Don’t Panic

It is said that despite its many glaring (and occasionally fatal) inaccuracies, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy itself has outsold the Encyclopedia Galactica because it is slightly cheaper, and because it has the words “DON’T PANIC” in large, friendly letters on the cover.

— Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

This week everybody was talking about looming disaster

It’s been a tough week to sift, because I’m inclined to get frantic and obsess over exactly the same things everybody else is: the home stretch of the election and Hurricane Sandy.

By this point, the candidates’ messages are about as fleshed out as they’re going to get. There’s not really any new insight to gain about Romney’s math-challenged tax plan or whether the economy is really in recovery or not. You probably made up your mind long ago, and if your state allows it, you may even have voted already.

(I have. Funny story about that: New Hampshire doesn’t have early voting, but I was headed back out to Illinois to deal with the aftermath of my father’s death and didn’t know if I’d be back by election day, so I voted absentee. As I got my ballot, the clerk informed me that if anybody sees me in New Hampshire on election day, my absentee ballot could be challenged. So I’m essentially in exile until November 7.)

So I’m done voting, and I’ve got stuff to do in a non-swing state (plus, I’m introverted enough to hate face-to-face electioneering). So my useful role in this election is more-or-less over, leaving me with no way to work out my pre-election tension other than to obsess over polls.

This puts me in a position I don’t like to be in: preaching what I’m not practicing.

Here’s the text of my sermon: Don’t obsess pointlessly. Figure out how much effort you’re going to put into this election and do it. Volunteer. Or babysit for your friends so they can volunteer. Or make one last pitch to the persuadable people in your life. Or decide not to do any of that. Then forget about it until it’s time to vote and watch the returns. I guarantee that when you look back on your life from a ripe old age, the time you spent fretting over whether Gallup’s likely-voter model is skewed will not seem well-spent.

Isn’t that good advice? You’re not going to follow it either, are you?

BTW, if you do plan to make one last pitch to the persuadable people you know, I wrote this article to help:

Convincing friends to vote for Obama.

Here’s why the campaigns are making me crazy

The final messages of the two campaigns are oddly complimentary. As they come down the stretch, it looks like both campaigns (no matter what they’re saying) believe that President Obama has a slight advantage. (Nate Silver’s model bears this out. He’s giving Obama around a 3/4 chance of winning — an advantage, but hardly prohibitive.) Which means: Romney is still looking for undecided voters, while Obama is focused on turning out the voters he already has.

And that leads to this perverse result: Romney wants the undecided voters to see him as a winner, so his campaign is exaggerating his chances of victory. Meanwhile, Obama is motivating his supporters to get out the vote by exaggerating Romney’s chances of victory. So the message I’m hearing from both sides is: Romney can win this.

Meanwhile, doom approaches from the sea

Other than NASCAR crashes, there are few things that our news media covers worse than a hurricanes. Every few years a truly disastrous storm hits, and once in a great while something like Katrina comes along. But every year, sometimes more than once in a year, there’s a storm that could be historically bad. Factors are converging, and they could all come together into the Perfect Storm.

There’s something pornographic about the coverage. Of course no reporter can root for the Big Disaster. But if it comes, careers will be made, and if it doesn’t, then they’re all just standing on windy beaches getting wet.

As with the election, make your plan and carry it out. But don’t keep looking at weather-service maps saying “Where is it now? Where is it now?”

And once the clean-up is well in hand, isn’t it time to start talking seriously about whether climate change has something to do with all this extreme weather? The insurance industry already is.

… but I wrote about abortion

Richard Mourdock’s comment that rape pregnancies are “something God intended” seemed to call for a stronger reaction than just “I disagree”. What bugs me isn’t just that he’s wrong, but that America isn’t supposed to work this way: Congressmen aren’t supposed to be interpreting the will of God for the rest of us. So I wrote:

Government Theology is Un-American.

Even if you don’t follow the link to that article, you should see the Clay Bennett cartoon I used to illustrate.

… and you might also find this interesting

When I heard that Joss Whedon had endorsed Romney, I thought “That can’t be serious.” But oh, yes. It’s as serious as a Zombie Apocalypse.

While we’re talking about endorsements, here’s Lena Dunham’s endorsement of Obama.

I can’t fathom why anyone found this “controversial” or even “astoundingly tasteless“. It’s a time-honored trick in advertising to make people think you’re talking about sex and then reveal that you’re really talking about something else. I thought it was done very cleverly this time.

I wonder what Dunham’s humorless critics thought of this Andy Borowitz satire.

With less than two weeks to go until Election Day, there is a deep divide among Republican leaders over whether to emphasize misogyny or racism as the campaign’s closing theme.

In Florida, the Republicans’ transparent efforts to suppress minority voters may have backfired.

New evidence that Romney’s private-insurance-with-a-Medicare-option plan will ultimately kill Medicare completely.

The Medicare Advantage program sort of does that already. And the private companies do exactly what health-insurance companies always do: compete to attract the people they don’t expect to get sick.

The study’s conclusion: healthy seniors tend to gravitate to private plans and sicker seniors gravitate to traditional Medicare. That’s because private insurers craft their plans to attract lower-cost patients and leave sicker, more expensive ones for traditional Medicare — a process known as favorable selection.

If that happened on a larger scale, Medicare would go into a death spiral: It would have to keep raising its premiums to cover an ever-sicker client base. And the death spiral would have nothing to do with the efficiency of the health-care it delivered.

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  • tahiya  On October 29, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    I think it’s very telling how the baby boomers were raised to be spoiled brats by the “greatest generation.”

    If you want a “conservative boomer’s” vote (read neo-imperialist theocrat) tell them what they get and what they get to keep away from everyone else. Tell them they are right all the time, that anything they don’t like is someone else’s fault and that life is broken if they aren’t getting what they want every minute of the day.

    If you want a “liberal boomer’s” vote (read self-absorbed deludinoid who believes that resources can be imagined into existence because they read it in The Secret) tell them that it’s no one’s fault, that the government is just too poor to effectively solve our social ills, and that the other baby boomers who like to show off their money are the problem.

    If you want the vote of an adult American you’re going to have to beat the bushes HARD. Good luck finding any in either party. There are some of us realizing that without the environment there are NO parties. We’re green. Some of us are sick to death of all of it so we’re independent.

    No one with a spec of authenticity is happy to have to choose between either of these narcissistic, self-serving jerks who will live long past their appropriate expiration dates thanks to using up the resources from both sides of the generation continuum without a care in the world.


      “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.” Victor Hugo

    ________________________________ From: The Weekly Sift To: Sent: Monday, October 29, 2012 12:13 PM Subject: [New post] Don’t Panic weeklysift posted: “It is said that despite its many glaring (and occasionally fatal) inaccuracies, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy itself has outsold the Encyclopedia Galactica because it is slightly cheaper, and because it has the words “DON’T PANIC” in large, frie” Respond to this post by replying above this line New post on The Weekly Sift Don’t Panicby weeklysift It is said that despite its many glaring (and occasionally fatal) inaccuracies, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy itself has outsold the Encyclopedia Galactica because it is slightly cheaper, and because it has the words “DON’T PANIC” in large, friendly letters on the cover.

  • Lance Brown  On October 29, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Aww nuts. I was going to pull a nice one with Whedon’s video link: If Romney’s campaign is as fleshed out as its going to get, it’s looking rather skeletal. Maybe Joss is right: youtube link. 🙂 You beat me to the punch.

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