The Senate Is A Coin Flip

Sep 16 2014 @ 9:02am

The NYT’s Senate forecast is trending towards Democrats:

NYT Senate

Nate Silver’s calculations have also become more Democrat-friendly:

When we officially launched our forecast model two weeks ago, it had Republicans with a 64 percent chance of taking over the Senate after this fall’s elections. Now Republican chances are about 55 percent instead.

Why the change? He sees money as a big factor:

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Asylum Roulette

Sep 16 2014 @ 8:28am

To qualify for asylum in the US, immigrants have to prove not only that they have a credible fear of persecution in their home countries but also that they belong to a particular social group and is being persecuted because they belong to that group. Not all victims of violence qualify. That burden of proof, as Emily Bazelon points out, leaves many asylum seekers in the lurch, including victims of domestic abuse and gang violence:

In 1996, the Board of Immigration Appeals, which functions as the country’s central immigration court (with review by the federal appeals courts) “broke new ground” on gender-related claims by “granting asylum to a Togolese woman who fled her country to escape female genital cutting,” as Blaine Bookey, a staff attorney for the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, explains in this 2012 article. The idea was that the risk of cutting both depended on gender and was widespread in some African countries.

Domestic violence, however, didn’t easily get the same kind of recognition as a basis for persecution worthy of asylum. In 1999, the Board of Immigration Appeals rejected the asylum claim of Rody Alvarado Peña, a Guatemalan woman whose husband, she testified, treated her “as something that belonged to him and he could do anything he wanted.” Alvarado said she spent 10 years suffering frequent abuse, including the dislocation of her jawbone and a kick in the spine when she was pregnant. She was dragged by the hair, pistol-whipped, and raped. When she tried to run away, the Guatemalan police and the courts did not protect her. The BIA accepted that Alvarado had been abused but ruled that she was not part of a recognized social group—“Guatemalan women subjugated by their husbands” didn’t make the list—and that she had not shown she was abused because she was a Guatemalan woman living under male domination.

Cosmopolitan-ism

Sep 16 2014 @ 8:01am

Elizabeth Nolan Brown praises Cosmopolitan for addressing the midterm elections, but wishes they’d take a less partisan approach:

There’s nothing wrong with publications leaning one way or the other politically, or taking an institutionally centrist position while hiring individual writers that slant left or right. Yet Cosmo is trying to portray itself as a friendly, impartial arbiter of “what’s at stake” for women in this election while explicitly pushing the DNC’s wish list. This is not service journalism, nor opinion journalism; it is advocacy. And the magazine’s refusal to acknowledge that leaves me cold.

This wouldn’t be the first time Cosmo has served as a mouthpiece for Democrat policies. Throughout the past year or so, the magazine has run numerous pieces on how the Affordable Care Act is good for women and frequently devoted social media posts to urging young women to sign up with the health insurance exchanges. “The White House says it has no formal publicity agreement with Cosmopolitan,” noted Reuters in June 2013. “But [Editor-in-Chief Joanna] Coles met with senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett last week at the White House, which is in discussions with potential Obamacare promoters including the National Football League, as it prepares for a full-scale public education campaign this fall.” And Coles was back for a personal meeting with President Obama in May 2014.

Finding The Spirit Of Science

Sep 16 2014 @ 7:32am

While positing that “only matter exists,” Marcelo Gleiser also contends “that we know precious little, that we are surrounded by questions of such forbidding complexity that our knowledge will always be limited even if ever growing.” Why he finds this a reason to embrace science:

But forbidding complexity does not need to mean divine, or supernatural. Unknowns are invitations, challenges to our creativity. Obstacles are triggers, not stoppers. We go after them using the tools of science and reason with a fervor that, as Einstein remarked, has all the dressings of spiritual devotion.

So, we must rid spirituality from its supernatural prison, make it secular. Spirituality is a connection with something bigger than we are, seducing our imagination, creating an urge to know, to embrace the mystery that surrounds us and the mystery that we are.

This natural spirituality is not a form of mysticism. Mysticism presupposes that knowledge that is inaccessible to the intellect can be apprehended by contemplation or by a union with the divine. Science, at least to me, starts with a spiritual — even contemplative — connection with nature. But then it uses the intellect as the bridge between this connection and the pursuit of knowledge. As it brings together this very human spiritual attraction to the unknown (merely calling it “curiosity” sounds very impoverishing to me) and our reasoning powers, science is a unique expression of our wonderment with reality, of our awe with nature’s grandeur.

Ken Burns’s multipart documentary, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, premiered last night. Damon Root reviews it:

[W]hile the film is clearly pro-Roosevelt in its leanings, it does make room for certain contrarian views. Among The Roosevelts‘ stable of talking heads, for example, is none other than conservative writer George Will, who pops up from time to time to remind viewers that the family’s impact was not always a benevolent one. “Building on the work of the first Roosevelt, the second Roosevelt gave us the idea, the shimmering, glittering idea of the heroic presidency. And with it the hope that complex problems would yield to charisma. This,” Will declares during one episode, “sets the country up for perpetual disappointment.”

But The Roosevelts is by no means a flawless film. For one thing, it sometimes fails to present an accurate picture of the family’s political opponents. Indeed, the film leaves the distinct impression that only reactionaries and fringe loonies ever dissented from the New Deal.

Harvey J. Kaye lodges other criticisms:

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The Art Of The Personal Essay

Sep 15 2014 @ 8:09pm

Richard Rodriguez names the writers who influenced his approach to the form:

There was Joan Didion—the Didion of those glorious California essays of the sixties. Because she was from Sacramento and writing about the Central Valley when I first read her, it was she who taught me to imagine my own Sacramento as a literary landscape. About that same time, there was William Saroyan. There were voices in Saroyan, particularly the wondering boy in Fresno and the hungry writer’s voice in San Francisco, I have never forgotten. For all of the passion and energy in Saroyan, however, there was something sexless about him—the son of a Presbyterian minister.

He adds two more:

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Fear And Loathing In Lebanon

Sep 15 2014 @ 7:45pm

Sulome Anderson checks in from Tripoli, the northern Lebanese town that has become a microcosm of the Syrian civil war and which today “seems to lie in ISIS’s shadow”:

Although the extremist and ultraviolent Sunni group has few open supporters here, the appearance of pro-ISIS paraphernalia and graffiti, the clash last month in the Bekaa, and the fact that Tripoli’s Sunni-majority population has a historical tendency toward radicalism, have raised worries that the group might gain a foothold here and send the city into a spiral of deepening violence.

Local tensions in Tripoli follow essentially the same ethnic lines as those in Syria’s war:

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Can America “Destroy” ISIS?

Sep 15 2014 @ 7:14pm

Tomasky wishes Obama would treat Americans like grownups and admit that we can’t eradicate the evil embedded in ISIS:

We’ve been trying to destroy Al Qaeda for 13 years now. We have not. We will not. And we will not destroy ISIS. We can’t destroy these outfits. They’re too nimble and slippery and amorphous, and everybody knows it. So why say it? Why not say what we hopefully can do and what we should do: contain it. We have contained Al Qaeda. Some of the methods have been morally problematic (drone strikes that sometimes kill innocents, etc.), but the methods have worked. Al Qaeda, say the experts, is now probably not in a position to pull off a 9/11. Containment is fine. It does the job. But no, I guess a president can’t say that. A president has to sound like John Wayne. It’s depressing and appalling.

Steve Chapman explains why, in his view, the war against ISIS is unlikely to succeed:

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Face Of The Day

Sep 15 2014 @ 6:46pm

Morsi jailbreak trial adjourned to September 21

Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed El-Beltagy flashes rabia sign during a trial of the Wadi el-Natrun prison case at Cairo Police Academy in Egypt on September 15, 2014. Cairo Criminal Court adjourned the trial of Mohamed Morsi and 130 others to 21 September. By Ahmed Ramadan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

Paternity Pays, Ctd

Sep 15 2014 @ 6:11pm

Kay Hymowitz responds to Claire Cain Miller:

The jumping off point of [Miller's] piece will be familiar to anyone who has kept a casual eye on gender gap research. Mothers earn less than fathers with similar credentials and laboring in similar occupations. Citing research by sociologist Michelle Budig, Miller notes that “childless, unmarried women earn 96 cents for every dollar a man earns, while married mothers earn 76 cents.” Men, on the other hand, get a parenthood bonus. Their earnings go up when they become fathers.

Now, there are two plausible reasons for the motherhood penalty and fatherhood bonus.

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