The Good Old Days

There's a bit of a blogospheric debate going on (see here) about whether conservative nostalgia for the 1950s is, shall we say, a little insensitive. After all the 1950s were a time when, among other things, Jim Crow was in full force, and rapists could go free if the woman was wearing a short skirt. But we don't have to look in too much detail to see what people are really nostalgic for.

Our Semi-Fictional Candidates

Jon Huntsman, languishing in the low single-digits in primary polls, has recently proclaimed his acceptance of both evolution and the contribution of human activity to global warming, which in today's GOP puts him somewhere to the left of Wavy Gravy. The Atlantic's James Fallows calls this the "what the hell, I might as well keep my dignity" approach to campaigning.

Obama is Now Tied with His GOP Opponents

As recently as last month, President Obama stood strong in polls against his potential Republican challengers: With the exception of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney – who lagged by several points – Obama was far ahead of each of his competitors. Now, according to the latest Gallup survey, 48 percent of registered voters say they would vote for Romney if the presidential election were held now, compared to 46 percent for Obama. Likewise, at 47 percent support, Obama is tied in a head-to-head matchup with Texas governor Rick Perry.

Please Step Up to the Retinal Scanner

You may remember the scenes in Minority Report where Tom Cruise walks past shops, which scan his eyes and deliver a personalized advertisement ("Stressed out, John Anderton? Need a vacation? Come to Aruba!") Well, according to the Los Angeles Times, we're almost there:

Picture this: You stop in front of a digital advertising display at a mall and suddenly an ad pops up touting makeup, followed by one for shoes and then one for butter pecan ice cream.

It seems to know you're a woman in your late 20s and, in fact, it does. When you looked at the display, it scanned your facial features and tailored its messages to you.

The Data-Driven Campaign

Most of the decisions campaign strategists make are based on folk theories, by which I mean theories that have been developed over time by practitioners about what works and what doesn't, without much empirical evidence to demonstrate whether they're true or not. At the end of a campaign, you have a sense about what worked and what didn't, but the evidence is largely circumstantial, and the strategist's inclination toward self-justification -- even though we lost, my decisions were good ones, and we would have lost anyway, or alternatively, we won because everything I did was right -- makes clear-eyed assessment difficult.

Candidates and Consumption

In a column tearing his party a new one for ever defending Sarah Palin, David Frum says that we should "Quit treating consumption patterns as substitutes for character":

It's very important that politicians understand the everyday lives of Americans. It's important that politicians champion the ordinary person and not pay undue heed to the wishes of the rich and powerful. It's important that politicians be people of integrity, not hirelings of industry lobbies. These are issues of character, and character counts.

The Not-So-Winding Road from the House to the Presidency

On Tuesday reports came out that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is considering jumping into the GOP presidential race. Just two days earlier, sitting members of the House of Representatives – Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul -- finished in first and second place in the Iowa Straw Poll. Though none of these candidates (and potential candidates) are favored to win the nomination, it is clear that members of the House, and Michele Bachmann especially, are playing a much larger role in the primaries than House members traditionally have.

Rick Perry Talks About Sex

We sure are talking about Rick Perry a lot. But why stop now -- he's not only new, but interesting in ways that some of his opponents aren't. Jonathan Chait brings us this video of Perry seemingly flummoxed when confronted with the fact that his preferred policy of abstinence education doesn't work to stop teen pregnancy:

Republicans Can't Seem to Go a Day Without Insulting Black People

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn went on something of a speaking tour yesterday, warning of impending economic disaster and predicting the demise of Medicare. It has been an exercise in sensationalism – at one point, while voicing his frustrations with the Senate, Coburn said that “It’s just a good thing I can’t pack a gun on the Senate floor.”

The thing that stands out, however, is his take on President Obama’s intentions:

Rick Perry's Higher Education Woes

Texas Governor Rick Perry’s has had a tough go with higher education. Costs to attend the state's college have shot past the support the state provides to students. State community colleges, for example, are 90 percent more expensive since 2000 while, over the same period, government spending increased only 23 percent. The disparity is even more pronounced for the major flagship universities. On top of that, in the most recent budget, no appropriations were made for enrollment increases, and state financial aid was cut 15 percent. So what is Governor Perry’s tonic for this sour mixture? Forcing local governments to choose to raise taxes and making Texas’s nationally-renowned research universities more like for-profit colleges.

Bad Medicine

David Leonhardt discusses an interesting study on medical malpractice, showing that most malpractice claims don't result in any payment to a patient. This doesn't stop "defensive medicine" though, because the money is not really an issue for doctors, who are covered by malpractice insurance. What they do fear is the process of getting sued, which is stressful and unpleasant, even if the insurance company is going to be the one paying if you lose.

HHS Apparently Incapable of Producing Non-Crappy Information Form

Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed some new rules that will allow people to easily compare plans when shopping for health insurance. Good news! The Obama administration has been fairly proactive in working to make information more accessible and easier for people to understand, often through thoughtful design. So I went over to the HHS web site to get some details about the new form, and have a look at it. After all, I'm sure they'd want to aggressively promote this, right? Not so much.

Obama Takes to the Bully Pulpit to Push Job Creation

For the last several months, President Obama has used his considerable rhetoric talents to turn the public’s attention to deficits, arguing that the government needs to tighten its belt in response to mounting debt. This has driven liberals insane, especially since the president has yet to present any major ideas for job creation, despite 9.1 percent unemployment and a looming double-dip recession.

Bob Moser talks Rick Perry with Democracy Now!

Our new executive editor, Bob Moser, went on Democracy Now! this morning to talk about Rick Perry's record in Texas. Moser is the former editor of The Texas Observer, where he spent three years covering Perry's governorship. Watch the video below or go here for a full transcript.

Where are the Young Liberal Judges?

Because of both Senate obstructionism and the relatively low priority placed on them by the Obama administration, the pace of appointments to the federal judiciary has been regrettably low. But quantity isn't the only issue. Under current norms, Supreme Court justices tend to come from the federal appellate courts. Particularly since the Reagan administration, Republican presidents have been very conscious of trying to put young conservatives on the federal appellate bench. This is how you get John Roberts and Sam Alito appointed to the Court at a young age.