In the final days before the Republican caucuses, many Iowa voters are girding themselves to accept the least implausible candidate.
AMES, IOWA -- They are coming out to see Mitt Romney in Iowa, hundreds of them. They are not expecting to be blown away.
Instead, these crowds are skeptical and a bit resigned. With decision time nearly upon them, they are coming home, reluctantly, to the least implausible Republican candidate.
"It's impossible to be perfect. There are no more Ronald Reagans," sighed Ed Houry, a 57-year-old UPS driver from the Iowa City area. "But I think he can win it."
If Romney appears to be pulling ahead of his rivals in the closing days before Tuesday's Iowa caucuses, it's not because he's suddenly caught fire. Romney, who got 25 percent of the Iowa vote four years ago, hasn't surged so much as stayed in place amid the chaos.
Nor have voters here suddenly developed a burning ardor for his low-heat candidacy. Rather, they are preparing to settle.
"I'd say I'm leaning Mitt. I'm not 100 percent committed, but I'm leaning," said Rick Schreier, 44, a bank president from Story City. "I like certain things about all of them, but I've found reasons I couldn't support the other six candidates. With Mitt, I haven't found anything about him that I couldn't support."
Schreier said he was 75 percent sure he'd support Romney. He wasn't considering any of the other candidates. But he was still leaving the door open to changing his mind.
Romney rolled in to Thursday night's rally at a construction company warehouse here -- literally: a garage door on the side of the building opened and his campaign bus pulled right in. "Eye of the Tiger" boomed from the speakers as he and his wife, Ann, took the stage.
"I think you want to pick someone who's going to beat Barack Obama!" Ann said. Big cheers. "And once he does beat Barack Obama, he's going to be an awesome president!" Slightly less big cheers.
Romney spoke for about 12 minutes, a speech in which he detailed none of his policy ideas but strained to emphasize his patriotism -- as if someone had called it into question. He recited the lyrics to "America the Beautiful." He extolled the principles of the Founding Fathers. The Declaration of Independence and America as a "land of opportunity" were praised. The president was accused of trying to turn the country toward European-style redistributionism.
Romney then told a story about an especially patriotic speedskater he'd gotten to know during the 2002 Olympic Games. The athlete, he said, was surprised and moved by an unexpected twist in the singing of the national anthem.
"Now, I knew it was coming, because as the man in charge of the Olympics I got to choose the version of the national anthem the choir sang," Romney noted fastidiously, with no change in his perky affect as he detoured on this tangent. "And I chose a version from the 1930s, arranged by a fellow named Robert Shaw, where you repeat the last line a second time as a reprise and the sopranos go up an octave."
As all this was happening, a gust of wind fluffed the flag the skater was holding, and he felt the heavenly breath of the heroes of 9/11.
"And he said, 'The tears began running down my face.' And as he told that story the tears welled in my eyes as well," Romney said. "The people of America love this country."
When it was over, several audience members said they would have liked to hear more substance from Romney. But many seemed inclined to break Romney's way now that he'd come and asked for their votes once again. His schedule has him stumping across the state through the weekend and sticking around to watch the results come in on caucus night.
"As we get closer to the caucus, people understand they're never going to be 100 percent with one candidate," said Jim Kurtenbach, a former state representative from Nevada, Iowa, who previously supported Tim Pawlenty but now is endorsing Romney. "I hear a lot of people talking about looking for the candidate they agree with the most." In the final analysis, he said, Iowans are realizing that's Romney.
The Romney camp is not predicting a win on Tuesday, but David Kochel, Romney's Iowa campaign chairman, said he believes momentum is on their side.
"I think we're going to have a good night on Tuesday," he said. "A lot of people make up their minds in the last week. They're starting to make that decision in a serious way." While other candidates have shot up and down in recent months, he noted, "We've been pretty steady."
Steve Howell, a 55-year-old Ames attorney, voted for Romney four years ago and plans to do so again. "I didn't wander that far, I just ignored him and he ignored us," he said. "It's hard to get motivated to support somebody when you don't ever see him. But now that he's here, he's motivating people."
Howell's wife Mary, a banker, said she was "leaning toward Romney," but her mind wasn't yet totally made up.
"It's becoming made up, because he's the only logical choice," she said.
“Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.”
Last Sunday the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body. The host was broadcasting from Washington, D.C., and I was seated in a remote studio on the Far West Side of Manhattan. A satellite closed the miles between us, but no machinery could close the gap between her world and the world for which I had been summoned to speak. When the host asked me about my body, her face faded from the screen, and was replaced by a scroll of words, written by me earlier that week.
The host read these words for the audience, and when she finished she turned to the subject of my body, although she did not mention it specifically. But by now I am accustomed to intelligent people asking about the condition of my body without realizing the nature of their request. Specifically, the host wished to know why I felt that white America’s progress, or rather the progress of those Americans who believe that they are white, was built on looting and violence. Hearing this, I felt an old and indistinct sadness well up in me. The answer to this question is the record of the believers themselves. The answer is American history.
In 1992, the neuroscientist Richard Davidson got a challenge from the Dalai Lama. By that point, he’d spent his career asking why people respond to, in his words, “life’s slings and arrows” in different ways. Why are some people more resilient than others in the face of tragedy? And is resilience something you can gain through practice?
The Dalai Lama had a different question for Davidson when he visited the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader at his residence in Dharamsala, India. “He said: ‘You’ve been using the tools of modern neuroscience to study depression, and anxiety, and fear. Why can’t you use those same tools to study kindness and compassion?’ … I did not have a very good answer. I said it was hard.”
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
New data shows that students whose parents make less money pursue more “useful” subjects, such as math or physics.
In 1780, John Adams wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, in which he laid out his plans for what his children and grandchildren would devote their lives to. Having himself taken the time to master “Politicks and War,” two revolutionary necessities, Adams hoped his children would go into disciplines that promoted nation-building, such as “mathematicks,” “navigation,” and “commerce.” His plan was that in turn, those practical subjects would give his children’s children room “to study painting, poetry, musick, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelaine.”
Two-hundred and thirty-five years later, this progression—“from warriors to dilettantes,” in the words of the literary scholar Geoffrey Galt Harpham—plays out much as Adams hoped it would: Once financial concerns have been covered by their parents, children have more latitude to study less pragmatic things in school. Kim Weeden, a sociologist at Cornell, looked at National Center for Education Statistics data for me after I asked her about this phenomenon, and her analysis revealed that, yes, the amount of money a college student’s parents make does correlate with what that person studies. Kids from lower-income families tend toward “useful” majors, such as computer science, math, and physics. Those whose parents make more money flock to history, English, and performing arts.
Most adults can’t remember much of what happened to them before age 3 or so. What happens to the memories formed in those earliest years?
My first memory is of the day my brother was born: November 14, 1991. I can remember my father driving my grandparents and me over to the hospital in Highland Park, Illinois, that night to see my newborn brother. I can remember being taken to my mother’s hospital room, and going to gaze upon my only sibling in his bedside cot. But mostly, I remember what was on the television. It was the final two minutes of a Thomas the Tank Engine episode. I can even remember the precise story: “Percy Takes the Plunge,” which feels appropriate, given that I too was about to recklessly throw myself into the adventure of being a big brother.
In sentimental moments, I’m tempted to say my brother’s birth is my first memory because it was the first thing in my life worth remembering. There could be a sliver of truth to that: Research into the formation and retention of our earliest memories suggests that people’s memories often begin with significant personal events, and the birth of a sibling is a textbook example. But it was also good timing. Most people’s first memories date to when they were about 3.5 years old, and that was my age, almost to the day, when my brother was born.
The singer’s violent revenge fantasy was intended to provoke outrage, and to get people to talk about her. It succeeds on both counts.
Of all the scandalized reactions to Rihanna’s music video for “Bitch Better Have My Money,” my favorite comes, as is not surprising for this sort of thing, from the Daily Mail. Labelling herself in the headline as a “concerned parent” (a term to transport one to the days of Tipper Gore’s crusade against lyrics if there ever was one), Sarah Vine opens her column by talking at length about how so very, very reluctant she was to watch Rihanna’s new clip. Then she basically goes frame-by-frame through the video, recounting her horror at what unfolds. “By the time it had finished, I wondered whether I ought not to report [Rihanna] to the police,” Vine writes. “Charges: pornography, incitement to violence, racial hatred.”
For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing?
1. Youngstown, U.S.A.
The end of work is still just a futuristic concept for most of the United States, but it is something like a moment in history for Youngstown, Ohio, one its residents can cite with precision: September 19, 1977.
For much of the 20th century, Youngstown’s steel mills delivered such great prosperity that the city was a model of the American dream, boasting a median income and a homeownership rate that were among the nation’s highest. But as manufacturing shifted abroad after World War II, Youngstown steel suffered, and on that gray September afternoon in 1977, Youngstown Sheet and Tube announced the shuttering of its Campbell Works mill. Within five years, the city lost 50,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in manufacturing wages. The effect was so severe that a term was coined to describe the fallout: regional depression.
Gentrification is pushing long-term residents out of urban neighborhoods. Can collective land ownership keep prices down permanently?
AUSTIN, Tex.—Not long ago, inner cities were riddled with crime and blight and affluent white residents high-tailed it to the suburbs, seeking better schools, safer streets, and, in some cases, fewer minority neighbors.
But today, as affluent white residents return to center cities, people who have lived there for years are finding they can’t afford to stay.
Take the case of the capital city of Texas, where parts of East Austin, right next to downtown, are in the process of becoming whiter, and hip restaurants, coffee shops, and even a barcatering to bicyclists are opening. Much of Austin’s minority population, meanwhile, is priced out, and so they’re moving to far-out suburbs such as Pflugerville and Round Rock, where rents are affordable and commutes are long.
The show reveals what happened to Ray, while Bezzerides and Woodrugh investigate the mayor, and Frank indulges in some amateur dentistry.
Orr: More than a third of the way into this season of True Detective, I’d say that the two best scenes so far were adjacent ones, albeit ones in consecutive episodes: the last scene of episode two—the man in the bird mask appearing out of nowhere, the stunning (apparent) death of a principal character as the radio plays “I Pity the Fool”—and the first scene of tonight’s episode: Ray and his father in the bar, and yet clearly someplace else altogether, someplace otherworldly. “Where is this?” Ray asks. His dad replies, “I don’t know. You were here first.” Is this Ray’s dying vision? Is he a ghost who will watch the season unfold from beyond the grave?