What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

The Center for American Progress released a report today that lays out how they see the 2012 election playing out, and their prescription for what Obama needs to do to win: President Obama must maintain as much of his community of color, Millennial generation, and unmarried women base as possible in terms of vote share and electoral composition—and then manage to either hold his 2008 margins among white college graduates to offset possible crushing losses among white working-class voters or keep his deficits among both white college and working-class voters to 2004 levels and hope that his base support compensates for these deficits. Not only does Obama need to hold on to his 2008 base, he probably can run on 2008 issues too, thanks to the failure of the Super Committee. However, the Obama campaign can’t rely on bashing the GOP if it wants to win. It also need to capture the hope of the 2008 campaign — perhaps the hardest part of making 2012 a 2008 redux. While Obama needs to hold on...

Sandusky's Victim One Bullied out of School

According to Sara Ganim at the Patriot-News , the reporter who first broke the Penn State sexual-abuse story back in March, Sandusky's Victim One has had to leave school because he's being bullied: Officials at Central Mountain High School in Clinton County weren’t providing guidance for fellow students, who were reacting badly about Joe Paterno’s firing and blaming the 17-year-old, said Mike Gillum, the psychologist helping his family. Those officials were unavailable for comment this weekend. The name-calling and verbal threats were just too much, he said. The news media may have moved on, but these kids are going to have to live with the fallout from being assaulted, abused, and blamed for the rest of their lives. I can hardly even speak about how appalled I am about this. Yet I'm not surprised. This is what happens to girls and women who report assaults and rape. Why would it be different for boys and men?

Department of Follow-Up: How Do You Make Better Parents?

Like a lot of nerds, my jaw dropped this weekend when, on the NYT 's opinion page, Tom Friedman concluded that what our education system needs to help children perform better is ... drum roll ... better parents . Well gosh, no one ever thought that before. Um, could you follow that up with a policy Rx, please? Fortunately, Dana Goldstein has indeed done that, right here . Her column is a nice guide to school-reform thinking on precisely this question, with great links...

The Internet Miniskirt

Flickr/Ed Yourdon
I've been lucky. There was no Internet back in the 1990s when I was one of the few women writing in the mainstream media about LGBT issues. Hate mail, then, was actual, physical mail, usually sent to a newspaper and forwarded, although one or two writers somehow found my home address. But even those were pretty mild. The usual theme was that I was going to hell; sometimes I got conversion pamphlets, with handy cartoon illustrations of people on fire. I got a couple of letters with disgustingly graphic ideas about my sex life, but those were overshadowed by the religious pamphlets and the psychotics' letters—which you learned to recognize by the tiny handwriting on the envelope, and which ran six to ten pages, and almost always mentioned alien life forms somehow. So when, in the Internet era, I started writing more about women's economic lives—exposing the gross details of sexual harassment, or explaining the violence involved in occupational segregation—I was honestly shocked by the...

The Showman

This "lost" interview shows Steve Jobs as an incredibly charismatic figure.

AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
A few nights ago, I took to the E Street Cinema in Washington, D.C., to watch the “lost” interview Steve Jobs gave to Robert X. Cringley for a 1996 PBS television series, “Triumph of the Nerds.” The series included ten minutes of the interview, the rest of which was never seen, and feared lost, until Cringley discovered the mastertape following Jobs’s death last month. The interview shows Steve Jobs at 40, ten years into his career as head of NeXT computer, 9 years into his position as co-founder of Pixar, and a few months before he would sell NeXT to Apple, the first stop in a process that would end with Jobs as CEO of Apple Computer. If you’re familiar with Apple’s history, nothing in this interview should surprise you. Jobs goes over the well-worn stories of Apple’s founding by himself and Steve Wozniak, its initial successes with the Apple II and the Macintosh, his ejection from the company in 1985, and Apple’s failure to keep up with Microsoft in the late 1980s and early 1990s...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

The Prospect ’s Jamelle Bouie blogged about the most important story that’s been hiding under Newt Gingrich’s surge (a news story fit for nothing but speculation for how it will end ) and other election stories—“the European debt crisis has raised the odds of a U.S. recession to more than 50 percent by early 2012, according to a new report from the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank.” Other big story of the day: The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the Affordable Care Act in March. In light of this announcement, it’s a good time to revisit Garrett Epps’ post from last week on notoriously conservative Judge Laurence Silberman upholding the law. GQ just published its pizza-party interview with Herman Cain, which is a must-read. Not for the insight it lends into the pizza professional’s political acumen but simply because it is a terrific character study of a man who says incredibly interesting things but who just shouldn’t be elected president. A man who thinks Godfather’s Pizza...

Blame Where It's Not Due

The Wall Street Journal editorial page keeps outdoing itself for sheer sophistry, but today’s op-ed on Joe Paterno sets a new record. How about blaming the Penn State scandal on … the media? In today’s Journal , the editorial writer, after the appropriate clucks, concludes: Given the relentlessness of modern public scrutiny, and the thousands of young men who have traveled through the Penn State football program, it's something of a miracle that Mr. Paterno could coach for 46 years without a previous notable blemish. We doubt it will happen again. It's also something of a relief that in a culture as libertine as ours at least some behavior—sexual exploitation of children—is still considered deviant. The events at Penn State are indeed a tragedy, and doubly so because they give new license to cynics who want Americans to believe that no one who achieves prominence in public life can be honorable. So let’s get this straight. “Given the relentless of modern public scrutiny,” it is “a...

More Allegations Raised Against Cain

When Politico revealed the sexual-harassment charges against Herman Cain over the weekend, it would have been fairly easy for the Republican candidate to dismiss their relevance. They were the musings of the liberal media! Or a targeted hit from an opposing campaign! As Jamelle noticed Monday, conservative luminaries like Rush Limbaugh jumped to defend Cain. Politico followed up yesterday morning with a story about how unconcerned Iowa Republicans were with the scandal. That should change today. Further allegations have been leveled against Cain, this time by a prominent Iowa conservative. Radio host Steve Deace suggested to Politico that Cain made inappropriate remarks or advances to his show's staff members: Deace, who penned an opinion piece critical of Cain earlier this month, told POLITICO in an email that Cain said "awkward" and "inappropriate" things to the staff at his station. "Like awkward/inappropriate things he's said to two females on my staff, that the fact the guy's...

Does David Brooks Understand Market Economics?

In his weekly back-and-forth with Gail Collins at The New York Times " Opinionator" blog this week, David Brooks finds a backhanded way to blame a woman for being forced out of a job by her supervisor's sexual advances. He doesn't seem to realize that his comment blames anyone who asks for compensation for an employer's negligence or harm: David Brooks: Now we turn to ethical issues. My first question, and this is a genuine question, concerns the victims. Let’s detach ourselves from the specifics of the Cain case and consider a general question: If you are the victim of sexual harassment, and you agree to remain silent in exchange for a five-figure payoff, should any moral taint attach to you? In the old days, somebody who allowed a predator to continue his hunting in exchange for money would certainly be considered a sinner. I’m reluctant to judge people in these circumstances, but I’m inclined to agree. Am I missing something? Well, yes, he is...

Has Occupy Wall Street Affected Anything?

Peter Dreier at HuffPo has a cool graph showing how often the word “inequality” appeared in news coverage between October 2010 and October 2011. Guess what happens right about, oh, September 17 ? (Hat tip to Mother Jones ).

Coulter's Race Relations

Even for someone who specializes in consistently saying the most offensive and irrelevant things, Ann Coulter's statements about black Republicans in an interview with Sean Hannity Monday crossed the line. In a segment discussing accusations of sexual harassment against Herman Cain, Coulter and Hannity completely sidestepped the allegations and instead ranted about why liberals target African American Republicans. Of course the argument moved away from issues of sex and workplace harassment and moved on to how Barack Obama is only half-black and his father wasn't even an American.

Does Fact-Checking Work?

Politico 's Ben Smith wrote a long article about America's fact-checking industry ( PolitiFact , FactCheck , etc.), and he does a good job of describing the tug-of-war between these sites and political spin-meisters, as well as addressing some of the inherent weaknesses in the criteria they use to find the line between truth and falsehood. But there's one very important question missing from the article: Does fact-checking work? By "work," I mean a couple of things. The first is, does it change politicians' behavior? Is a candidate who gets called out for a lie in a fact check going to stop saying it? I posed that question to Bill Adair, who runs PolitiFact, when I interviewed him for a story about this topic that never actually found its way into print (long story). Adair's response was that changing politicians' behavior isn't his job; he and his organization put their best assessment of the facts on the record, and then whatever happens next is basically out of their hands. One...

Half-Right Brooks

David Brooks’ column today is one of his better ones—noting that the U.S. is plagued by two kinds of inequality, that which divides the top one percent from everyone else, which is prevalent in our major cities, and that in smaller cities and rural areas, where college grads are doing OK but where the bottom has fallen out for those Americans who don’t complete college or, worse, high school. The gap between the lives of college grads and others has widened not just in terms of income but health, diet, marriage stability, and the percentage of children born and raised out of wedlock. Brooks isn’t the first conservative to have noted the disintegration of family life within America’s working class; Rich Lowry at National Review has also picked up on this. But neither Brooks, in today’s column, nor Lowry take the necessary further step of identifying what exactly has caused all this. If they want to take that step, they should check out the collected works of William Julius Wilson, the...

Herman Cain's Unlucky Strike

You must watch Herman Cain's latest campaign ad, via James Fallows. It starts off as a typical dry commercial with Cain's chief of staff hyping his candidate, but gets great right at the 40-second mark: Fallows questioned if this was an Onion parody, but that is in fact Cain's Chief of Staff, Mark Block. If memory serves me right, I've noticed him (or else it was some other dapper mustachioed man) taking cigarrette puffs around Cain's bus at stops this fall. I won't begrudge a political staffer who needs a boost to help him through his time in small town Iowa, but the way the last shot lingers over the smoke is just too much. Though as Tim Murphy points out at Mother Jones , this isn't Cain's first foray into bizarre campaign ads.

Batman the Gentrifier

In real-life, the superhero's do-gooding would push all the poor people out of Gotham.

Rex Features via AP Images
For Batman fans, this past week was a big one. In addition to the release of Arkham City – the sequel to Arkham Asylum , the world’s greatest Batman simulator – DC released its animated adaptation of Batman: Year One , the Frank Miller-penned story that would define Batman for the next two decades, and form the basis for Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of the character. Here’s a trailer: I watched Year One with friends a few nights ago, and one thing that stood out was the sheer whiteness of Gotham City. From mobsters to orphaned children, most Gothamites were white. People of color were present, but they were a distinct minority in most parts of Frank Miller’s Gotham. Of course, this makes Gotham extremely unusual as a major industrial city in the early 1980s, which is when Year One takes place. By this point in American history, most cities had been hollowed out by successive waves of white flight, as middle and working-class whites left the cities for surrounding suburbs. In...