Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Year-End Reolutions Post

Even though I barely blog anymore, one thing I have done pretty consistently for the last several years is post my new year's resolutions.  Not only does it provide at least a semblance of accountability, it also is fun to go back and evaluate from one year to the next.

This past year I resolved to read the Bible through again, and I was successful in that.  That is somewhere around 11-12 "full" readings, not counting partials.  This year I want to continue the discipline of daily reading, but I am tired of the "whole Bible in a year" format.  I intend to begin this year with a 90-day plan through the New Testament, and after that I may re-evaluate and do some other directed study.

Another goal I set last year was to build on my record-setting year in 2011, when I logged the most miles I have ever run in a calendar year (745).  This year I actually eclipsed that.  I have 797 in the books with a day to go, so I intend to shuffle at least once around my block and make it a cool 800 in 2012.  The driver of all those miles is my plan to run the Charleston Marathon in January.  It's not much of a "resolution" to check off a goal three weeks into the new year when all the work took place in the previous one, but I do intend to set a new personal record, hopefully under 4 hours, in that marathon.

This coming year I emphatically DO NOT intend to continue marathon training.  I really don't enjoy it.  But now that I can run 15 miles pretty easily (and 20 with difficulty), my running goal in 2013 is to make a 10-miler a weekly or bi-weekly occurrence, in the hopes of running some age-adjusted personal records from 5k through the half-marathon.  Since I will be 44, that makes me the oldest in my current age group (40-44), so any hopes to win age-group trophies may be postponed until 2014.

I resolved last year to try and win a repeat state title with my track team. We did, in pretty convincing fashion.  (A great deal of that has to do with having amazingly talented kids and the best coaching staff we've ever assembled.).  I think it is possible to three-peat; even though it's hard to resolve something that depends so much upon the performance of others (not just my own team, but all the others, too), that's going to be the goal.

Probably the main thing I want to do in terms of habits is to make better use of my early morning quiet time.  I already get up at 5:30 daily, and have close to an hour before anyone else in my house is up.  But too often I spend the whole time "reading the news" online.  I managed to use technology (a Nook) last year to do a better job of reading books instead of blogs.  This year I have an iPad, and hope to use its calendar and task list features to do better in time management.

There will also be some less-dramatic health-related goals.  As I get older, my vital signs look more and more like those of my family (not the best genes), in spite of my running.  So I intend to eat and drink more good stuff and less bad stuff.  I've also got a couple of personal goals involving priorities at home.  But that's pretty much the list.

A Little Econ

This post is actually something I wrote over a month ago, while waiting for my son to complete his driving test at the DMV.  Just clearing the decks before the annual resolutions post.

A Little Econ Lesson

Sometimes I wish I could just reach through the TV or computer screen and just grab some talking head by the lapels and teach some simple economics to them, and to the apparently-ignorant audience to whom they write or speak.  Don't get me wrong--it is perfectly OK for people to disagree over economics.  Indeed, one of my favorite economics jokes (What? You don't have favorite economics jokes?) is about the economist with three arms.  That allowed him to say, "on the OTHER other hand...."  But even those disagreements should not be based on utter ignorance.

Let's begin with some pet peeves.  First up, supply-side economics, and the Laffer Curve.  Supply-siders (of whom I count myself one) say that, just as a tax rate of 0% will yield zero revenue, so would a tax rate of 100%.  The logic is that I can stay home in my pajamas and bring home nothing, so why should I work all day for the same?  That then yields a premise: just as tax rates can be too low to generate maximum revenue, they can also be too high.  At the point which tax rates change behavior to the point of shrinking the overall economic "pie," taking a larger "slice" for the government becomes counterproductive.

This idea lends itself to twin falsehoods.  One is the idea that raising rates always produces more revenue (the standard, "let's hike taxes on the rich" plan). But equally dumb is the reverse, conservative fallacy--that lowering rates always produces more revenue.  Obviously, that's not true.  We may not know what the "Goldilocks" tax rate is, but assuming there is one, you can muck things up moving either direction.

Now, that leaves aside other considerations.  A famous sports scientist once wrote, correctly, I believe, that anybody who runs more than 90 minutes per week is doing so for reasons other than health.  Yet I still run more than that in a single run sometimes.  I just don't lie to myself and say it's for cardiovascular fitness.  Same with taxes.  If it were to be conclusively proven that a tax rate of 90% would generate optimum revenue, I would still oppose it on moral grounds, as I believe that confiscatory rates amount to slavery.  Likewise, I can imagine that some folks might want taxes on certain groups at some set level above that which is mathematically most effective.  But if you believe that, I think you should be able to say so, and explain the principle behind it.  If you can't, then stick with the math!

So what does the math say?  Well, Coolidge, JFK, Reagan, and Bush 43 all cut tax rates, and in every case, tax receipts grew.  Now, I do think it's pretty obvious that JFK's cut of a 91% top rate to 70% or Reagan slashing that down to 28% would yield far more pie-growing stimulus than Bush's cut of 39% down to 35%.  But it seems proven by a pretty standardized and repeatable experiment that this works.  If that's not what caused (or at least contributed to) the growth, then I am open to alternative explanations.

What about the reverse? Paul Krugman of the New York Times has waxed rhapsodic over the fact that the USA enjoyed a huge economic boom in the 1950s under Eisenhower, with top rates of 91%.  But there was a little something else in the mix at the time, as well.  The fact that the USA was pretty much the only industrialized economy not shattered by WWII may have had a little to do with that.  Let's face it, I am a 138-pound marathoner who can eat anything I want and not gain an ounce.  But I don't assume that the diet is the reason I am skinny!

The other big counter-example is the fact that the USA prospered and even ran a budget surplus during the Clinton administration.  This is almost always followed by the fact that after Bush cut taxes, the deficit roared back and he wound up with a net loss of jobs over his two terms in office.  But once again, was it the tax rates that caused either the prosperity or the later crash?  It is my contention that Clinton was helped a good bit on the revenue side by two inflating bubbles.  The fact that Clinton's first year in office was also the year that the World Wide Web went mainstream cannot be ignored.  And many Americans, myself among them, made a small fortune in real estate during the same time period, as housing prices soared and down payments became relics of a bygone era.  We might also note that Clinton was the first US president since before my father was born to not have to worry about a Cold War, and the last one to not need to worry about a War on Terrorism.

But we DID run a surplus, right?  Well, sort of.  Our surplus included Social Security receipts, earmarked for the (nonexistent) trust fund.  Actually, the US National Debt never went down a penny, despite the paper surplus.  But at least there was one on paper.  And then Bush screwed it up.  Or did he?  Do you remember the campaign of 2000, back when nobody dreamed 9/11 was in our future?  The big question was what to do with the surpluses that were projected as far as the eye could see.  Bush wanted the "overpayment" returned to the taxpayers.  Al Gore wanted the surplus put in a budget "lockbox" to offset the eventual deficit in Social Security.  Bush won (barely), and we got the cuts.  But the lack of a lockbox nor the declining revenue is what brought us down.  It turned out that the rosy projections didn't account for the bursting of the dot-com bubble.  Indeed, by Election Day of 2000, the economy was already in recession.  Just a few months later, planes hit the twin towers in NYC.  The seeds of both of those events had been planted and watered while Bush was still governor of Texas.

The rest of Bush's two terms were actually economically strong.  The economy recovered (some might even say because of the tax cuts).  It was never as good as the best years of the Clinton administration, but how many of us would not like to see unemployment under 5.7% nowadays?  Even with the "two wars on a credit card" (and although the wisdom of the Iraqi adventure is still quite debatable, what the heck else were we supposed to do in Afghanistan after 9/11), the deficit, which had ballooned out to over 400 billion dollars after 2001, had begun to contract.  It came down every year until 2007, when it was about 165 billion dollars.  And had all those trends continued, even including low tax rates and two wars, we would have seen surpluses again.  But once again, the forecasts failed to account for unexpected events.  The same housing bubble whose run-up had contributed so much to the growth under both Clinton and Bush burst, and the resulting crash wiped out every gain made in the previous seven years.  That is a slightly different narrative than "Bush presided over a net loss of jobs."

This all sounds somewhat dishonest, as I seem to be saying that all the apparent good stuff under Clinton can be explained away, and all the bad stuff under Bush somehow should not count.  But that's not all true.  Bush's biggest fault (fiscally) was not Iraq, it was Medicare Part D.  There is no need to laud him as some sort of misunderstood budget-cutter.  But the strawman that "Bush's policies are what got us into this economic mess," particularly when that is shorthand for tax rates, simply is not true.  And I also don't deny that the 1990s under Clinton were fabulous economic times.  But no one has yet demonstrated to me what policies of Clinton's can be credited for that.  A week on a cruise ship is also wonderful, but meanwhile at home, bills pile up and the grass keeps growing.  Once the vacation ends, the reality which had been in the background is still there.  It amuses me that we do not (yet) apply the same standard of historical judgment to the 1990s as we do to the "Roaring 20s."  There, too, we had a period of peace and prosperity, fueled by an inflating bubble.  But we judge that decade in light of the Depression which followed, which takes off some of the shine.  How are the Clinton years different?

So... what is the takeaway of this epistle?  Not much in terms of policy prescriptions.  I have a few, and may even write about them.  But I just wish for more honest argument.  Smart people can disagree with me about all of this... but they should acknowledge the fact that these arguments exist, and should be obligated to deal with them, as I hope I have with their reverse.  That doesn't mean we shouldn't raise taxes.  It only means that if we do, it shouldn't be based on a narrative which "everybody knows" that is nonetheless untrue.  Or, if it's true, it ought to be able to be explained a heck of a lot better than we are getting these days.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Random Thoughts--Things I Think I Think

The sitemeter numbers for this blog still come to  my email box monthly, and apparently nobody reads it.  That probably has something to do with the fact that I never write anything.  After the election, I had TONS of stuff to "say," but sure didn't want to post it on Facebook.  It is hard to resist the urge sometimes, but I really don't want to be that guy who constantly peppers his friends' news feed with unrequested political observations.  That said, if you come here, you asked for it!

I've been thinking a lot about the results of the election.  I voted for Romney.  And I did so happily--more happily than I have voted for any candidate I have ever voted for.  Every other GOP nominee since '88 was someone I had voted against in the primaries.  Not Romney.  Some people called him a squish, a RINO, and worse.  Who knows, maybe I am, too.  In him I saw a fundamentally good and decent man, with a deep faith and a wonderful family.  I saw an intelligent, highly educated, very successful person.  I saw someone whose skill set seemed uniquely situated for dealing with the current issues facing our country.

But he lost.  I really thought he would win.  Even when the polls showed him behind, I thought they were wrong.  I could not fathom that there would be a huge Democratic turnout advantage after 40 straight months of 8% unemployment, US Ambassadors' dead bodies dragged through the streets, Al Qaeda flags flying over our embassies, etc.  But there was.  I thought there would be a "silent majority" that showed up at the polls, just like in 1968.  And they didn't.

This floored me.  I wasn't so upset that Obama had won; I was upset that a majority of the country wanted him to win. (I wasn't upset that committed liberals voted for him, either--that is expected.  But you expect the "undecideds" to break in the direction of certain predictable trends--and they did not, in this case).  Lots of ink has been spilled analyzing the loss.  And I still am not sure yet what the lesson plan on the election of 2012 will look like down the road.

Here's the big question: Is this the "new normal?"  Do the combination of demographics, media bias, entitlements, and changed expectations on the part of our citizenry mean that no conservative can ever win again?  One could argue that if this Republican could not win in this environment, that the GOP has become the Tories in Britain--relegated to a rump status, campaigning only on the promise that they can run a liberal nanny state more efficiently than the other guys.

Or... Is this election tied up in the unique personalities involved?  Obama is our first black president.  That's special.  Romney is mega-uber-super-rich.  If 4 years from now, a more populist Republican faces a less-historic Democrat, do the same messages resonate differently?

I don't know.  However, historians look for patterns.  I was thinking the pattern was Reagan in '80 or Nixon in '68 (or, had the economy recovered before election day, Reagan in '84, with Obama starring as the Gipper).  Now the closest pattern I see is Bush in '04.  Look what we had--a fellow who half the country disliked intensely, who but for the unique circumstances of his birth would have never been a contender in the first place, defending a mess mostly of his own making.  The other side puts up a rich New Englander with a skill set perfectly tailored to the issue of the day (in this case, Kerry and the War on Terror).  But he is seen as out of touch, and the election is held at almost the last moment that Bush or the War on Terror have more than 50% support.  Certainly a year later he would have lost.  Afterwards, Democrats are passing around the hemlock, and Karl Rove is pontificating about a permanent majority for Republicans.  And look how that turned out.

Anyway, I still don't know exactly what I think about this election.  But it's not the end of the world.  And even if it is, there's nothing I can do about it. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

On Marathons,Mortality, and My Life on the Run

This coming week I will "officially" begin training for the Charleston Marathon in January of 2013.  Saturday will be exactly 18 weeks out, which is the traditional start date for a standard buildup to a marathon.  Technically, I've been "training" all summer, including getting my long run of the week up to 12 miles this past weekend.  But doing this race is making me a bit philosophical about my running career.

This is not my first marathon.  I "ran" the 1996 Marine Corps Marathon when I was 27.  I had been coaching just a couple of years, and I knew that I knew far more than I really knew.  Ya know?  I didn't train in any way that could be called smart.  With far more testosterone than brains, I figured that I could "gut out" a good race on  minimal training just like I always had for every race from 400 meters to the 10k.  I crashed so hard that I ran an identical time to what OprahWinfrey had run the year before (thank God she wasn't in the '96 race, as I would have likely been unable to out-kick her at the finish), and for years I claimed that I had run two marathons in the same day--my first and my last.

I actually began my running career back in 1983, when I decided to go out for track at my high school (where I now coach).  The logic was simple: I weighed 105 lbs and was nearsighted and clumsy, and the track team didn't cut anybody.  I started off as a very bad distance runner, gradually grew into a good-but-not-great sprinter (by tiny private school standards), and began to think of myself as a runner.  In college I ran the intramural track meet twice, taking a pair of silvers in the 100 meter dash, and I occasionally went for a jog.  If I ran any races, there was no internet to record the times.  I know that I ran regularly when I was first married, and that I was just back from a great 5-mile run the morning that my wife told me we were going to have our first child (on our anniversary in 1993).  The day he was born, in spring of '94, I had to knock on my training partner's door at 5 AM to get back my wristwatch so I could time contractions, as I had left it on his end table the day before.  I began coaching at the very start of my teaching career in fall of '94, and ran with (even sometimes slightly ahead of) my team.  Following the marathon in '96, I have records of running several 10k races and half-marathons, but no log of the miles.  And starting in 1998, I began recording every run in a "training log" that came free with my paid subscription to Runner's World.

Since then, I have recorded every step.  There is only one calendar month without an entry--July of 2005, when my family traveled 7000 miles in an RV.  We saw 22 states in 31 days, and I never went for a run.  It's the only regret I have about the entire trip.  I've even scheduled a surgery around runs so as to avoid taking another "zero month" in my log.  As I told one of the athletes on my team just yesterday who was complaining about being "out of shape," I have not been truly "out of shape" in nearly 20 years.  Sometimes I've been in race shape, sometimes I've been in jogging shape, but there has never been a time during those years when I could not slip on a pair of shoes and run 3 miles at 8 minutes per mile--even if it would make me sore the next day.

But something is different now.  At age 30 and 31, I was in the best shape of my life, racing even faster than I had as a senior in high school.  (Incidentally, I also could bench press 50 lbs over my weight, also a personal best.)  Then, almost exactly as I turned 35, I started to slow down.  No matter how I trained, all I could seem to do was get worse and worse, and feel worse while doing it.  I went several years without racing at all, because I found the results depressing.  I got a new lease on life when I discovered the WAVA (World Association of Veteran Athletes) age-graded tables (originally actual tables written on paper, now an online calculator), which allows runners over 30 to "convert" their race times to their equivalents if run by runners in their physical prime.  Last fall, I was pretty psyched that I ran an age-adjusted PR (Personal Record) in a local 5k road race. 

BUT. That doesn't change the fact that, without those tables to give me the "woulda-coulda-shoulda" conversion, I'm never going to really get faster again.  I'm going to keep on training, just to slow down the inevitable decline.  My two training partners are both much younger (12 and 15 years--one of whom I actually coached in high school).  We're doing the same sorts of workouts.  We're all getting in shape.  But the separation is becoming more and more evident.  We'll all run the same workout, we'll all feel equally good (or bad), but I'm slowest.  I'm always slowest.  And I'm only going to get slower.  The tables don't help with that.  There's no online conversion that says, "I really would have kicked your butt today if I were 28 or you were 43" when at the end of a hard day the other guy is pulling away and you are gassed.

In the end, though, fighting the decline is preferable to giving up.  I hope I can still be doing this far enough in the future to fairly compare my 43-year-old times with my young friends, even if I'll be an even slower 58 by then.  The one bright spot of all of this is that my first marathon was so very bad that I can still run a true PR, even though on paper I should be almost 12 minutes slower.

18 weeks. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Back in Business!

After my friend Mike linked to yesterday's blog post, I figured I owed to my dozens, or hundreds, or... two... new readers to write something pithy today.  I have two thoughts so far this morning, basically unrelated.  One is a follow-up on yesterday's post, the other an observation on Super Tuesday.

So, to start with the "Slutgate" scandal, or whatever we're calling it now: I have read some more analysis since then, some of it fascinating.  I'd love to link to a couple of articles, but in most cases, the content, the comments, or both, contain language that I'd prefer not go out to everybody.  Two things jump out at me: despite the fact that I skimmed over the "they do it, too" argument, that's the one getting the most attention.  And the standard comeback is that this situation is far worse than numerous misogynistic things said about Sarah Palin, Michelle Malkin, Laura Ingraham, Michelle Bachmann, or whoever, because those ladies are "public figures" and also because Rush has such a huge army of brainwashed dittoheads and wields so much power in the GOP.  That's bull, and bull again.  This Fluke-lady is a professional activist who inserted herself into the debate.  She's no "Joe the Plumber" private citizen.  And Joe got hammered for daring to question the prevailing media narrative.  And besides, how "public" a citizen do you have to be to make it acceptable to suggest hate-rape?  If there's a bright line about that somewhere, I think I prefer being the naive guy who doesn't know about it--that's just vile behavior, period.  As for Rush's "influence," come on.  Sure, he's influential, because he's the best at what he does.  But he's no power broker.  And even if he were, so what?  Until I see somebody in the mainstream left publicly admit that Al Sharpton is a fraud and a hatemonger, I don't want to hear it.  The second thing is that if you read the comments on this, about every third one mentions that Limbaugh is some combination of obese and drug-addicted.  Admittedly, he used to be both.  He currently is neither.  But how does it make a situation like this better to turn up the ad hominem?  And why is it that a Teddy Kennedy (or for that matter a JFK or even a Clinton) can do arguably worse and still be a role model, but any conservative's transgressions live on forever?  If there were a department of double-standards, they would stay busy.

My unrelated thought is about Super Tuesday.  It's not so much about the on-again, off-again "inevitability" of Romney.  But it's about the inbred pessimism of conservatives.  Maybe it's because our side doesn't believe in eternal progress or utopianism.  Perhaps those of us who are theo-cons have a dimmer view of fallen human nature than our progressive friends, who are always one more education reform away from perfection.  But we're a gloomy bunch.  If Romney wins, he'll be the worst candidate ever.  Unless Santorum wins, in which case he'll be as bad or worse.  We had our shot and we blew it.  This is the most consequential election of our lifetime, and we've already given it away.  Yada, yada, yada.  You know what?  That's nuts. Here's a link to something funny about guaranteed losses.  Don't miss the lesson here: it's not that Romney is Reagan.  It's that people really thought Reagan couldn't beat Carter.  And now the conventional wisdom (flavored by hindsight) is that Carter never had a chance.  Once this one is over, there will be analysis.  But it likely won't line up with what "everybody knows" right now.  It rarely does.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Paying the Piper, Calling the Tune

I went out of town for a weekend, and came back to 87 unopened emails and 3 days of news.  Apparently while I was gone Rush Limbaugh called a Georgetown coed a slut and caused all holy heck to break loose.  As I understand it, admittedly a day or two late and several dollars short, she testified that students like her need the new mandated zero-copay option for birth control because they cannot afford the $3000 such stuff could cost them during their law school careers.  Limbaugh said something unfunny, relating to the notion that if she wanted somebody else to pay her for having sex, that made her a pro.  A day or two later he apologized, but it's been the topic of numerous editorial screeds and much hand-wringing.

Oh, where to begin?  The low-hanging fruit is to play tu quoque with the various liberal ugly jokes and character assassinations that have been thrown at the likes of Sarah Palin.  That could take days, and once again illustrate the usual double-standard.  Too easy, and it's been done.

Another tack is to zero in on the absurdity of the premise.  Even if the young lady's numbers are correct, $1000 per year is less than $3 per day.  Most law school students spend that much at Starbucks.  And apparently generic birth control pills can be had for $9 per month at a Wal-Mart within walking distance from the University.  I find it surprising that anybody who can afford Georgetown's tuition would have a hard time scraping that together.  And along those same lines, why would there be zero copay for birth control pills, but not for penicillin or zantac or an epi-pen?  For that matter, what makes the pill privileged over viagra or rogaine or even a decongestant?

But the one that really gets me is this: this shouldn't be anybody's business.  Not Limbaugh's, not mine, not yours.  If this young lady wants to make whatever personal choices she does, nobody should care.  And I really don't, at least in theory.  I may generically disapprove of sex outside of marriage, or deplore the way our social standards slouch ever more toward Gomorrah, but that's just crankiness.  I'm not this girl's father, and I have no standing to judge.

...UNLESS.  Unless you make me pay for it.  And that, to me, is the big issue.  He who pays the piper gets to call the tune.  And when you let "the government," which equals, "the taxpayer" be the piper-payer, then the tune gets to be a matter of public debate.  I just returned from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral.  Did you know that we have cancelled all of NASA's manned space flights?  Yep.  Budget cuts.  Somebody in a cubicle has decided that it's a waste of money, and that we can develop private-sector space travel or hitch a ride with the Chinese if we need to tinker with a satellite.  So we're too broke to afford astronauts, but our budget priorities include me buying birth control for somebody to whom I am not related.  I like astronauts better. 

BTW, this argument works LOTS of ways.  I'm no fan of nanny-statism.  Even though I hate smoking (emphysema killed my Granddaddy and will one day kill my Dad), I'm OK in theory with smoking being allowed in places that are not going to have secondhand exposure (a no smoking section in a restarant is like a no peeing section in a pool).  I don't like seat belt laws, or helmet laws, or big brother watching my fat intake.  If you want to kill yourself (quickly or slowly), have fun!  But once "society" has a stake in paying for the consequences of your (or my) actions, we get a vote.  This is why I want to reach into the buggy of people with food stamps and say, "put back that steak!"  You earn the money, eat T-bone every night.  But in my house, I earn the money, and steak is rare.  If I earn "your" money, I get a vote on your groceries.

Anyway, none of this is to defend Limbaugh.  He was right to apologize.  And he also owes an apology to those of us on the right side of this issue, whose reasonable arguments are undermined by him making a rude joke that distracts from the numerous good reasons to oppose this new mandate.

Speaking of prostitutes, there's an old line attributed to Winston Churchill.  He supposedly asked Lady Astor, with whom he had a long-running feud, if she would sleep with him for a million pounds sterling.  She indicated that she might.  He then asked if she would for five pounds.  She asked, "What kind of a woman do you think I am?"  The famous answer was, "We have already determined that.  Now we are negotiating price."  I'm afraid that we're in the same sort of a pickle as a nation.  We have already decided, I am afraid, that we choose to be a nation of serfs and subjects.  We are merely negotiating the terms of our servitude.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Political Round-Up

Some random throughts on the state of the 2012 campaign:

First, it looks like I really do have super-powers.  Whoever I vote for in a primary goes on to lose the nomination, even if it's a "sure thing."  Why I couldn't have gotten super-speed or invisibility, I don't know.  After voting for Romney because he was "better than Gingrich," I've managed to destroy both of their campaigns.  You're welcome, Rick Santorum.

Speaking of Romney, if he does happen to wind up the GOP nominee, he'll still be fine in the general election.  No, he doesn't excite the conservative base.  But when there is no choice besides Mitt and Obama, with potentially 2+ Supreme Court nominations in the next 4 years, the base will hold their nose and vote for him..

But Santorum, he's interesting.  I worried back in the SC primary that, even though I like him a great deal, his position on social issues makes him too easy for the left to caricature.  But now I'm having second thoughts.  First of all, if we conservatives honestly believe that having conservative views on social issues is a guaranteed loser, what does that say about us?  Secondly, for all of the talk about Romney (or McCain 4 years ago) being able to appeal to blue-state folks, that math only works in the primaries.  The RINO is always the moderate-to-liberal undecided voter's favorite Republican... until they get a chance to vote for the Democrat.  I'm beginning to wonder if Santorum might not actually be more electable with genuine "swing" voters that people think.  Put another way, I wonder if there might be more votes to be picked up on the margins of the issues like religious liberty than there really are from moderating those positions.  I don't know.

Along those same lines, I know Santorum is going to be savaged as a religious weirdo.  But really, the Mormon guy wasn't?  Indeed, let's take three different religious profiles and arrange them in order from most mainstream to most weird: Mormon, Catholic, Jeremiah Wright-style liberation theology.  Yeah, I know.  The problem is that Santorum actually seems to believe what his religion teaches.  Again, this is somehow supposed to be a negative, right?

Finally, I have been exasperated of late on the internet.  Darn facebook!  This is at least tangentially related to the Santorum thing, by the way.  Is it just me, or is there some rule that only conservatives and Christians can be lampooned as dumb hicks?  Maybe I've been unlucky lately, but several conversation threads I've been involved in have involved the assumption that conservatives, Tea Partiers, and religious people are just stupid.  I don't get it; I know that southerners, fundamentalists, red-states, etc. have to carry around the idea that we are the people of Wal-Mart.  But why is it that the equally-large number of uneducated people in inner cities don't get hung around the neck of the left as a similar albatross?  I never seem to see conservatives or Christians putting up posts online with the theme "point and laugh at those stupid liberals, boy are they dumb!"  But it's a daily occurence in reverse.  Perhaps this is because so many of my friends online are former students, many of whom are now college students (often at pretty elite schools). 

I posted the following article online, and nobody commented on it.

I think it describes and analyzes that issue pretty well.  Anybody in this forum interested in it?