October 8, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 PM


Updated election forecasting model still points to Romney win, University of Colorado study says (University of Colorado, October 4, 2012)

An update to an election forecasting model announced by two University of Colorado professors in August continues to project that Mitt Romney will win the 2012 presidential election.

According to their updated analysis, Romney is projected to receive 330 of the total 538 Electoral College votes. President Barack Obama is expected to receive 208 votes -- down five votes from their initial prediction -- and short of the 270 needed to win.

The new forecast by political science professors Kenneth Bickers of CU-Boulder and Michael Berry of CU Denver is based on more recent economic data than their original Aug. 22 prediction. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM


The Simplest Way To End Poverty Might Be To Just Give Money Away : Conditional cash transfer programs--which give cash rewards for things like getting vaccinations or enrolling kids in school--might sound like free money, but evidence is mounting about their effectiveness. (MICHAEL J. COREN, 10/08/12, Co.Exist)

For centuries, it was anathema to give money to the poor for fear of creating dependency. The welfare state, particularly in the United States, was derided as ineffective and pernicious to liberty.

Yet it may a far smaller problem that we once thought. The New America Foundation, a nonpartisan public policy institute, has released a new report showing that conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs are driving down poverty around the world by addressing the dominant "institutional, environmental, historical, racial, and social" causes of extreme poverty, rather than merely avoiding the risk of individual freeloaders.

CCTs transfer cash directly to recipients who fulfill certain criteria such as enrolling their children in school, finding regular medical care, vaccinations, and other programs. Families can use the program to escape their day-to-day survival mode precluding any significant investment in the future.

New America has identified about 90 cash transfer programs in 45 countries that cover half a billion beneficiaries. Programs such as Mexico's Oportunidades (formerly known as PROGRESA) was reportedly associated with "a 30% reduction in the poverty gap" and raised the average (age-adjusted) height of children receiving benefits by 1 centimeter. Combining these programs with modern technology linking almost anyone to the formal financial services, promises to drive radical reductions in poverty.

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 PM


Hugo Chávez's Final Act : Why his victory means Venezuela will get much worse before it gets better. (William J. Dobson, Oct. 8, 2012, Slate)

When I met Henrique Capriles in 2009, he was already being touted as the man most likely to challenge Hugo Chávez in the 2012 presidential elections. You could quickly understand why. Even though the refurbished elementary school holding the rally on that Sunday afternoon was in Chávez territory, Capriles' arrival was met with the cheers, screams, and dancing that you'd expect for a rock star, not a governor. The charismatic young opposition leader felt comfortable in his skin and his informal style exuded confidence. Though he was three years from that presidential race, he already knew how to deliver the lines that made Venezuelans from this hardscrabble corner of the countryside roar. Capriles opened by recounting a story of a worker who had recently told him that, "I love Chávez, but I love you, too." Capriles explained that was OK. "Sometimes a man falls in love with two or three women or a woman falls in love with two or three men. It's all right--it's part of life." It's OK if you gave your heart to Chávez; my arms are wide open. The crowd swooned.

But on Sunday there still wasn't enough love for the handsome 40-year-old governor. Hugo Chávez won his fourth bid for Miraflores, the presidential palace, with 54 percent of the vote to Capriles's 45 percent. Capriles did make inroads. Chávez, for example, only added 135,000 votes from his 2006 election total, while the opposition won nearly 1.9 million more votes than last time.

Time is on Mr. Capriles side.
Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


Does Obama Even Want to Win the Election? (Michael Tomasky Oct 7, 2012, Daily Beast)

[M]ainly it's that the reality of his term is undoubtedly so different, and so much worse, than the presidency he envisioned for himself. There's no doubt that he did envision himself as transformational. Almost everything that had happened in his life before becoming president--succeeding at everything, often leaving observers in awe of him--clearly suggested to him that he'd conquer the presidency.

Actually, the reality is that he's never succeeded at anything, only been successful at getting the promotion to the next stepping stone.  But the presidency isn't a stepping stone to anywhere, just a tough job that requires skills, experience, and the right personality, none of which he'd ever developed.

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 PM


Mending, Not Ending Is Conservative And Post-Partisan (Pete Spiliakos, October 7, 2012, First Things)

The real Romney managed a mostly articulate defense of premium support Medicare, which would be the most "conservative" policy reform since... well I don't know when. I think a lot of what we think off as ideological politics is actually drawing lines between politically engaged teams. Mocking Obama, threatening to torture Obamacare to death on your first day in office and constantly complaining about socialism are all forms of showing what team you are on. They are also partisan in the sense that the "teams" tend to think of themselves as ideological first and party members second. So when Romney (or Ryan) explains how a policy will benefit the general public, it doesn't seem especially ideological or partisan - even if the policy proposal is a much bigger change than merely undoing the works of the Obama administration.

And the essence of partisanship is that the Right would prefer an ideologue and a second Obama term.  Purity is more important than politics for the true believer.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 PM


With Foreign Policy Speech, Romney Runs for Obama's Second Term (Spencer Ackerman, October 8, 2012, Wired)

Mitt Romney thinks Barack Obama is a terrible president. When Romney looks at Obama's foreign policies, he sees a president who projects "passivity" in a dangerous world, as he argues in a big speech on Monday, leaving allies and enemies confused about where America stands. Which makes it curious that the policies Romney outlines in his speech differ, at most, superficially from Obama's.

Posted by orrinj at 1:32 PM

Watch Radiohead on PBS. See more from Austin City Limits.

Posted by orrinj at 12:25 PM


With Biden Up Next to Debate, Obama's Aides Plot Comeback (PETER BAKER and TRIP GABRIEL, 10/07/12, NY Times)

Mr. Obama does not like debates to begin with, aides have long said, viewing them as media-driven gamesmanship. He did not do all that well in 2008 but benefited from Senator John McCain's grumpy performances. Mr. Obama made clear to advisers that he was not happy about debating Mr. Romney, whom he views with disdain. It was something to endure, rather than an opportunity, aides said.

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts was recruited to play Mr. Romney. The preparation team was kept small. The most important players were Mr. Axelrod; David Plouffe, the president's senior adviser; and Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director. Others included Joel Benenson, the president's pollster; Ronald A. Klain, Mr. Biden's former chief of staff; and Robert Barnett, a longtime Democratic debate coach.

By the time Mr. Obama retreated to Nevada for a final couple days of practice, the debate prep team was getting by on as little as three hours of sleep a night as they crafted answers and attack lines. Mr. Kerry played a range of Mr. Romneys -- aggressive, laid back, hard-edge conservative -- and got in the president's face, according to people in the room. Mr. Obama's alternating performances left aides walking off Air Force One in Denver looking worried.

On stage, Mr. Obama seemed thrown off as Mr. Romney emphasized elements of his agenda that seemed more moderate and was surprised that the moderator, Jim Lehrer of PBS, did not pose more pointed questions. The president's team had decided in advance not to raise Mr. Romney's tenure at Bain Capital, aides said, but Mr. Obama held back on other attack lines they had intended to use. The base wanted him "to gut Romney," one adviser said, but swing voters hate that and he was seeking a balance. Few thought he found it.

Bain is to the Left what Ayers was to the Right.
Posted by orrinj at 5:34 AM


Why I'm Voting for Mitt Romney : After the president's debate performance in Denver, this lifelong Democrat has made a difficult decision: he's given up on Barack Obama. Even if his own wife doesn't approve. (Buzz Bissinger Oct 8, 2012, Daily Beast)

I grew up on the Upper West Side of New York, arguably the country's nexus of liberalogy, where it wouldn't have surprised me in the least as a child to discover that my parents, along with all the other attendees in some garret reminiscent of the French Resistance, had thrown eggs at Abbie Hoffman at a political get-together because he wasn't liberal enough.

Voting for a president is based on a combination of factual and emotional perception. The tipping point was last week's debate in Denver. Romney finally did what he should have done all along instead of his balky cha cha with the old white men of the conservative Republican wing: he acted as the moderate he is, for the first time running as himself, not against himself, embracing his record as governor of Massachusetts.

I have never seen a performance worse than Obama's, distracted, his head dipped into the podium as if avoiding the smell of something rotten, acting above the very idea that a debate does provide a pivotal referendum on his first term as it has for all incumbent presidents, whipsawed by the legion of usual advisers telling him to play defense when his own intuition should have told him that he needed to go on the offensive as Romney slapped him around.

But there was more than the entitlement of entitlement. He struck me as burnt out, tired of selling his message although he has always been terrible at selling his message when it veers from idealism into the practical.

By instinct I still cling to my Democrat roots. But I admit that as I get older, on the cusp of 58, I am moving more to the center or even tweaking right, or at least not tied to any ideology. Those making more than $250,000 should pay more taxes, and that does include me. But I also am tired of Obama's constant demonization, of those he spits out as "millionaires and billionaires," as pariahs. Romney's comments at a fundraiser were stupid, but 47 percent of Americans do not pay federal income taxes. Yes, a majority are poor and seniors. But millions do not pay such taxes with incomes of more than $50,000, and whether it's as little as $10, every American should contribute both as a patriotic obligation and skin in the game. This is our country, not our country club.

Come on in, the water's fine...

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 AM


Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Disruption? (Jonathan Marks, 10/05/12, Inside Higher Ed)

As a politics professor, I feel I should know something about health policy, but it is mostly dread that made me sign up for Ezekiel Emanuel's class, Health Policy and the Affordable Care Act, through Coursera. Word is that higher education is about to be disrupted by online providers, like Coursera and Udacity, and their MOOCs (massive open online courses). If students can take political philosophy with Harvard's Michael Sandel for free, why will they pay to take it with me?

 Have you seen Professor Sandel's course? I bet I am not alone in wanting to take his more than I want to take mine. Sebastian Thrun, co-founder of Udacity, predicts that in 50 years there will be no more than 10 higher education institutions. Thrun isn't quietly waiting for his prediction to pan out, either. Pearson VUE recently contracted to administer proctored final exams for some of Udacity's courses, an important step toward offering credit that most colleges will find hard to reject.

But the "college credit monopoly" may have been the only thing protecting me from Sandel. Dean Dad explains that students who can get college credits for free will have more incentive than ever to max out the transfer credits they are allowed and less incentive than ever to buy my college's expensive products, including, I cannot help emphasizing, me.  It is just my luck that, amid what some are calling a great stagnation, one of the few big advances in the offing wants to eat my job. I signed up for Health Policy and the Affordable Care Act, then, half-hoping for a bad experience.

But at first, the course seemed alarmingly good. Emanuel, as health policy adviser to the director of the OMB, helped craft the Affordable Care Act. An oncologist, author and food critic, he is disgustingly accomplished. No wonder that over 30,000 students wanted to be in a virtual room with Emanuel, now a vice-provost and professor at the University of Pennsylvania. A wry and engaging lecturer, Emanuel delivered. Though he did not hide his affection for the Affordable Care Act, he also revealed some of the cynical calculations that went into the law.

Had we paid any money, we would have gotten our money's worth: an insider's account of the challenges the American health care system faces, of how the Affordable Care Act seeks to meet them, and of obstacles to the new law's success. Professor Emanuel's lectures were supplemented by informative readings that covered in depth the very topics, like malpractice reform, cost control, and innovation, that a health policy novice wants to know more about.

After completing the eight-week course, however, I am optimistic that this kind of MOOC will not eat my job because it and I are not really in the same business. At Ursinus College, where I teach, the faculty and administration work individually and collectively to help our students cultivate judgment, the capacity to decide what to think or how to act in areas, like health policy, where no formula can generate the right answer. While we cannot help our students without demanding that they take an active role in their education, we also assume that they do not come in with their judgments already cultivated. College should be a transformative experience for them, and they will need guidance.

For all its virtues, Health Policy and the Affordable Care Act offered almost no guidance, and I now think, as I will explain later, that this absence of guidance is not a temporary defect that tweaks will soon correct, but rather a built-in feature of the Coursera model.

It's a quaint theory, but if we cared about educating kids we wouldn't send so many ineducable ones to college.  Instead, higher education exists to give job applicants diplomas like the ones those hiring them have.  They're just stars to differentiate us from the other sneeches.

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 AM


A Moral Flip-Flop? Defining a War (Paul Starobin, 10/07/12, NY Times)

HAROLD HONGJU KOH, the former dean of the Yale Law School, has been one of the country's foremost defenders of the notion that the president of the United States can't wage wars without the approval of Congress. During the Bush administration, he was legendary for his piercing criticisms of "executive muscle flexing" in the White House's pursuit of the so-called war on terror.

Even more, he was described by those who knew him as the inspiration for a generation of human rights activists and lawyers passionately committed to a vision of a post-imperial America as a model of constitutional restraint. His colleagues viewed him as not only a brilliant scholar but a "liberal icon."

Suddenly, though, Mr. Koh seems to be a different person.

Just over two years ago, he became legal adviser to Hillary Rodham Clinton's State Department, and in that job, he has become the administration's defender of the right to stay engaged in a conflict against Libya without Congressional approval. He argues that the president can proceed because the country is not actually engaging in "hostilities." Because "hostilities" is "an ambiguous standard," he has argued, the president need not withdraw forces to meet the resolution's requirement of an automatic pull-out, 60 days after "hostilities" begin, absent express Congressional approval for the war. The conflict is in its fourth month, and no such consent has been given.

Mr. Koh's allies, speaking more in sorrow than in anger, are mystified and disheartened to see their hero engaging in legalistic "word play." To them, it's as if he has torn off his team jersey, midgame, and put on the other side's. 

The middle of the game was the election that put his side in power.  He'll flip flop back as soon as the GOP is governing again.

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 AM


Colombia at Peace? (Shlomo Ben Ami, 8 October 2012, The ISN Blog)

The Framework Agreement for the End of the Armed Conflict in Colombia that has just been announced by President Juan Manuel Santos is a historic landmark for his country and all of Latin America. [...]

This momentous shift reflects the decimation of the FARC following long years of struggle, the resilience of Colombian society, and, perhaps most important, Santos's brilliant regional policy. By weakening the so-called Bolivarian Axis (Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia), the FARC guerrillas were left without a supportive regional environment.

As with peace processes in the Middle East and Central America following the Cold War's end, regional changes created the conditions for the start of the Colombian process.

Greenlighting Uribe and treating FARC as just another segment of the WoT worked.
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