If They Win

To envisage what Republicans would do if they win in November, the person to understand is not necessarily Romney, who has been a policy cipher all his public life. The person to understand is Paul Ryan.

— Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker
(last week, when Ryan was still a long shot VP choice)

This week everybody was talking about Paul Ryan

Saturday, Mitt Romney did what any good CEO would do: His brand was sinking because it lacked any core convictions, so he arranged a merger to acquire some. I don’t have to play pundit here, because so many good observations have already been made that I can just collect the ten best in I Read Everything About Paul Ryan So You Don’t Have To.

… but I also wrote about terrorism

In particular, what happens when the terrorist looks just like the viewing majority? Well, the media has to explain that away somehow. I named my article after the phrase you’ll never hear on mainstream TV: White Right-wing Christian Terrorist.

… and you might also find this stuff interesting

In Ohio, if you live in a Republican county, you’ll have extended hours for early voting. If you live in a Democratic county, you’ll probably have to take time out of the work day. Remember that if Romney wins the election because he carries Ohio by 500 votes.

Two weeks ago I talked about how transparent markets help producers and consumers, while opaque markets favor middlemen who can build near monopolies.

Thursday’s NYT had an article about a major loss of transparency that is coming to a market near you: Supermarkets can now crunch data about you on the fly, and offer you a different price than the one on the shelves.

Of course, if a retailer can reward you for a buying pattern it likes, it can also punish you for a buying pattern it dislikes. Imagine: “I went to the farmer’s market last week, and now I’m paying full price for everything.”

If you’ve finished all the beach-reading you planned to do this summer, I’ve got a couple more serious recent novels to suggest:

Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra. The best line about this novel is that it’s “as if Dickens had written The Godfather and placed it in India”. The biography of a Mumbai gangster forms the trellis, but around it climb the vines of a Sikh policeman, a Bollywood star, and dozens of other fascinating people. Along the way it becomes obvious that there’s a Mumbai Dream, and it’s not all that different from one version of the American Dream. People want to go where the bright lights are and become Somebody. But when it works, is that Somebody still you? (As a bonus, you’ll learn how to swear in Hindi like a Mumbai cop.)

A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer Dubois. This has been out just long enough for my local library to get a copy. It’s two stories that converge: a 30-year-old American woman who knows she just has a year or two before the Huntington’s disease that killed her father starts to take her mind away, and a Russian chess-champion-turned-political-dissident who is modeled so closely on Garry Kasparov that some of the specific chess games match up. She knows she can’t beat her disease; he knows he can’t beat Putin — what do you do with that? (The bonus here is Dubois’ way with words. She can evoke a complicated situation with deceptively simple language. At one point, for example, the female narrator notices that a man is “looking at me the way that men looked at me back when men looked at me.”)

Following up on last week’s “The Looming Software Catastrophe“, here’s an NYT article about the impossibility of testing software like the automatic trading program that brought down Knight Capital.

The ultimate success or failure of ObamaCare rests on how effectively it can bring down costs without explicit care-rationing. Just as Massachusetts’ RomneyCare was the model before, its cost-containment program could be the model now.

The Pope will now accept people using condoms to avoid spreading AIDS. But the ridged and flavored ones are still right out.

So a Mennonite minister is on trial for helping an “ex-lesbian” mother kidnap her own child to keep her away from the mother’s former same-sex partner. Naturally, this reminds Focus on the Family’s Bryan Fischer of the underground railroad. He thinks organized kidnapping of children would be a good thing.

You can’t make this stuff up.

The Sift has been way too serious this week. Let’s close with something fun:

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