October 5, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 9:00 PM

SKINNY VS FATUOUS:

Hugo Chavez Might Actually Lose His Election on Sunday (Francisco Toro, October 5, 2012, New Republic)

The 40-year old state governor[, Henrique Capriles, ] has run a nearly flawless campaign: sidelining the opposition's reactionary wing in favor of a much more moderate Social Democratic stance. Young, nimble and energetic, Capriles has spoken to working class Venezuelans in less urban parts of the country in their own language--certainly much more so than the more conservative leaders who led the opposition before him. Running on a record of achievement in his home state of Miranda, Capriles has capitalized on people's growing day-to-day frustration with the dysfunctional chavista state, promising to keep its popular social programs while radically cracking down on the runaway waste, corruption and political sectarianism that hobble every chavista initiative.

It's been a brilliantly executed campaign against a government that, for all its oil billions, has made one blunder after another on the trail. Chávez legendary common touch has been nowhere in sight. Instead he's been campaigning on a platform top-heavy with distant abstractions about "building Bolivarian socialism of the 21st century in Venezuela as an alternative to destructive and savage capitalism," "achieving equilibrium in the universe and guaranteeing planetary peace" and "preserving life on the planet and saving the human species."

Why a single mom in the barrio dealing with constant power outages and water service interruptions, double-digit inflation and out of control crime is meant to care about universal equilibrium is never quite spelled out. Fourteen years on, he has little to say about "the concerns of people like you," to use the hoary old polling cliché. Political power has clearly robbed him of his populist touch.

But the bigger problem for Chávez is that, while he remains personally well liked by most Venezuelans and fanatically adored by a not inconsiderable minority, even his most die-hard supporters realize his government stinks.

The government Chávez has built is a monumental fiasco. Corrupt, bureaucratic, opaque and wedded to unworkable ideological certainties, the chavista state is top-heavy with cronies and arbitrageurs who talk about the beauty of socialism all morning and siphon off the profits of crooked deals into off-shore bank accounts all afternoon. Today, it amounts to a sprawling bureaucracy that simply doesn't have the resources to make good on the ideological checks the president spends his days writing.

The result is a paradox: to many Venezuelans, the emotional bond with the first leader that ever spoke directly to the barrio remains strong. But it coexists with a no-longer-concealed realization that he's not particularly good at his job.

Worse yet, he may not be around that much longer. An unspecified type of cancer that first struck him in the summer of 2011 recurred earlier this year. The President claims to be cured--but he sure doesn't look cured. He lumbers around slowly and visibly bloated, reportedly a side-effect of the steroids administered to keep him in fighting shape through the campaign season. The contrast with the nimble Capriles, an amateur marathon runner nicknamed "Skinny", couldn't be greater.

Posted by orrinj at 8:57 PM

1980 AGAIN:

Presidential Debate Drew More Than 70 Million Viewers (BRIAN STELTER, 10/04/12, NY Times)

The first of three presidential debates between President Obama and Mitt Romney reached more than 70 million viewers on Wednesday night.

Nielsen, a television measurement company, said 67.2 million viewers watched on television at home -- the highest number for a first debate since 1980. That year, 80.6 million watched the only debate between President Jimmy Carter and the Republican presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan.

Before you vote the bum out you have to make sure the new guy is viable.

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 PM

ON THE OTHER HAND, WE CAN CAUSE INFLATION ABROAD:

As Iran's Currency Keeps Tumbling, Anxiety Is Rising (THOMAS ERDBRINK, 10/05/12, NY Times)

For months, since the imposition of harsh, American-led sanctions over Iran's nuclear program, the country's leaders have sworn they would never succumb to Western pressures, and they scoffed at the idea that the measures were having any serious impact. But after a week in which the Iranian currency, the rial, fell by a shocking 40 percent and protests began to rumble through the capital, no one is making light of the mounting costs of confrontation.

In the Iranian capital, all anyone can talk about is the rial, and how lives have been turned upside down in one terrible week. Every elevator ride, office visit or quick run to the supermarket brings new gossip about the currency's drop and a swirl of speculation about who is to blame.

Posted by orrinj at 8:34 PM

THE MOMENT AT WHICH YOU ACKNOWLEDGE HIS NAKEDNESS IS NOT THE MOMENT AT WHICH HIS NAKEDNESS BEGAN:

Obama pays price for ducking the questions (Dana Milbank, Published: October 4, 2012, Washington Post)

In the hours after the Republican challenger Mitt Romney embarrassed the incumbent in their first meeting, Obama loyalists expressed puzzlement that the incumbent had done badly. But Obama has only himself to blame, because he set himself up for Wednesday's emperor-has-no-clothes moment. For the past four years, he has worked assiduously to avoid being questioned, maintaining a regal detachment from the media and other sources of dissent and skeptical inquiry.

Obama has set a modern record for refusal to be quizzed by the media, taking questions from reporters far less often than Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and even George W. Bush. Though his opponent in 2008 promised to take questions from lawmakers like the British prime minister does, Obama has shied from mixing it up with members of Congress, too. And, especially since Rahm Emanuel's departure, Obama is surrounded by a large number of yes men who aren't likely to get in his face.

Posted by orrinj at 3:34 PM

TAKE A CHILL PILL:

Why are folks all whacked out about the job numbers today?  It's too late for them to help the UR.  Remember the numbers GHWB's economy was posting in '92?



Didn't do a lick of good.



Posted by orrinj at 5:21 AM

WE ARE ALL DESIGNISTS NOW:

Reality: How does consciousness fit in? (Michael Brooks, 10/03/12, New Scientist)

According to prevailing wisdom, a quantum particle such as an electron or photon can only be properly described as a mathematical entity known as a wave function. Wave functions can exist as "superpositions" of many states at once. A photon, for instance, can circulate in two different directions around an optical fibre; or an electron can simultaneously spin clockwise and anticlockwise or be in two positions at once.

When any attempt is made to observe these simultaneous existences, however, something odd happens: we see only one. How do many possibilities become one physical reality?

This is the central question in quantum mechanics, and has spawned a plethora of proposals, or interpretations. The most popular is the Copenhagen interpretation, which says nothing is real until it is observed, or measured. Observing a wave function causes the superposition to collapse.

However, Copenhagen says nothing about what exactly constitutes an observation. John von Neumann broke this silence and suggested that observation is the action of a conscious mind. It's an idea also put forward by Max Planck, the founder of quantum theory, who said in 1931, "I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness."
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