October 30, 2006

Statistical tie   {Comments: 3}

I know I've read this complaint from others in previous election cycles, but it bears repeating: a poll in which the two candidates are within the margin of error is not a statistical tie, no matter how fond reporters may be of announcing that it is.

Yesterday I saw a poll showing Tammy Duckworth (the evil Tammy Duckworth!) at 42% and Peter Roskam (the evil Peter Roskam!) at 46%, with a 4% margin of error. This margin of error is just like a confidence interval, but this doesn't mean there's an equal probability that the true values will be anywhere within that interval! In fact, it's highly unlikely that Duckworth and Roskam are tied, or that Duckworth leads; unfortunately the term statistical tie suggests otherwise.

October 27, 2006

A different tack   {Comments: 2}

This is probably a sign that I've been watching too much TV, but the pitch of negative campaign advertisements has been pretty appalling this cycle. The one series that's really caught my attention though has been the positive ads for Blagojevich; to be sure they come after a series of pretty devastating negative ads against Topinka, but I think these positive ads of Blago just standing in the neighborhood talking about getting things done are really effective, particularly given all the swirls of scandal surrounding the governor right now. It looks like against a clean opponent the best approach is (!) to sling mud, but if you're already mired in scandal, maybe going positive makes more sense (possibly related to that most basic of chess guidelines: always respond to a flank attack with a push in the center).

I don't know who's responsible for the Blago ads this time around, but in all likelihood it was his brilliant advertising strategy four years ago that got him into the governor's office in the first place. Despite the fact that he was as much a Chicagoan as the other Democratic hopefuls, Blago ran ads featuring him in downstate locations, designed to appeal to downstate voters. The Chicago vote was split, but Blago took the downstate vote, and that was enough for the nomination.

Screening and evaluation   {Comments: 0}

This is encouraging; it's nice to see that someone is actually thinking about early detection for this disease.

Someone close to me has gone through diagnosis and treatment for lung cancer this year, and I've really been struck by the extent to which this disease seems to get second billing to other forms of cancer, despite its lethality. Of course, this probably has something to do with the fact that lung cancer is associated with smoking; it's amazing how many people, on hearing about a diagnosis, ask "Did X smoke?" -- as though somehow that would determine their reaction. They should know that a surprisingly large number of lung cancer patients are not smokers, and that there are other significant risk factors. (They should probably also reexamine their attitudes and sympathies with respect to smokers).

October 25, 2006

What we were supposed to do   {Comments: 0}

1. Anybody who reads Radley Balko knows this kind of heat happens all the time, but it's just kind of shocking to see Shaquille O'Neal associated with it. That they hired him as the face of the operation and he denied having been there at all doesn't seem to bode well, but at least he has a big smile.

2. For some time now I've been pretty fanatical about making my own salad dressings, but I guess I'm not a "curious cook," since I haven't progressed to ranch and miso carrot ginger dressings (although now I suppose I will). This page isn't bad on vinaigrettes.

October 24, 2006

No further use or disclosure   {Comments: 4}

It seems like the question of whether recipes should be copyrighted has been stewing for a while, but it's a little startling to see copy protections printed on the food itself!

What a confused tangle this issue is though -- there's the question of whether to copyright or patent a recipe or the instantiation of a recipe (the food itself). There's the question of how much of the creative content of food is execution and how much is planning. There's the question of who owns the creative rights for the ingredients we're using to make our recipes (how do we feel about sampling?). And can people preemptively patent or copyright dishes?

A study in constant motion   {Comments: 0}

The picture of what direction Iraq policy will take after the election (regardless of the result) is still muddled. On the one hand there are the reports that the Bush administration is weighing different options -- recommendations by a Jim Baker study group, claims about Iraqi security forces' readiness to take over the job, the backpedalling on the phrase stay the course. At the same time, the past month has seen the military has launched a major operation to quell the city of Baghdad that would seem to be a last gasp for the defunct theology of "stay the course" -- and now that operation is apparently going to be reinforced, despite claims in recent days that it has already failed.

This operation in Baghdad is interesting especially because of the timing with respect to the upcoming election. The increased casualties in recent weeks have grabbed headlines in a way the war hasn't for some time, and yet they aren't the result of just gradually increasing violence -- we've actually stirred up the pot with a major attempt to bring the city under control. Given all the damage this bad news is doing to GOP chances in November, one has to wonder why it was launched at this particular time. But it fits in so well with Bush's approach in the past: putting all the chips on the table, changing the paradigm and raising the stakes right before an election -- this is the way Bush has always dealt with tough political situtations. The difference is that in this case, the gamble seems to have failed. It will be interesting to see how the administration responds.

October 23, 2006

Not just the views of an enraged atheist   {Comments: 0}

Terry Eagleton, himself a bit of an expert on ideology, critiques the new Dawkins book on religion here.

Barriers to entry   {Comments: 0}

Chris Cillizza takes a quick look at where Obama would fall into the pack of nomination seekers for 2008 -- note in particular his thoughts on how Obama would fare against Hillary Clinton (he says nothing about Obama's chances against Hillary Rodham Clinton however). There's no mention of Al Gore, but since Gore is the only other serious possibility with an anti-war credential, it seems like his entry could create problems for a candidate Obama.

It's interesting that at this point in a race the biggest factor is the makeup of the field. Obama spoke at the orientation for my incoming MPP class at U of C back in 2001, when he was still revving up his campaign for Illinois senate, and his biggest concern at the time was how to head off an entry by Carol Moseley Braun, because of the way it would have split the black vote. In retrospect, that might well have been the most perilous concern for his whole candidacy.

UPDATE: More (!) on Obama.

October 21, 2006

Unmindful of his regal dignity   {Comments: 2}

From Italo Calvino's Six Memos for the Next Millenium (the one entitled Quickness, to be precise):

Late in life the emperor Charlemagne fell in love with a German girl. The barons at his court were extremely worried when they saw that the sovereign, wholly taken up with his amorous passion and unmindful of his regal dignity, was neglecting the affairs of state. When the girl suddenly died, the courtiers were greatly relieved -- but not for long, because Charlemagne's love did not die with her. The emperor had the embalmed body carried to his bedchamber, where he refused to be parted from it. The Archbishop Turpin, alarmed by this macabre passion, suspected an enchantment and insisted on examining the corpse. Hidden under the girl's dead tongue he found a ring with a precious stone set in it. As soon as the ring was in Turpin's hands, Charlemagne fell passionately in love with the archbishop and hurriedly had the girl buried. In order to escape the embarassing situation, Turpin flung the ring into Lake Constance. Charlemagne thereupon fell in love with the lake and would not leave its shores.
October 19, 2006

Back Seat   {Comments: 1}

From a WaPo article about Donald Rumsfeld:

In the Bible, the high priest would transfer the sins of the people onto a goat, and, as it was written, "the goat shall carry all the sins of the people into a land where no one lives, and the man shall let it loose in the wilderness."

(The word for scapegoat in Hebrew means, literally, "into hell.")

October 18, 2006

The calm before   {Comments: 0}

I seem to have stumbled into a bit of an emergent hiatus here -- I've had every good intention about writing and even some interesting things I've wanted to say, but life has been so busy, especially because the baby is coming any minute, but also for other reasons (which has me wondering where those other reasons are going to fit in my schedule once the baby is actually here). At any rate, this is more of a touching base post than anything else; with any luck I'll be writing here again shortly, but if not, you'll understand why, I expect!

October 7, 2006

To highlight their crimes and exact just retribution   {Comments: 1}

Glenn Greenwald has an extended description of how the Foley scandal is a perfect storm, with all the elements needed to engage the rather slow imagination of the American public:

But for so many reasons -- its relative simplicity, its crystal clarity, the involvement of emotionally-charged issues, the salacious sex aspects -- this Foley scandal circumvents that whole dynamic. People are paying attention on their own. They don't need pundits or journalists to tell them what to think about it because they are able to form deeply held opinions on their own. None of the standard obfuscation tactics used for so long by Bush followers are working here. To the contrary, their attempted use of those tactics is making things much worse for them, because people can see that Bush followers are attempting -- through the use of patently dishonest and corrupt tactics -- to excuse the inexcusable. And seeing that, it gives great credence to all of the accusations voiced over the last five years that this is how the Bush movement operates in every area, because people can now see it for themselves.
This strikes me as just about the most damning critique of democracy I can think of. How is it that this issue can be a surrogate for whether or not we stay in Iraq, what we do about early childhood education, whether we give our citizens the right to challenge their imprisonment? And if this is how Americans make choices about who leads them, how can those choices have any kind of higher political legitimacy?
October 6, 2006

Integrated approaches   {Comments: 0}

Sorry for the lack of content around here lately. This week and next are busy and a little bit odd for personal and professional reasons. Plus I've been busy watching the GOP meltdown over Foley and his enablers.

On Wednesday I had a chance to go see Gene Maeroff, the former education writer for the Times and more recently crusader for school quality in the lower grades. He has a new book out about PK-3, which is the somewhat modish grouping for pre-K thru 3rd as an educational unit -- sometimes even in a separate school or building. The underlying thinking is what I've written about a number of times before here, the idea that 1) children acquire life skills that serve as a foundation for later learning while they're still quite young, 2) failure to acquire these skills is hard to reverse, and 3) educational intervention (ie tax dollars) are better spent in the early grades than in high school or college. This thinking is backed up by study after study, but it's not (yet) reflected in policy, possibly because it's somewhat counterintuitive -- just looking at the term high school vs the term pre-school you can see that our educational system is conceived and constructed with different priorities. The point is that from a policy standpoint, we should be putting our money in pre-K thru 3rd rather than high school, and the big question is, how do we get that to happen? There was a lot of discussion of the details of PK-3 at the Maeroff talk, but this big question went essentially unanswered.

October 2, 2006

Primordial   {Comments: 2}