Friday, February 8, 2008

It's all in the terminology

Andrew Sullivan had a link to this Beliefnet article, which poses the question that maybe Romney lost because he was too Christian.

On reading the headline, I thought it was an interesting thesis. Was he too forgiving? Too humble? Too willing to turn the other cheek? Too focused on the Kingdom of Heaven rather than on temporal power?

But that's not what it's about.

Romney believed that to win the nomination he had to win over evangelical Christians. He figured the way to do that was to get all Jesusy. So he declared, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind." In so doing, he showed a fatal misunderstanding of the attitude of evangelicals toward Mormonism.
. . .
"When he goes around and says Jesus Christ is my Lord and savior, he ticks off at least half the evangelicals,'' Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention said. "He's picking a fight he's going to lose."
You see, the problem was, he used the wrong words in talking about his magic invisible daddy in the sky, using the same words other people use, implying that his magic invisible daddy in the sky is the same one as theirs, which they totally disagree with because there's, like, a different book of stories!

He had the temerity to suggest that everyone who follows Jesus is a brother in the spirit. And he used a label that didn't respect GOP identity politics. That's what "too Christian" means--nothing to do with your beliefs or behavior, everything to do with what label you use for your magic invisible sky-daddy.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Election night thoughts, such as they are

Got an email from a friend asking what I thought, here's what I told him. This is current as of post time, subject to change as late results come in.

The delegate count is looking good. Everyone's made a big deal about MO being a bellwether, and it looks like he's going to fight her to a draw here (12-point gap earlier, currently at 3%). Exit polls show the Latino vote is breaking heavily for Hillary, which is going to be a problem in CA. But all in all it's about what people expected... Neither is going to land a knockout blow, he's actually beating expectations (and the margins for Obama are huge in the south) and doing well in delegates. (In fact, the delegate counts so far look like it's going to be almost a draw.)

She's going to keep arguing she's inevitable, but the numbers don't really support that. She's trumpeting her wins in OK & AR, that she really can win something midwestern/southernish... meanwhile, in the *real* south, Obama's kicking her butt.

Romney's gotta be hurting. Speculation at one blog [can't find the darn link now, drat] that Huckabee's going to get the call from McCain about a slot on the ticket... Usually that sort of thing carries a "...provided you drop out of the race now" contingency. In this case, it may be "...provided you stay in until the end and keep sucking votes away from Romney."

And the BBC seems vaguely amused by it all.

So all in all, not the blowout I'd hoped for, not the trashing I'd feared. Not a bad night. And MA's not a surprise, in spite of Her Inevitableness's bloviating. She's been ahead there for weeks--by 14 points a week ago. So there wasn't anything unexpected about it. Yes, a bigger bounce from the Ted-loving would have been nice. Oh well.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Leaping to (probably wrong) conclusions

CNN has already decided that there's going to be a jobless recovery, "again." You remember, just like that last jobless recovery? The one that turned out to add lots and lots of new jobs?

Yes, it did. It wasn't really jobless at all. The employment statistics are mostly estimated based on what's happening at large companies. Smaller companies and new companies tend not to get sampled sufficiently; that's why the early numbers are always subject to revision, sometimes as much as a year later. And the later revisions showed that the "jobless" recovery wasn't jobless at all; it's just that most of the new jobs were added by smaller businesses, those with 50 or fewer employees, so didn't show up in the early statisitcs; it wasn't until the numbers were revised with more complete information, much after the fact, that the truth became known. By which time, of course, it was (literally) last year's news, so was ignored by the media.

I see no reason to expect any current "jobless" recovery to be any different. I'm willing to be proven wrong, but in this case using the latest statistics is actually one of the weakest arguments.

Oh, by the way, welcome to post #200.

OK, even we Yanks aren't this out of touch...

Apparently many Brits have trouble telling where reality ends and fiction begins...

Britons are losing their grip on reality, according to a poll which shows nearly a quarter think Winston Churchill was a myth, while the majority reckon Sherlock Holmes was real.

The survey found that 47 per cent thought the 12th Century English King Richard the Lionheart was a myth.

And 23 per cent thought World War II prime minister Winston Churchill was made up.

Hmmmm..... I can't help wondering if there isn't a whiff of a setup in this, much like the poll about 10 years back showing more Gen-Xers believed in UFO's than believed that Social Security would be there when they were 65. (Moral of the story being, ask 2 widely-separated questions, make sure the wording on one is heavily slanted, and you can get whatever results you want.)

Still... Even assuming there's a modicum of truth in this. But what were the actual questions? That Richard the Lionheart existed? Or that he actually did all of the various things attributed to him? (After all, there was a Saxon warlord named Arthurius...but that hardly makes the grail-quest legends historically accurate.)

[h/t: Paddy, at Cliff Schecter's]

The scourge (and stupidity) that is postmodernism

Sometimes it's not just academic follies, sometimes it spills out into the real world. Seems there's a recent law review article posted that makes the argument:

  • The government is required by the constitution to be neutral on matters of religion, and therefore to treat all "ways of knowing" as equal;
  • Science (specifically evolution) focuses on natural causes, rejecting supernatural causes out of hand, without even considering them, and is therefore itself a belief system, a type of religion;
  • Therefore for govt to endorse science, particularly evolution, is to forcibly indoctrinating students into the "religion" of secular humanism, and compelling them to undergo religious instruction;
  • while instead the constitution clearly requires government to remain "neutral" and teach "alternative" theories, explicitly including supernatural ones.
Yes, the fundamentalists are adopting the language of postmodernism to "prove" that creationism should be taught in schools.

See, this is why us geeks make such a big deal about rigorous logic, clear definitions, etc. It can be shown (relatively easily) that if a logical system has a contradiction anywhere, it is possible to prove anything in that system, no matter how absurd. Of course, there are several problems with this argument, including weasel words, non sequiturs, and so on; it's not a solid argument. But why didn't the law journal catch that? Don't they review articles? Doesn't anyone notice such leaps of logic? I was under the impression lawyers were trained in such things... Perhaps I was misinformed.

Fortunately, in this particular case at least, there's a blistering point-by-point rebuttal... But the fact the original article ever got published in the first place is scary.

[h/t: Ed Brayton]

Out of control?

I suppose, in good blogosphere fashion, I should congratulate Greg Mankiw for saying what I did already. On the other hand, he has actual data to back him up, and so has some claim to actually know what he's talking about. So instead I'll just make the standard "Yeah, what he said!" post:

A rise in expected inflation is not consistent with the conventional wisdom that the economy is on the verge of a serious slump driven by inadequate aggregate demand. It is, however, consistent with the hypothesis that policymakers are overreacting to some bad economic news with excessive monetary and fiscal stimulus.
If the problem with the economy is that we're coming off an asset bubble caused by too much easy money (i.e., too low interest rates) for too long, lowering interest rates isn't going to fix it. We can have a mild recession now, or a much worse recession later, possibly combined with inflation. Yes, recessions are uncomfortable. Runaway inflation is worse. (Recessions make it difficult to accumulate more capital, due to sluggish economic activity; inflation takes away capital you've already accumulated, via erosion of purchasing power.) Of course, the inflation won't hit until after the election. Could that be it? Naw, I'm just being cynical.... not.

Memo to new president: do what you have to, to get the economy under control early in your term. If you have the recession early, the voters will forgive you by the time you're up for re-election.

[h/t: Andrew Sullivan]