Saturday, January 14, 2012

Christian Right Leaders Give Obama a Gift

Leaders of the Christian Right, a once-important bloc within the Republican Party, have endorsed Rick Santorum.

I believe this action will have two consequences.

First, evangelical Christians will not follow these once-powerful leaders, but will split their votes among many candidates, including Mitt Romney.

Second, the split within the Republican Party between the establishment wing, which backs Romney, and the evangelical wing, which does not, will widen.

The Republican Party has been effective in blocking a few of President Obama's policies, but seems to be unable to unite around any effective positive idea for governing, nor do they support an effective candidate to bear such an idea. By further splitting the party, the Christian Right leaders have handed President Obama another gift.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Twins Up Nearly 100% in a Generation Due to Old Mothers

The birth rate for twins has nearly doubled in the past generation in the U.S.

One third of this growth in twinning is due to more older mothers, who tend to have twins at a higher rate naturally than younger mothers do.

Most of the increase in twins - and triplets, quadruplets, etc. on to Octomom - is due to more women waiting so long to have children that they need fertility drugs.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"The King of Bain" is a Very Bad Film

"When Mitt Romney Came to Town," also known as "The King of Bain," the long-form attack ad that Newt Gingrich's supporters are running, is a very bad documentary.  It is the kind of sensationalist fear mongering that the right wing hates when Michael Moore does it. 

The film, which was originally made by Romney employees, was sold to a pro-Gingrich political action committee.

The film shows Romney and his firm, Bain Capital, buying up several companies, firing most of the workforce, making huge profits by getting other people to loan the companies money, and then shutting them down completely.  In one case they started a technology firm, got favorable ratings from Lehman Brothers, made a huge pile from the initial public offering, then sold off all their stock just before the company went bankrupt.

In each case - and the film says there are many more - Bain acts like the vultures that Rick Perry says they are.

What the film does not do is investigate whether the companies could have been run profitably at all.  The film-makers did not even ask whether anyone could have saved these firms.

I do not know the answer to that question.  So far, no commentators on the film have tried to answer it.  It may be that Bain Capital, and Mitt Romney, are indeed "vulture capitalists" or "mafia capitalists," buying profitable companies, suckering investors into giving Bain lots of money in exchange for worthless debt, then destroying the firms. It may also be that Bain Capital bought failing companies, performed necessary creative destruction, and saved the fragment that would otherwise have failed. 

I would really like to know which kind of businessman Mitt Romney is.  But "When Mitt Romney Came to Town" is a very bad way to try to answer the question.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What You Get If You Ask the Web If It's Cool to Be a Virgin

The website "First World Problems" had this intriguing item:

My daughter wants to know if it's cool to be a virgin. I'm not sure, but I know that if I Google the answer, it'll result in firing or divorce.

I am in little danger of being fired or divorced for pursuing such a question, so I did.

The first answer that Google yields is, surprisingly, a Yahoo! Answers Q & A from 2006 (!). The lead answer given then was "it's up to you."

A query from last year is a little scarier: "Is it OK to be 16 and a virgin?"  This, I am happy to report, brought several sensible and well-reasoned "yes" answers.

A similar query brought this response from, a British advice site for young adults:

I'm 78, still a virgin and so cool, I piss ice cubes.

You're doing the right thing.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Pay It Forward Coffee House

I like good news, coffee houses, and Good magazine. This story has all three.

At the Corner Perk, a coffee house in Bluffton, SC, one anonymous customer started leaving money to pay for other people's drinks and food. This custom caught on, and now many people do it.

As psychologist Jonathan Haidt has so interestingly demonstrated, seeing other people do good things fills most people with a desire to do good things, too.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Utopian "Third Party" Movements are the Bane of Centrism

I am grateful to Solomon Kleinsmith to participate in his blog collective, The Rise of the Center.

Recently I got to voice a pet peeve about something that has bedeviled every centrist forum I have been part of: the desire to create a third party between the Democratic and Republican Parties.

I think that in this country third parties are always utopian, sectarian, and do more harm than good.  In particular, they hurt the party that they are more in sympathy with by splitting the vote in an election. Not all third parties are centrist, by any means.  But the effect is the same: third parties are a gift your enemies.

Moreover, like all utopian endeavors, they take up too many evenings with too little to show for it.

The Republicans and the Democrats have nearly all the governmental action.  If you want to actually affect government policy, as I do, then you have to work within the big tent of one or the other major party.

There are many other ways to build up the world besides government policy, of course. Those other sectors allow for many fruitful centrist paths.  But American politics does not.

Most of the other participants in the Rise of the Center discussion, including Kleinsmith, disagree with me on this.

I would be interested in the thoughts of Gruntled Center readers on this topic.