katharine came to Hanover and turned the tables to spend an hour asking about our lives and listening rather than answering and speaking. +Gene mostly sat in the background, interjecting only occasionally. He told the PB that he loves being able to step out of the spotlight for once and wishes she could stop by more often.

    ++Katharine is an amazing woman. We all know this from her resume – PhD in oceanography, flies her own planes, expert on adult education and baptismal ministry – but what’s truly amazing is how much her intelligence shines through the very second you meet her. Whether you’re familiar with her background or not, after spending just five minutes sitting in her presence, watching the way she holds herself and leans in to listen, you are blown away by how obviously remarkable she is. What’s more, she would often when speaking refer back to comments made by students 25 minutes earlier. Her heart was fully engaged in her listening.

    She asked what the church needs to do to reach out to young folks, and what sorts of events and community we foster here at the Edge. We told her about this building’s many uses and roles: this 24/7 refuge or study spot, this home base for young alums, this wonderful community. Our student minister, Liz, made the point that it is so helpful for our ministry to have a physical plant; that’s something the other campus ministries lack and they do suffer for it. Liz also impressed upon both bishops the need to find more money, whenever and wherever possible, for more ministries and facilities such as this. One of my favorite comments came from an evangelical student who only just began attending Episcopal Churches this summer. She told ++Katharine how wonderful it is to come to a Christian environment and be welcomed for who you are rather than feeling pressured to mimic a very specific subculture, and to be able to have friends from other faith traditions (or none!) without feeling like you had to bring them to a Bible study. No proselytization quotas here!

    (Update: Despite what the "Stand Firm" blog would have you believe, the above paragraph does not mean the PB or those of us at the Edge shun evangelism. It merely means that we here at the Edge take things quite seriously when we say, "The Episcopal Church welcomes you!" The Diocese of New Hampshire, like Christ Himself, stands for radical hospitality.)

    There was also discussion about the impacts, both positive and negative, that +Gene has had on the church, but I’d like to keep this blog post focused more on campus ministry than on the typical controversies. My own response to the question of how to attract young people was, “You’ve already started.” I thanked her for the church’s focus on social justice and the MDGs, explaining that every time I told liberals in DC or NH where I worked this past summer (the Episcopal Public Policy Network), I was met with speculation and animosity – “Oh, so, you must be pretty anti-gay than, right?” or a snide “Oh, Christian policy – where do you stand on immigrants?” People were always surprised, and intrigued, by the church’s (generally liberal) approach to justice. In a media environment dominated by the religious right, it’s easy for people to forget about Christ amidst all the “Christianity.” TEC’s focus on the MDGs is helping to counter that. ++Katharine was excited about the EPPN internship, and told me that she hopes to broaden our focus in the next few years to include domestic MDG-style goals. The one example she gave, which thrilled me to no end, was American Indian reservations. The poverty there will blow you away – it’s easy to forget about it given the casino affluence a few tribes have, but some reservations don’t even have running water, and the health rates are staggering. I hadn’t even told the PB that I am a Native American Studies major yet, and yet it was the first example she brought up. I guess her visit to South Dakota reservations in June left a real impression on her. I asked her to keep sexual harassment and abuse in mind as she goes about that goal, given that 1 in 3 Indian women are raped, compared to 1 in 6 for all races nationwide. She made a non-committal remark about, “Well, we’ll know who to come to for passion!” But at least she heard me.

    Later on, during a lull in the conversation, I asked about prayer. As someone who doesn’t do mornings and whose academic schedule changes every three months, I find it almost impossible to pick one time for daily prayer and stick with it. My prayer life lacks discipline and has absolutely no structure; it is often limited to two minutes in the shower and a quick plea whenever I hear sirens. ++Katharine smiled and said her schedule is never the same from one day to the next, and a lack of structure is completely ok. She uses her body to pray – she goes running whenever she can, and prays with the rhythms of the jog. This was something similar to what my own bishop, the bishop of Spokane, once told me – that it isn’t about structure. I think God is using these two ministers to tell me something, don’t you?

    Next, Liz asked the PB about Lambeth, and her answer focused not on the state of the Communion but on the success of the study groups and Indaba groups. She told us about her own and the diverse group of people it brought together. Those relationships, she said, have continued well past Lambeth, and will help us stay in a calm, spiritual dialogue with one another. Her answer was quite deep, but alas, when one takes two weeks to make a blog post, one forgets many vital details. She also spoke, when told that the Edge is almost a priest factory with two folks in the discernment process now, about the importance of vocational discernment within the context of our baptismal vows rather than ordination.

    I was particularly impressed with a sophomore from Virginia, one of the few conservatives in our little community. After a few students made somewhat liberal comments (including my own described above), she pointed out that those who are conservative hold their views and fight for them out of true sincerity, and she wasn’t sure those voices were always heard within The Episcopal Church. ++Katharine took on a very warm and knowing look, leaned in toward the sophomore (who was sitting next to her), and made a beckoning motion with her hand as if to say, “Out with it, honey, it’s ok.” The student, in a very polite and respectful way and with +Gene Robinson sitting right there, talked about her views on ministry and the state of the church, focusing on some of her deep concerns. About half way through she started to stumble, and ++Katharine made the welcoming “out with it” gesture again. Afterwards, I told the student how impressed I was that she would take her concerns to the church's absolute top dog and that she would do it so respectfully. She told me that she hadn’t quite realized what she was doing until halfway through, which is why she suddenly got nervous and stumbled. Needless to say, we are all quite proud to have her as one of us!

    Everyone later agreed that it was a moving, intimate, and spirit-filled hour. If nothing else, it was a wonderful blessing for our ministry and our community to be able to circle up and pray with such a remarkable woman.

    One final note about Bishop Robinson. We exchanged e-mails this summer, before and after Lambeth, and I told him he I really hoped he would come to Dartmouth so I could give him a hug. He replied with the news about his coming visit with the PB and told me he would be sure to collect on that hug. Well, collect we did - my that man can hug! He gave everyone a hug before he left, but I am pleased to say that I got my own hug before the big round of hugs, and that it was three times longer than anyone else's. Quite strong, as well. Am I bragging? Well, perhaps, but one can't help but feel all snuggly upon receiving such a big hug from such a big hero. :)

    Monday, October 13, 2008

    Months like this don't come along every week

    Man, this paragraph from NBC's First Read really puts things in perspective. Can you remember a faster, crazier, less predictable month than the one we've just been through? I hadn't thought about it before, but yeah, it's just been boomboomboom.

    The Status Quo: At the beginning of the month, at the 34-day mark before the election, we noted how much had changed in the preceding 34 days: Obama had accepted the Dem nomination, McCain picked Palin, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike crashed into the Gulf Coast, Lehman Brothers went under and Merrill Lynch was bought out, the Bush Administration asked for its $700 billion bailout package, and McCain and Obama participated in their first debate. "If the next 34 is like the last 34, we're in for quite a ride," GOP pollster Neil Newhouse told First Read at the time. But in the past two weeks since then, what has been remarkable is how little has actually changed. Despite the Dow's ups and downs, the Biden-Palin debate, and the second McCain-Obama one, the race has continued on its current course where Obama has built his leads in national and state polls... Of course, with exactly three weeks go to, things in this race can certainly turn in a blink of eye. But it's got to be pretty frustrating for the McCain camp to count on outside events to change things again.

    Ok, enough procrastinating. Back to the midterm studying I will go.

    Sunday, October 12, 2008

    The view from my kitchen window

    I have dozens of photos to upload to from hiking Vermont's Mt. Mansfield yesterday morning, but until I get around to that, here is a shot of the view from my kitchen window earlier today. Say what you will about them damn Yankees, and chances are I've already said it multiple times, but the truth is you really can't beat a New England fall.

    Friday, October 10, 2008

    Dante's Inferno Test

    The Dante's Inferno Test has sent me to Purgatory!
    Here is how I matched up against all the levels. How will YOU do, dear wayward reader?
    Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very High
    Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
    Level 2 (Lustful)Moderate
    Level 3 (Gluttonous)High
    Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
    Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
    Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
    Level 7 (Violent)Low
    Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
    Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

    Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test

    Phew, that was a close one - my love of steak and fried chicken almost did me in. H/T to my froggy friend.

    The unAmerican Broadcasting Corporation

    Apparently, ABC is refusing to run this climate change ad from, a nonpartisan group started by Al Gore but endorsed by the likes of Newt Gingrich and Pat Robertson. Such greed-based, planet-raping censorship does not represent the values for which this country stands.

    Thanks to Chuck Morello of the Episcopal Ecological Network (EpEN) for helping get the word out about this ad and ABC's shameless behavior. From We Can Solve It:

    ABC recently refused to run our Repower America ad, even though they run ads from oil companies that mislead the American people about the role fossil fuels play in the climate crisis.

    Ask ABC to reconsider their decision and air our Repower America ad this Friday.

    When you complete the form below, we’ll send your message to ABC, and let them know how you feel.

    Thursday, October 09, 2008

    The Great Schlep

    Ok, so, I'm probably going to be struck by a lightning bolt or something along those lines for posting this, but still, I think it's awesome. And besides, I've got cover:

    Paid for by the Jewish Council for Education and Research,,
    not authorized by any candidate or candidates committee

    Warning, to my mom and others: Lots of expletives. Lots of 'em. Like, not Quentin Tarantino lots, but still, lots.

    The Great Schlep aims to have Jewish grandchildren visit their grandparents in Florida, educate them about Obama, and therefore swing the crucial Florida vote in his favor. Don’t have grandparents in Florida? Not Jewish? No problem! You can still become a schlepper and make change happen in 2008, simply by talking to your relatives about Obama.

    Wednesday, October 08, 2008

    Bipartisan Male Bovine Excrement, Part 1: Ignoring the economic facts

    Well, the second presidential debate is over, and dear Lord do I need a shower. A hot shower, some strong deodorant, and a heavy dose of pine-scented air freshener just might be enough to wash away the scent of male bovine excrement that now fills TV rooms across the country. Things were so bad that I'll need two posts to get through it all - part the first (this one) will rant about their economic crisis answers, and part the second will rant about McCain's various lies (and a little Obama too).

    Both candidates were so full of it last night. McCain was certainly the bigger fool, but that's not to say Obama gets off easily. The first thirty or so minutes of the debate (transcript here), when the two talked about the bailout and taxes, were absolutely excruciating. Obama talked about cutting taxes and expanding programs, and McCain talked about an across-the-board spending freeze (except on defense issues, which are of course the biggest spending increases of all). Here’s the problem with those answers:

    There was a global market crash on Monday. Not a slump, not a bad day, but a CRASH, and it continued on Tuesday, with the Dow dropping another 500 points. Markets did the same thing in South America, Asia, and Europe. The Europeans are particularly inept – at least according to yesterday’s Boston Globe, they are so intent on blaming the U.S. that they refuse to recognize this as a systematic problem and come up with a coherent response. Back on this side of the pond, we’ve (rightfully) passed a $700 billion bailout, but it doesn’t seem to be helping the frozen credit markets. Maybe I’m just running my mouth off here, but I will be shocked if the Dow closes above 9000 on Friday. I’ll bet we see 10% unemployment within six months, if not sooner.

    So what does it mean for the government when individuals and corporations make less money? It means a drop in taxes paid, and thus a drop in government receipts. But what do Obama and McCain say? Why, decrease revenue even further with a TAX CUT!

    Don’t get me wrong. Like any good progressive, I support universal health care. But like any good blue dog, I also support sensible fiscal policy. As a good doctor once said, "You cannot promise people tax cuts, college education, health care and whatever else you want, and say, 'Oh, it'll all be fine.’ That’s what George Bush is doing. I want fiscal responsibility in this country, but I want to help middle-class people send their kids to college. You cannot have tax cuts and help people send their kids to college at the same time."

    But if Barack Obama is misleading, John McCain is an outright liar. His problems started out small enough, I suppose – more a matter of hypocrisy than of actual dishonesty. He criticized Obama and his “cronies” for “encouraging” Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to make high-risk loans. Yes, it’s true that Obama’s Senate campaign received donations from the mortgage giants and that one of his VOLUNTEER veep vetters was a Fannie Mae executive 17 years ago, but let’s never mind that McCain’s own CAMPAIGN MANAGER was a paid Freddie Mac consultant until JUST LAST MONTH.

    Bipartisan Male Bovine Excrement, Part 2: Taxing Dishonesty

    (This is part two of my analysis of the second 2008 presidential debate. For part one, click here.)

    McCain went on to attack Obama for wanting to raise taxes on half of all small business income, but I ask you, what’s more important: money, or people? From this week’s Fox News Sunday, emphasis added:

    [Host Chris Wallace:] When you combined Obama's proposed hikes in the income tax and the payroll tax, IRS figures show that two-thirds of all small business income would, in fact, be subject to higher taxes under Obama's tax plan.

    [Missouri Democratic Senator Claire] MCCASKILL: Chris, 95 percent of small businessmen in this country make less than $250,000 a year. That is, in fact, the facts. And the bottom line is if you make less than $250,000 a year, you're not going to see one thin dime of any kind of tax increase under Barack Obama's plan.

    WALLACE: But would you deny, Senator McCaskill, that two-thirds of all business income -- I'm not talking about the number of businessmen. I'm talking about the income that they get. Two-thirds of their income would be subject to higher taxes under the Obama plan.

    MCCASKILL: I guess that's one way of saying that there's a few people making a lot of the money.

    McCain told a similar lie about Obama’s income tax proposals when he said, “Nailing down Sen. Obama's various tax proposals is like nailing Jell-O to the wall. There has been five or six of them and if you wait long enough, there will probably be another one. But he wants to raise taxes.” But as Obama was quick to point out, he would actually CUT taxes for 95% of Americans. Now I’ve made it clear that I don’t think that’s a good idea right now, but let’s at least be honest about why it’s a bad idea.

    Yet McCain seems to have checked his honesty at the door. He also accused Obama of having voted to raise taxes 94 times. And to that, I remind him of what Joe Biden said in the vice presidential debate after Sarah Palin made a similar charge:

    The charge is absolutely not true. Barack Obama did not vote to raise taxes. The vote she's referring to, John McCain voted the exact same way. It was a budget procedural vote. John McCain voted the same way. It did not raise taxes. Number two, using the standard that the governor uses, John McCain voted 477 times to raise taxes. It's a bogus standard.

    Of course, my disgust tonight is bipartisan, and I can’t help but wonder if Obama was using a similar “bogus standard” when he said that McCain has cast 23 votes against alternative fuels. Speaking of fuels and energy, McCain demanded, yet again, that we have offshore drilling. I wonder if he’s aware that Democrats allowed the ban on offshore drilling to expire last month?

    And all this is just the fact checking I can do off the top of my head. If this is what someone can think of live, imagine what a crack research team could do with a full day! This is why it’s healthy – certainly in terms of blood pressure – to remember that every cloud has a silver lining. It wasn't ALL bad; I don't know if I agree with McCain's answer to a question about Russia, but he certainly seemed knowledgeable about the issue, and while both candidates ducked foreign policy questions, at least they ducked them honestly and didn't appear to by lying the whole way through. I applaud Tom Brokaw for being the first moderator since… well, ever, actually, to make the candidates follow the debate rules, even if he didn’t ask about poverty or global development. I also applaud both candidates for naming Warren Buffett as a potential Treasury Secretary, and am grateful that McCain didn’t bring up his campaign’s self-degrading charges that Obama might be a terrorist.

    Still, one little ray of sunshine doesn’t do you much good when the downpour has already soaked your overcoat all the way through to your undies – especially if that downpour isn’t rain, but the yellow liquid that accompanies male bovine excrement. Sorry if that metaphor seems a little crass, but tonight’s debate was just that bad. What’s particularly disappointing is who it came from – a brilliant author and law professor who has spoken in such eloquent terms as to lift us to heights we haven’t felt in 28, if not 48, years, and a formerly honest maverick who really does know how to turn a political establishment on its head for the good of his country. If this is what we have to expect from even these two men, can we ever hope for an honest fight?

    Tuesday, October 07, 2008

    Writing with crutches

    I just got out of my Government Department honors research seminar. Among the things we discussed today was the use of footnotes, and whether or not it’s ok to use them for text that must be included but would disrupt the flow of the narrative. One of the two professors said he feels that footnotes are only for citations and discussion of citations, and that to use them for narrative asides is a crutch and should only be done in an “emergency”. Such writing, he said, is a cop-out used when the author can’t find an easy way to massage the actual text.

    Maybe he’s right, but what I’m left wondering is… so what? Why is using a crutch an inherently bad thing? I don’t know of anyone who has ever walked up to someone hobbling down the sidewalk on a broken knee or crushed ankle and said, “Hey! You! You can’t use that! That’s a crutch! No crutches allowed!”

    Let’s say your writing ability is your leg, and your leg is broken. If the doctor tells you it’s going to take a month to heal, but your paper is due in two weeks, what is so bad about using a crutch?

    Now I’m not saying I agree with the professor about footnotes. He’s a good professor who's a lot more knowledgabe than I and I'm enjoying his class, but this is hardly an issue on which academics are united, so I feel safe in siding with the professors who disagree with him on this onel ittle issue. But footnotes and professors beside the point. The real point is, even if he is right and I’m wrong… so what? Let's throw this obnoxious phrase under the bus once and for all!

    As tired clich├ęs go, James Fallows has his boiling frogs, and I guess I have my crutches.

    Friday, October 03, 2008

    Gig 'em veterans!

    When I'm not wearing my Stetson or bike helmet, I've got on an A&M ballcap, and this story in today's Houston Chronicle really warmed my heart:

    Hurricane Ike almost broke Eddie Janek's heart. The storm left his Galveston home standing, but a surge of water tore through the Navy memorabilia that Janek has been collecting since 1943.

    "I had all kinds of Navy stuff," said Janek, 81, a retired Galveston County commissioner and veteran of both World War II and the Korean War. "Airplanes hanging off the ceiling. Pictures from boot camp and all the ships that I had served on during the two wars I was in.

    "I really had it fixed up nice and there isn't a thing left. My Navy memorial room is gone. I was really brokenhearted."

    On Thursday, Janek's heart beat a quick recovery when two Texas A&M-Galveston officials who also happened to be friends returned his war medals.

    They had washed up on Pelican Island, about four to five miles from Janek's waterfront home on Galveston Bay.

    "This is unreal," said Janek, holding a board of mounted medals that had been swept away, floated under the bridge to Pelican Island and made its way to the shores of A&M's maritime campus. The medals were rescued along with the shadow box that housed them, its glass cover intact...

    "Look at it this way," said [son] Kyle Janek, "those are Navy medals that made another beach landing and survived another onslaught."

    Saluting the candidates - all four of them

    Joe Biden’s son, Beau, one of the most gracious men I’ve ever met, flies to Fort Bliss today to begin preparing for his November deployment to Iraq. Sarah Palin’s son is already there, and John McCain’s son has gone and come back.

    When our nation first went to war, uberliberal Michael Moore asked members of Congress if they would please encourage their kids to join the military and share the sacrifice of so few families. It is true that Congress rarely feels the same pinch as the rest of America, so how wonderful is it that three of our four major national contenders are sharing in that real sacrifice, standing beside their policies in ways most of us can’t even imagine?

    Oh, and the fourth candidate? His oldest child is nine. If four out of four candidates had kids in the military, we’d have a problem.

    This campaign has turned into a real mudfest, but of this one often overlooked detail, we can all be proud. And we can be prouder still when President Obama brings Governor Palin’s son home, the mission over and his courage honored.

    Thursday, October 02, 2008

    And now you know why I'm proud to have worked for Joe Biden

    41 seconds in.

    Only the second or so time I've seen him talk about it (aside from his memoirs). Genuine, and touching. On a more political, less personal note, this was great:

    Wednesday, October 01, 2008

    Sleep, sports, Palin, and the bailout

    Here are six news articles that have caught my eye this week. I’ll start with the stuff that has nothing to do with the bailout or Sarah Palin – news about college kids who don’t sleep enough and a column on sports overdogs. (Cany, the last article in the list, about Palin, is especially for you.) Also, to those of you on my blogroll (especially James and Mimi!), it’s been a busy few weeks, but you should see me in your Sitemeters once again before the week is out. :)

    So, first up from the Boston Globe: “Colleges calling sleep a success prerequisite”. There’s lot of junk out there that purports to know the younger generation, but this one actually gets it right. The article quotes several students on why they don’t sleep enough, presents data that shows the trend is getting worse, and discusses university programs aimed at combating the problem. It’s both thorough AND accurate, a combination you rarely see in mainstream reporting anymore.

    "For college students, sleep is the most dispensable thing," said Dr. Vanessa Britto, director of health services at Wellesley. "Most people feel it's a badge of honor. 'I didn't sleep. Parentheses, aren't I great?' Until you point out to them that pulling an all-nighter is the equivalent of driving drunk and is detrimental to their reaction time and memory."…

    With 24 hours of online entertainment available, students today are tempted by myriad diversions other than school books. They're gambling, catching up on their favorite television shows, playing video games, or chatting with virtual friends - then trying to study into the wee hours of the morning.

    "It's like, well, I could do my calculus homework or it sounds like the girls next door are doing something fun so I'll just walk over there," said Kelsey Barton, a freshman at Tufts, who said she has been averaging about three hours of sleep a night since starting college this month. "I don't want to miss out.”

    Next on my list, Texas Monthly’s sports columnist Jason Cohen’s “Bully for You: In praise of the overdog”. I love the underdog as much as any red-meat eating, Budweiser drinking American, but Cohen has a point:

    But what about Hall of Fame athletes and historic teams? Am I the only person south of New Haven who wanted to see Tom Brady and the Patriots ascend to even greater greatness with that nineteenth win? Three Lombardi trophies in four years had already put New England in the thick of any bar-stool argument about the best team of all time. Had they finished up only the second-ever undefeated season in the modern NFL with a fourth title, the debate was likely over (even with an asterisk for Spygate). We don’t often get to witness that kind of history, which is why I also wanted Tiger over Rocco in the U.S. Open, Roger over Rafa at Wimbledon, and the Red Sox over the Rockies in the last World Series. Can’t anybody spare a little fan-love for the poor, downtrodden overdog?

    Somewhere along the way, dominance became less interesting than storytelling, ordinary more compelling than extraordinary. Nobody expects a world-class soprano at the Met to sing like everybody else. Brad and Angelina don’t sell movie tickets because they remind us of ourselves. “Plucky up-and-comer” is not what we look for in our brain surgeons or airline pilots. But sports teams that get hot for a month or lucky for two hours become as revered as nonpareil champions.

    He’s got a point. Romo’s da’ man. But on a more sordid note, I must return to the bailout. There were a couple of interesting OpEds on mark-to-market accounting in the Wall Street Journal and American Spectator today, but I don’t know enough about the issue to quote them at length. What I will recklessly quote is the New York Times’ Tom Friedman on why you need the bailout even if the golden parachute jumpers don’t:

    Well, you say, “I don’t own any stocks — let those greedy monsters on Wall Street suffer.” You may not own any stocks, but your pension fund owned some Lehman Brothers commercial paper and your regional bank held subprime mortgage bonds, which is why you were able refinance your house two years ago. And your local airport was insured by A.I.G., and your local municipality sold municipal bonds on Wall Street to finance your street’s new sewer system, and your local car company depended on the credit markets to finance your auto loan — and now that the credit market has dried up, Wachovia bank went bust and your neighbor lost her secretarial job there.

    We’re all connected. As others have pointed out, you can’t save Main Street and punish Wall Street anymore than you can be in a rowboat with someone you hate and think that the leak in the bottom of the boat at his end is not going to sink you, too. The world really is flat. We’re all connected. “Decoupling” is pure fantasy.

    I also appreciate David Gergen’s words on the matter. The omnipresent commentator and former adviser to nineteen different Presidents (ok, five) looks not at the economics of it all, but the equally devastating politics:

    At Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership, which I have the privilege of directing, we have taken public surveys in each of the past three years measuring confidence in our nation’s leadership. Our surveys have been done in partnership with U.S. News & World Report as well as Yankelovich.

    The results haven’t been pretty. In the fall of 2005, some 65% said we have a leadership crisis in the country. By 2006, the number had risen to 69%. And last fall, no less than 77% declared there was a crisis of leadership. Moreover, 79% said the United States would decline unless we get better leaders… We cannot assume that a new president, whether Barack Obama or John McCain, can magically wave a wand and solve our problems. It is clear that we need to rebuild leadership in institutions and groups across the board. And unless we do so, America’s greatness as a nation will be severely challenged.

    And last but not least, two articles about Sarah Palin. Remember a couple weeks back when five prominent conservative bloggers called her out on her inexperience? Well, a sixth has joined them. I’m a little late on the story, but last week, Kathleen Parker called for Palin to drop out of the race.

    Palin's recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.

    No one hates saying that more than I do. Like so many women, I've been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly. I've also noticed that I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted…

    Only Palin can save McCain, her party and the country she loves. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first.

    I’ll leave you with Paul Campos of the Rocky Mountain News. Cany, you of all people should definitely click through; you’ll love Campos’ last paragraph.

    If Palin knows anything at all about national politics or foreign affairs or history or economics or almost anything else one would want a president to know something about, she has till now kept that fact remarkably well hidden.

    She is, in other words, the ultimate representative of a kind of out-of-control populism. In its more extreme forms, populist resentment of elites flows from the belief that any ordinary person knows enough to be a good political leader, since political leadership is all about having the right values, and good character, and a pure heart.

    This is of course nonsense. It makes about as much sense as saying that performing open-heart surgery or piloting a jumbo jet is all about having the right values.