January 31, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 PM


What's behind Romney's romp? (Jon Cohen, Peyton M. Craighill and Scott Clement, 1/31/12, Washington Post)

This time around, Romney was able to beat back some demons from his 2008 loss to John McCain -- most notably among voters of Cuban background. In 2008, Romney won just 9 percent of Cubans, but this year he is winning nearly six in 10 Cubans in preliminary exit polls. He beats Gingrich by a nearly 2 to 1 margin.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 PM


Mitt Romney Romps to Victory in the Florida Primary (Howard Kurtz, Jan 31, 2012, Daily Beast)

With more than a third of the vote counted, Romney almost had a majority--48 percent--far eclipsing Gingrich, with 31 percent. Rick Santorum was at 13 percent and Ron Paul had 7 percent. If those margins hold, Romney will have drawn more support than Gingrich and Santorum combined, undercutting Newt's argument that they were dividing a larger bloc of voters than backed Romney.

Romney may not have vanquished all conservative qualms about his candidacy, but in recovering from his drubbing in South Carolina, Romney has found a winning message that, combined with his money and organization, make him hard to beat in a 50-state contest. In fact, there's a strong case to be made that Gingrich forced the cautious and calculating Romney to become a stronger candidate.

Two of three Florida voters say they back the Tea Party, according to exit polls, and nearly half were evangelicals, so this was a clearly conservative audience. And many clearly did not buy Gingrich's rhetoric that his opponent was merely a "Massachusetts moderate." Romney also bested his rival in the NBC and CNN debates, and two-thirds of those in the exit polls said debates were the most important or one of the most important factors in their decision.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 PM


Jindal's Education Moon Shot (WSJ, 1/30/12)

Louisiana is already one of 12 states (including Washington, D.C.) that offer school vouchers, but its program benefits fewer than 2,000 students in New Orleans. Governor Jindal would extend eligibility to any low-income student whose school gets a C, D or F grade from state administrators. That's almost 400,000 students--a bit more than half the statewide population--who could escape failing schools for private or virtual schools, career-based programs or institutions of higher education.

Funding for these vouchers ("scholarships" is the poll-tested term) would come not from a new fund, as in New Orleans, but from what the state already spends on public education per capita. So every student leaving a failing school would take about $8,500 (on average) with him, hitting the bureaucracy where it hurts. This is called competition, that crucial quality missing where monopolies reign.

Post-Katrina New Orleans is already the nation's leading charter-school zone, with 80% of city students enrolled, academic performance improving dramatically, and plans to go all-charter by 2013. To spread the model statewide, the Governor would create new regional boards for authorizing charters and offer fast-track authorization to high-performing operators such as KIPP. He'd also give charters the same access to public facilities as traditional public schools.

As for tenure, Mr. Jindal would grant it only to teachers who are rated "highly effective" five years in a row, meaning the top 10% of performers. And tenure wouldn't equal lifetime protection: A tenured teacher who rates in the bottom 10% ("ineffective") in any year would return to probationary status. Ineffective teachers would receive no pay raise. Louisiana would also ban the "last in, first out" practice under which younger teachers are dismissed first, regardless of performance.
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Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


Segregation Hits Historic Low: Flight From Rust Belt Cities, Immigration Boost Integration in Cities, Study Says (MIRIAM JORDAN, 1/31/12, WSJ)

An exodus of African-Americans from struggling industrial cities such as Detroit and the growth of Sunbelt states have pushed racial segregation in U.S. metropolitan areas to its lowest level in a century, according to a new study.

The report, released by the conservative Manhattan Institute, said U.S. cities are more integrated now than at any time since 1910, based on analysis of census data from neighborhoods.

Fifty years ago, nearly half the black population lived in a ghetto, the study said, while today that proportion has shrunk to 20%. All-white neighborhoods in U.S. cities are effectively extinct, according to the report.

Immigration and gentrification have helped convert ghettos into racially mixed communities and contributed to diversifying suburbia, said economists Edward Glaeser of Harvard University and Jacob Vigdor of Duke University, who co-wrote the study. "Segregation is as low as we have ever seen it," said Mr. Vigdor. "It's an unprecedented scenario."

Convert all public housing programs into vouchers and empty out the rest of the ghetto.
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Posted by orrinj at 6:38 PM


Gasoline consumption falls in California (Nancy Rivera Brooks, January 31, 2012, LA Times)

Gasoline consumption in California totaled 1.23 billion gallons in October, down 1.8% from the 1.26 gallons used the previous October, according to a report released Tuesday by California State Board of Equalization Chairman Jerome E. Horton. The last time gas use increased was in January 2011, when consumption rose 2.7%. Consumption was flat in February.

"High gas prices appear to be directly affecting fuel consumption in California," Horton said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


THE BUDGET AND ECONOMIC OUTLOOK: FISCAL YEARS 2012 TO 2022 (Congressional Budget Office, JANUARY 2012)

CBO projects a $1.1 trillion federal budget deficit for fiscal year 2012 if current laws remain unchanged. Measured as a share of the nation's output (gross domestic product, or GDP), that shortfall of 7.0 percent is nearly 2 percentage points below the deficit recorded in 2011, but still higher than any deficit between 1947 and 2008. Over the next few years, projected deficits in CBO's baseline decline markedly, dropping to under $200 billion and averaging 1.5 percent of GDP over the 2013-2022 period.

Posted by orrinj at 6:11 PM


Israel Praises Muslim Brotherhood (Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, 1/29/2012, INN)

Israel apparently has decided not to go head-to-head against an Egyptian regime headed by the radical Muslim Brotherhood and has congratulated it for its efforts to achieve freedom, democracy and economic development.

Jordan's king meets political leader of Hamas (Tobias Buck, 1/29/12, Financial Times)

The leader of the Hamas political bureau held a rare meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan on Sunday in the latest sign that the Palestinian Islamist group is finding growing acceptance as a force in regional politics. [...]

Analysts said the visit to Amman was evidence of the new status accorded to Hamas, but also of Jordan's desire to strengthen ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, the pan-Arab Islamist movement closely allied with Hamas.

"Jordan has decided that it is time to restore its relationship with Hamas. It wants to show that it is taking an inclusive approach," said Oraib al-Rantawi, the director of the Amman-based Al-Quds Center for Political Studies.

The Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition force in the kingdom, has formed an important part of a year-long popular campaign calling for economic and political reform in Jordan.

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM


Fan interrupts Everton with handcuffs (AP, 1/31/12)

A fan interrupted Everton's home match against Manchester City for several minutes Tuesday night when he handcuffed himself to a goal post.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 PM

E OR G?:

1. Hipster, or Gay? (Urban Dictionary)

Ever have a hard time telling if the man you see across the bar from you at your favorite artisan coffee house is a hispter, or gay?

Ever have a hard time telling if the woman listening to alternative music sitting on a park bench with her 30 year old bike next to her is a hipster, or gay?

Ever see people sitting around trying to distinguish those walking by: hipster, or gay?

A game commonly played by residents of urban settings, college campuses, and visitors to hipster enclaves. 

When we were in the Mediterranean last summer we called it European or Gay?

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 AM


A Fighter Abroad: In 1810, a freed slave named Tom Molineaux fought in one of the most important fights in the history of boxing. This is his story. (Brian Phillips, January 26, 2012, Grantland)

On December 10, 1810, in a muddy field around 25 miles from London, a fight took place that was so dramatic, controversial, and ferocious that it continues to haunt the imagination of boxing more than 200 years later. One of the fighters was the greatest champion of his age, a bareknuckle boxer so tough he reportedly trained by punching the bark off trees. The other was a freed slave, an illiterate African-American who had made the voyage across the Atlantic to seek glory in the ring. Rumors about the match had circulated for weeks, transfixing England. Thousands of fans braved a pounding rain to watch the bout. Some of the first professional sportswriters were on hand to record it.

It was the greatest fight of its era. But its significance went beyond that. Even at the time, it seemed to be about more than boxing, more than sport itself. More than anything, the contest between a white English champion and a black American upstart seemed to be about an urgent question of identity: whether character could be determined in the boxing ring, whether sport could confirm a set of virtues by which a nation defined itself.

The fight cemented a set of stock characters -- the fast-talking, ultra-talented, self-destructive black athlete; the Great White Hope; the canny coach who's half devoted to his pupil and half exploiting him -- that have echoed down the centuries.1 In fact, so much about the fight feels familiar today, from the role of race to the role of the media, that if you had to name a date, you could make a good case that December 10, 1810, was the moment sport as we know it began.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 AM


Values Inequality: "Coming Apart" argues that a large swath of America--poor and working-class whites--is turning away from traditional values and losing ground. (W. BRADFORD WILCOX, 1/29/12, WSJ)

Focusing on whites to avoid conflating race with class, Mr. Murray contends instead that a large swath of white America--poor and working-class whites, who make up approximately 30% of the white population--is turning away from the core values that have sustained the American experiment. At the same time, the top 20% of the white population has quietly been recovering its cultural moorings after a flirtation with the counterculture in the 1960s and 1970s. Thus, argues Mr. Murray in his elegiac book, the greatest source of inequality in America now is not economic; it is cultural.

He is particularly concerned with the ways in which working-class whites are losing touch with what he calls the four "founding virtues"--industriousness, honesty (including abiding by the law), marriage and religion, all of which have played a vital role in the life of the republic.

Consider what has happened with marriage. The destructive family revolution of the late 1960s and 1970s has gradually eased--at least in the nation's most privileged precincts. In the past 20 years, divorce rates have come down, marital quality (self-reported happiness in marriage) has risen and nonmarital childbearing (out-of-wedlock births) is a rare occurrence among the white upper class. Marriage is not losing ground in America's best neighborhoods.

But it's a very different story in blue-collar America. Since the 1980s, divorce rates have risen, marital quality has fallen and nonmarital childbearing is skyrocketing among the white lower class. Less than 5% of white college-educated women have children outside of marriage, compared with approximately 40% of white women with just a high-school diploma. The bottom line is that a growing marriage divide now runs through the heart of white America.

Mr. Murray tells similar stories about crime, religion and work. Who would have guessed, for instance, that the white upper class is now much more likely to be found in church on any given Sunday than the white working class? Or that, just before the recession struck, white men in the 30-49 age bracket with a high-school diploma were about four times more likely to have simply stopped looking for work, compared with their college-educated peers? By Mr. Murray's account, faith and industriousness are in increasingly short supply among working-class whites.

One assumes--hopes--that just as they followed their betters into bad habits, they'll follow back towards traditional values.

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Posted by orrinj at 6:11 AM


New York Giants vs. New England Patriots: How the teams line up: How the Giants and the Patriots compare for Super Bowl 2012 in offense, defense, special teams and coaching staffs (Paolo Bandini, 1/29/12, The Guadian))

Both of these teams are built to pass the ball first and foremost, but in different ways. Tom Brady's top three receiving targets in New England are a natural slot receiver - Wes Welker - plus two tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. None are blessed with the sort of straight line speed to simply outrun defensive backs, and each does his best work over the middle of the field - taking short passes and turning them into big gains. All three ranked in the top 10 in the league this season for yards gained after the catch.

Only one New York Giant features on that list - Victor Cruz - a player who has been oft-compared to Welker in recent weeks. The tight end Jake Ballard can also be a productive enough outlet for quarterback Eli Manning over the middle of the field but this team has been most dangerous throwing outside. Taller and quicker (though, let's be clear, that is not to say better) than Welker, Cruz is more than capable of working the sidelines, while his fellow receivers Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham are both legitimate deep threats.

Manning, furthermore, has the arm strength to find them. According to stats compiled by Pro Football Focus, he led the league this season with 43 completions on throws that travelled more than 20 yards downfield before reaching their target. He also had the highest number of completions and best completion percentage of any quarterback in the league throwing 10-19 yards outside the numbers.

For overall production, however, the Giants' passing offence has still lagged behind New England's, Brady throwing for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns to Manning's 4,933 yards and 29 scores. The Giants quarterback was also intercepted more times (16) than his New England counterpart (12).

The Patriots were more effective on the ground, too, their 20th-ranked rushing offence still comfortably outshining a New York unit that was statistically the worst in the league.

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