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Quick recap.

I have to get up early tomorrow morning so this will be quick.

I give Romney the slight edge in this one.  Like I said before, I don’t have a dog in this fight and I don’t like Republicans.  But I think that the Republican strategy for this debate was pretty smart.  It was to force Obama to defend his record over and over and over again.  That’s a problem for Obama because despite what he thinks, things are not looking up for a lot of us.

The Obama cheering section on twitter is trying desperately to make it look like a win for Obama but I don’t think they’re seeing what we’re seeing. We’re seeing a president who doesn’t have any idea what people are going through when it comes to gas prices or unemployment.  That college kid is going to graduate with a degree in something.  He’s not going to want to manufacture iphones.

Also, Obama continues to push himself right.  He continues to agree with Romney on drilling for fossil fuels, leaving the gun laws as they are and he even thinks that government can do nothing to create jobs to pull us out of this little Depression.  That last item tends to invalidate his own party’s history and the economics of depressions in general.  Many of us who are laid off do not want to start our own businesses.  We’re being forced to do it against our better judgments or probability of success.  In my field, it’s not simply a matter of motivation or hard work.  The logistics are simply not favorable to small entrepreneurial start ups.

I could go on but I really need to go to bed.  The callers on C-span gave Romney a slight edge and this has nothing to do with anything Romney said tonight.  In fact, the less he said, the better for him.  All he needed to do was say over and over again, “President Obama promised blah and he failed to deliver on it.”  Those facts are easy to check.  Romney very shrewdly made this debate a Referendum on the Obama Presidency and found it wanting.

Sorry, Obama fans.  He needed to do better than this.

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Presidential debate live blog: The Rules

This is the live blog of the second presidential debate.  Will Romney be able to score again while remaining a boorish Republican?  Will Obama actually show up this time? Which party will try to embrace Hillary first?  All good questions.

If you are a cord cutter like me, you can catch the debate on C-Span online here.  I don’t watch cable or network news because I just don’t think the commentary is helpful.  But if that’s what frosts your crockies, knock yourself  out.

It has been a tradition here at The Confluence to watch the debates with the sound off.  We like to watch body language.  But that’s gotten to be a bit trendy and we’re not joiners here, so pick your preferred method tonight but try to note whether Obama looks better prepared.

Now, I see that there are some newbies here.  I suspect you came here through the Fox video of my brother’s homecoming since many of you have a distinctly conservative aroma.  We here at The Confluence do not have a dog in this fight this year.  We don’t think Obama has done a very good job and we objected to the way he ran his campaign in 2008.  We’re also not Republicans.  Most of us here are liberals.  We LIKE to be liberal and we’re not afraid to shove our liberal policy favorites up your grill.  But just because many of us are planning to vote third party this year doesn’t mean we approve of character assassination of either candidate or conspiracy theories.  No racial comments will be tolerated.  Don’t pick on their families.  We don’t care what Michelle is wearing or what expression she has on her face.  Not important.

All that’s important is whether they sound convincing when they say things and whether they say the things we want to hear.

Have at it!

Charles Pierce’s instant emetic

Jaysus, I hope this shit is parody.  You just need to go read The Cynic and President Obama but get your barf bag.  Here’s an excerpt:

Now, four years on, the cynic wonders if the president yet has learned what he needed to learn. He has been subject to unprecedented political obstructionism and to a campaign of personal slander unseen in this country since the days when Thomas Jefferson was hiring James Callender to do his dirty work for him back in 1800. Some of the deepest muck from the river basin was churned up to the surface. And there was an audience for it. Rank insanity drove television ratings and made stars out of weeping hucksters. In 2010, the American people — whose essential unity and wisdom he so warmly praised in the speech that made him a star in 2004 — returned a singularly reactionary Congress full of utterly ridiculous men and women. They dedicated themselves to his political destruction, and they proved themselves willing to wreck the country and its economy, and to cause untold pain to millions of Americans into the bargain, in order to achieve it.

Oh, puleeeeze, cry me a fricking river!  Is this some kind of joke?  Obama has had it easy.  Has anyone called his wife a bloodthirsty lesbian who killed Vince Foster?  Has he been subpoenaed by Congress to present his birth certificate and explain his whereabouts on the day of his birth?  Has ANYONE pursued his connections with corrupt real estate slum lords in Chicago??  Has he had any special prosecutors dogging his steps day after day, calling up his staff, burdening his secretaries with monumental legal bills?  Has he had the Supreme Court tell him to suck it up? Well, has he??

No, all he had was an opportunity to turn around eight years of Republican solid waste and use the financial meltdown to institute major reforms using the filibuster proof Congressional majority that we gave him for two whole years.

Let’s be frank here: after the 2008 financial meltdown, most people would have voted for a mixed asian-african american, Muslim, lesbian hermaphrodite if he/she had a “D” after her/his name.  And that’s because the American people wanted that person to aggressively fight back against the forces that were destroying their lives.

And when he listened to his Wall Street advisors instead, resulting in more layoffs and more foreclosures, they panicked and swung back the other way.  What Obama failed to understand is the severity of the crisis on average Americans, a lot of them, some who had never been laid off before.  I’m surprised that the country has remained as calm as it has.  That calm may not last too much longer.

I think it’s time the Democratic apologists step away from the poppers and stop blaming the victims.  Obama wanted this job, he committed political homicide on his opposition to get it, he knew what was coming and he failed- miserably.  Not only did he fail to help, he even made it worse in some cases.  Charles Pierce needs to read Neil Barofsky’s book or Ron Suskind’s Confidence Men or Sheila Bair’s new Bull by the Horns.  The truth will curl your hair.

It’s not always about race and I’m sick of a certain stratum of progressives pulling that old sledge hammer out to whack us over the head.  It is and always will be about the economy, stupid.  That’s what Obama has failed to understand.  For such a supposedly intelligent guy, you’d think he would have gotten that by now.

HE needs to take responsibility, not the voters.

Hillary Falls on her Sword

She takes responsibility for Benghazi:

“I take responsibility,” she said in an interview with CNN. “I want to avoid some kind of political gotcha.”

Well, alright then.  Make of that what you will.*

She has also spent the last week laying out the reasoning behind the recent diplomatic decisions and missions to the middle east. (Probably hoping that Obama will “get it” before the debate tonight)  I’m not surprised.  It’s her legendary third ball talking and she’s a loyal Democrat.  It’s likely that she wanted to soften the blow of Benghazi on Obama this evening at tonight’s debate since Republicans seem to be heading for that train wreck full speed.

And as Secretary of State, it is ultimately her responsibility.  There was a failure somewhere and she needs to do a Cause Map and a Kazein Event and make corrections.  It might be the case that there are others responsible as well, like Congress or Defense or Obama’s national security apparatus.  And we can’t let the Libyans off the hook here.  There are some elements in Libya who are determined to be flaming fundamentalist jerks who could very easily derail the rebuilding process.  And dealing with fundamentalists of any religion is pretty close to impossible.  They’re not rational people.  So, we can’t rule out the possibility that the film that caused so much turmoil in the middle east was a deliberate inflammatory event.  And who is responsible for THAT?

There’s no question in my mind that the Republicans were prepared to take full advantage of Benghazi as a way to peel some voters away from Obama.  By the way, I am not aware of any team membership for the PUMAs.  We only joke about having a welcome package.  As far as I know, the PUMA thing lost its mojo after the 2008 election with many of the liberal ones relegated to observer status.  We didn’t lose our minds and become birthers or Tea Partiers or Palin loving authoritarian whip kissers.  We’re just here trying to talk some sense into the rest of the party.  We gave it our best shot to try to convince them to drop Obama before it was too late.  Have you seen the polls lately??  I guess it’s possible for Obama to win this but it’s going to be a nail biter and he didn’t do himself any favors in the last debate.

There are still a lot of people out there who are pissed as hell at the Democrats for dumping Hillary and sticking them with a lightweight who only ended up making their lives more difficult and futures more uncertain.  Yep, they are not going to let the Democrats off the hook.  In retrospect, sucking up to the donors while thinking that throwing Lilly Ledbetter at the base they ditched was going to keep them down on the farm was a pretty fricking stupid idea.  It’s so stupid that it could only be dreamed up by the “culture of smartness” that has invaded Wall Street and the White House.  It’s the kind of atmosphere that assumes that if you didn’t get your degree from Princeton or Harvard, you’re instantly dumber than a box of rocks and can’t think yourself out of a paper bag.  They think they can exploit what they perceive as ignorance and asymmetric information and you’ll just go along with it because you have nowhere else to go.

That’s not a winning strategy.

See, those people the party blew off in 2008?  They still have votes.  Lots of them.  It’s simple A-R-I-T-H-M-E-T-I-C.  They call the donors the 1% for a reason.

So, Obama goes into this debate as the underdog.  Hillary is taking the fall.  Obama looks like, “Wha? We didn’t know anything about Benghazi.  That’s Hillary’s thing.  See? She even said so herself.”  Then the Republicans have to say, “How conveeeeenient for you to have such a dedicated Secretary of State.  {{flattery, flattery}}  She’s pretty strong.  What a man to step up and take the blame!”

That could be game, set, match if Obama has no decent comeback.  He’s going to have to fake some bonafide Democratic credentials to get himself out of this one.  Too bad we can’t unsee what we’ve seen in the past four years and prior debate.  Even if he manages to come up with a reasonable response, who is going to believe him?

Like I said, I don’t have a dog in this fight anymore.  I can’t stand Republicans and my former party has been aerosolized.  Occasionally, we get a sniff of something Democratic in the air from Biden or Elizabeth Warren or Bill Clinton but the people in charge of the party sure don’t smell like Democrats and they don’t hang together like Democrats should with a sparkling top note, substantial drydown and long lasting sillage.

Anyway, bring on the debate!  I want to see which party praises Hillary more effusively.  It should be very revealing in so many ways.

*Sounds a bit disgusted at having to save Obama’s bacon again while she’s busily trying to keep things calm around the world.

NYTimes Science Reporting Epic FAIL

Here’s a sciencey article I found in the NYTimes this morning. It’s about a clever repackaging of metals used in catalytic reactions.  This bit sort of explains where we’re going:

Despite the cost and relative scarcity of precious metals — iridium, platinum, rhodium — we rely on them to manufacture products from denim to beer, pharmaceuticals to fuel cells. The elements are used as catalysts, substances that kick off or enable chemical reactions.

But right afterwards, there’s a hint that something isn’t quite right:

Dr. Chirik’s work involves dissolved catalysts, which are mixed into the end product. The molecules of the catalyst dissipate during the reaction. For instance, a solution containing platinum is used to make silicone emulsifiers, compounds that in turn feed products like makeup, cookware and glue. Tiny amounts of the expensive metal are scattered in all these things; your jeans, for instance, contain unrecoverable particles of platinum.

“We’re not about to run out of platinum,” said Matthew Hartings, a chemist at American University in Washington, “but this process spends that platinum in a nonsustainable way.”

Something about the first two sentences seem weird.  Maybe I’ve just been out of the lab too long.  Is the writer saying that the platinum is dispersed or that there is a catalyst containing platinum that is dispersed or that the catalyst *is* the platinum?  Any of the three possibilities could be right.

Ahh, here it comes:

Dr. Chirik’s chemistry essentially wraps an iron molecule in another, organic molecule called a ligand. The ligand alters the number of electrons available to form bonds. It also serves as a scaffold, giving the molecule shape. “Geometry is really important in chemistry,” Dr. Hartings said. Dr. Chirik’s “ligands help the iron to be in the right geometry to help these reactions along.”

Ok, you can’t wrap anything around an iron molecule.   Iron is an element and in this context, it should consist of single atoms. Molecules are constructed in the following way:

protons + neutrons + electrons => an atom

atoms + atoms => molecules

In the above paragraph, the reporter makes it sound like a single egg can make a cake all on its own.  Then in the next sentence, that egg is wrapped up in some Pillsbury crescent.  The writer also suggests that iron molecule is wrapped inside *another* organic molecule called a ligand.  Wait, are the iron and ligand both organic? Unlikely.  Iron is an inorganic metal.  The ligand may be organic.

It’s bizarre.  Can someone at the NYTimes get a journalist who actually understands basic science?  Nevermind, just look at the pictures.

This article could have been interesting.  It has all the right words like “ligand”, “scaffold” and “geometry”.  But like the famous Chomsky sentence, “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously“, those words lose their meaning in the hands of this writer.  This sentence makes sense: ““Geometry is really important in chemistry,” Dr. Hartings said. Dr. Chirik’s “ligands help the iron to be in the right geometry to help these reactions along.””, but only because the reporter seems to have written down the words as they were spoken.  I still have no idea what this article is about or why Dr. Chirik’s catalytic ligands are important or better in the manufacturing process.  What the article seems to be saying, based on the pictures, is that the more expensive metal catalysts containing platinum, for example, can be substituted with less expensive catalysts containing iron.  In the new  iron containing catalysts, the organic molecule that surrounds the iron atom is synthesized to be a ligand of a certain shape.  That shape constrains the possible coordination bonds of the metal atom in geometries that are specific for certain catalytic reactions that mimic the catalytic reactions of the more expensive platinum atom.

What has any of this to do with turning iron into gold?

Jeez, I’ll just look up the paper.

**************************************

Update: Katiebird provides this helpful site for women called “Academic Men Explain Things To Me“.  This is also called “mansplaining”.  You know how it is, some guy always has to tell you exactly how things work because you may not understand it.

I think we’ve all seen variations on this theme in the last four years.  After all, wasn’t that what the Obama phenomenon was all about?  A bunch of male graduate student types who patiently explained why electing Obama was more important that electing Hillary and if we were as smart as they were, the reason would be obvious.  Then they refused to admit they were wrong about that, like men who don’t listen to you in the car when you tell them they’ve taken a wrong turn and then go 100 miles out of their way before they finally stop and ask directions.

I had a guy in a paint store tell me the other day that if I knew anything about paint, I would know that it was impossible to get the shade of palladian blue I wanted with the correct mixture of white added to it to match my walls even though I reminded him that it was his paint shop that mixed the original custom shade and that it should be on file in his database under my name.  But, no, I had to listen to this blowhard go on at length about how finding the right formula to match my color would be impossible and I should just face up to the fact that the whole room would need to be repainted in the palladian blue color he had and he wasn’t going to mix me a custom shade like he did before and I would NEVER be able to match what was already on the walls.

So, I left and bought the paint from a different Benjamin Moore dealer who was a woman.  Happens all the time.

On those days, I dream of a world where women are equipped with telepathic powers that would deliver Milgramian corrective shocks to men until they stopped doing that.  That would be wrong but it is, after all, only a dream.