SocraticGadfly: 1/22/12 - 1/29/12

January 28, 2012

Social media vs capitalism

Early this week, Google rolled out its new privacy policy, translating across almost all Google platforms, being forced, and having no opt-out clause. You have to quit your Google account or else accept things.

Then, later in the week, Twitter announced changes to its platform that would, upon a government’s request, allowed Tweets to be blocked on a country-by-country basis rather than globally.

Twitter tried to spin it as better, not worse, for tweeting. Fat chance.

With the FBI announcing it was rolling out new social media tracking … how soon before the U.S. of A. and our current constitutional law scholar president make such requests? Or, ask Twitter to reverse-engineer itself with its American tweets to make FBI tracking easier?

Bottom line is that, when for-profit social media companies bump up against making more money, or at least not losing more money due to government censorship, “do no evil” or any other PR motto is going out the window.

Hence, I repeat my call for Mozilla, the nonprofit creator of the Firefox browser, to step to the plate with a nonprofit equivalent of Facebook.

That said, it would be nice to call for yet more regulation of the Internet as a quasi-utility public good … but … that would be the same government that wants to spy on social media more.

Muddled thinking on financial inequality

Recent polls continue to show that Americans have not ambivalent, but instead, ultimately uninformed, unreflective, self-misinformed, even brainwashed attitudes about financial equality.

Polls continue to show that Americans want more equality of economic opportunity, but that the majority doesn’t worry about income inequality per se.

Usually, I’m not harsh in this blog, but there’s only one word for people who want more equality of opportunity but aren’t worried about growing income inequality.


I'm sorry, but there's no other way to put it.

Decreased equality of opportunity is part of HOW the rich increase income inequality.

And, if you don’t stop brainwashing yourself with various myths of American exceptionalism, including the myth of how much social mobility there is in the U.S., you’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Because it's simply not true, and again, it's not true in part due to deliberate actions of the rich, their lobbyists and their pawns on Capitol Hill and in the White House. (Name me one concrete proposal of Obama or Bill Clinton, not just either Bush or Reagan, to address growing income inequality. The pawns are on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, in both parties.)

On economic mobility issues, the American public is so willfully stupid.

And, the older, white tea party types who fear the increasing numbers of black and brown faces should instead look at the white CEOs who are showing ever-fewer qualms about practicing age discrimination. That, too, is part of growing income inequality. And because blacks/browns are more numerous in younger population, it looks like "they" are taking your job; no, it's just because they're young.

January 27, 2012

Obama - looking backward or head fake on mortgages?

I vote for "head fake" on Dear Leader's announcement about a major new investigation into the mortgage fradu behind (in part) the subprime bubble.

After all, just earlier this week, his administration was trying to still,/again browbeat state AGs into accepting a slap-on-the-wrist deal with banksters on the robosigning and related issues.

Add in an election-year pseudopopulism push, and it's easy to see where this is coming from.

Paul vs. Romney - mano a mano

Barring a last-minute court ruling, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul could be the only two GOP candidates in teh Virginia primary. That said, the idea that movement conservatives will unite around Paul to defeat Romnney sounds laughable. But, it could be funny to se the two battle it out.

Actually, the "tell" would be how low the GOP turnout is this year.

The Most Human Human

The Most Human HumanThe Most Human Human by Brian Christian

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good, but oh, it could have been better.

There's an annual Turing test event in Britain every year. A group of top computer programs compete against a group of human confederates, as the computers try to prove, per Alan Turing, that they're really humans, just as the humans do.

So far, no computer has won this test, but, given the relatively narrow parameters of the test at this particular contest, that may not be too far off.

Christian, who successfully competed to be a human "confederate," takes off from that point in the paragraph above, to riff on what it means to be human (the human confederate the judges in the Loeber prize most frequently judge to be human wins "the most human human" award), larger issues in communication and information theory, and more.

Christian invokes the likes of Douglas Hofstadter at times, and in his last chapter, especially, does some Hofstadter-type pondering.

Contra others that gave this less than five stars, I didn't mind the digressive tone of the book at all; in fact, I loved it. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of depth or follow-through on the speculation.

This book could have been, and should have been 50 pages longer at a minimum. A full 100 pages of additional material, without getting as long as Goedel, Escher, Bach, or as technical, could have been doable.

Oh, and given the number of people mentioned in the book ... no index?

View all my reviews

Anyway, as for my thoughts, beyond the review ...

Christian looked at depth of communication, especially non-formulaic communication, as being part of what makes us human. So, the ever-more "on," wired world may be dehumanizing indeed. Even for the harried US CEOS and their mega-millions.

So, like slow food, we need slow talk. We need to break some chains. That includes OWS protests ... they must be about quality of life, as well as quantity.

January 26, 2012

Binge drinking ... or denialism?

I'm not a prude about alcohol ... but, I know that denial ain't just a river in Egypt, and that "justifying" binge drinking in the face of a CDC report when you don't have to write a column about it could be seen as "protesting too much."

Seven drinks in four hours, even as part of a wine-and-food pairing at a restaurant, seems a bit much.
Even if the CDC does, I don't think most people would consider my gastronomic evening to be binge drinking. Or, if they do, it's unlikely that they would assign it as problem drinking.
That's probably part of the problem; but, it can be countered by the old ... "If somebody else jumped off a cliff, would you?

That said, just because it was all drinking with friends doesn't guarantee it's benign, either.

Alcoholic drinking usually is drinking alone, at least a fair amount of the time; I suspect similar is true for illicit drugs. So, I'll give Brown half a point. That said, the story seems to reverse cart and horse a bit. The person who *wants* to "check out" or whatever knows what they're doing, to at least a degree, in most cases, whether the drinking or using starts alone or not There's not a "powerlessness" of the 12-step movement, at least not until after one crosses that ... invisible line.

Plus, the column is "anecdotal evidence," of course. And, if you're drinking seven drinks once a week, which four times a month is ... well .... maybe you are protesting too much.

And, my understanding of the CDC, NIH, NIAAA, etc. is that part of the definition of binge drinking is how often one drinks to the amount he does.

And, the guy owns bars; he's got financial reasons to protest the government definitions.

Plus, most people overestimate what govt/medical guidelines are for "normal" drinking, which is why, even before Das' faking of red wine studies became public, the AMA never has, and never will, tout alcohol as "heart healthy."

And, some stereotypes just aren't true, and they're not true in a way opposite to the book to whom

For example, the "moderate," "wine focused" French have a higher cirrhosis rate than the U.S. does.

I'm not a prude ... and, I know that the 12-step approach to recovery has many problems.

That said, especially through things such as noting the level of problem drinking among senior citizens, the CDC report has a lot of insight. Unfortunately, , someone like Brown reinforces stereotypes that aren't true.

Grieving is NOT depression

And the American Psychiatric Association will either be making a huge mistake or else making a huge cave-in to Big Pharma, if "normal" grieving and bereavement is counted as a diagnostic marker for depression in DSM-V.

It's bad enough that we think grief has a "normal process" that has to follow Kuebler-Ross's five stages, which are nowhere near normal in the US, let alone the rest of the world.

Something like this risks stigmatizing people, possibly for either "too much" OR "too little" grief.

It also runs the risk of further reducing counseling to a cookie-cutter mentality, and of processing people through a system faster.

"Still grieving after three months, are we? We'll, you're depressed. Here's your Lexapro prescription."

The reality is that some people get fixated on grief. However, "depression" may not be the correct diagnosis, or at least not depression without other factors. Therefore, using bereavement as a depression marker could not only cause lazy psychological counseling, but bad, wrong, counseling.

January 25, 2012

Global warming denialists? Your garden knows better

And, the federal government knows that your garden knows better. Hence, those old standby temperature zone maps for when to plant stuff are getting a major makeover.
It's the first time since 1990 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has updated the map and much has changed. Nearly entire states, such as Ohio, Nebraska and Texas, are in warmer zones.
That's Texas as in fake-macho, alleged-coyote-shooting, global-warming-denialist non-presidetial-candidate governor Rick Perry.

And the proof of the changes is in the pudding, if the pudding is figgy pudding of Christmas carol fame:
"People who grow plants are well aware of the fact that temperatures have gotten more mild throughout the year, particularly in the winter time," said Boston University biology professor Richard Primack. "There's a lot of things you can grow now that you couldn't grow before."

He uses the giant fig tree in his suburban Boston yard as an example.

"People don't think of figs as a crop you can grow in the Boston area. You can do it now," he said.

Meanwhile, wingnuts are likely to accuse the government of propaganda or something.

The reality? If anything, the USDA is guilty of timidity and punch-pulling.
USDA spokeswoman Kim Kaplan, who was part of the map team, repeatedly tried to distance the new zones in the map from global warming issues. She said even though much of the country is in warmer zones, the map "is simply not a good instrument" to demonstrate climate change because it is based on just the coldest days of the year.
David W. Wolfe, professor of plant and soil ecology in Cornell University's Department of Horticulture said the USDA is being too cautious and disagrees with Kaplan about whether this reflects warming.
I agree with Wolfe. Kaplan is being the usual government PR flak type. (Note: See "NASA" and "Arsenicgate" for recent examples. What does she think is making the changes, if not global warming? And, while the map may not be a great measurement instrument, it IS a good one.

Besides what CAN be grown further north, the flip side is what CAN'T be grown so close to the equator any more.

Example? Whether it's just a short-term La Nina issue or something bigger, the Agricultural Extension Service here in Tejas is warning of a poor peach crop because there's not enough cold weather this winter.

So, you Texas Hill Country wingnut types? Remember that.

IOKIYAR, Jan Brewer division

If, say, N.Y. Gov. Eliot Spitzer had done to George W. Bush what Ariz. Gov. Jan Brewer did to Barack Obama today, you know how much the shit would hit the fan among Rush Limbaugh and all the other nutbars.

Simply uncalled for, in public, something like this.

And again, the nutbars claim they've not lowered the level of discourse in the country.

Are we all Kantians?

At least in terms of major moral issues, it looks like we're Kantian rule-based decision makers.

That said, there's two caveats:
1. Just 32 people were studied;
2. It's based on fMRI evidence, which is, at its current temporal and spatial resolution, is but loosely connected to specific brain activities.

Bernanke continues to put incremental stamp on Fed

First, with inflation hawks like Richard Fisher now off the Federal Reserve's policy board, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke can stop worrying about their hyperfears about nonexistent hyperinflation.

So, he can also say interest rates will stay near zero, albeit indicating he expects recovery to be slow.

More importantly, in a sense, is this increased transparency:
In a separate set of statements, the Fed said that 11 of the 17 members of the committee expected that the Fed would raise interest rates at the end of that period. It noted that the committee expects growth to accelerate over the next three years, from a maximum pace of 2.7 percent this year to a maximum pace of 3.2 percent next year and up to 4 percent in 2014. 
Alan Greenspan never would have even considered making such an announcement.

Instead, he would have kept inner workings of the Fed secret, mumbled some shit-in-one-hand, St. Alan of Greenspan oracularity to Congress on the other and pretended he knew what he meant.

Of course, Bernanke has prodded Congress to do more for the economy than it has. That's not happening, at the earliest, before most Congressional GOP primary races are out of the way, and even after that, is likely to still have a fair degree of GOP BS, only a shade or two lighter on tea party dogma.

But, without getting specific, Big Ben said the Fed will consider more stimulus moves if necessary. Again, having the likes of Fisher out of the way  helps.

But, not so good news from the Fed for Dear Leader. The unemployment rate is only expected to drop to 8.2 percent during the year. I'm sure Obama would feel better, even with Richie Rich Romney or Newt-bar Gingrich as his opponent, if it were below 8.0.

January 24, 2012

GOP prez race could last months

ABC gives us the reasons why, starting with the fact that Florida, for now at least, is slated to lose half its delegates for jumping the GOP primary gun. Ditto for Arizona and Michigan a month from now. Add in that Super Tuesday isn't so big as it was in 2008, and has fewer winner-take-all states, and all four remaining candidates, plus Buddy Roemer, have reason to stick around a while.

One question: Will this open the door to "favorite son" candidates like Mitch  Daniels or Chris Christie, who may be able to create a brokered convention by running in their home states?

Team Obama playing rough on mortgage deal

The White House's announcing that a mortgage fraud deal between state attorney generals and mortgage bankers is just around the corner isn't premature. Rather, it seems to be a deliberate pressure tactic to get many state AGs to sign off on a deal they think is still too lenient ... to much too lenient.

And, it is.

None of the strongest AG opponents was at the White House's Hooverite press conference.

And, yes, "a solution is just around the corner" is in part Hooverite.  In addition to being heavy-handed.

And, it's "looking forward" instead of backward, too.

Two years, $45 million

And that is just what Mitt Romney made in 2010 and 2011, and will pay just that infamous tax rate of 15 percent.

No wonder he doesn't want to release older returns. Just how much did he make with Bain Capital and how little did he pay? Since much of his current income is from capital gains of money made from his Bain days, the answer could be "a lot" on earnings and "little" on taxation.

And, will this stop some of Romney's bleeding or make it worse? I still say "worse." His 15 percent rate is already being contrasted to the Obamas' 26 percent effective tax rate.

That said, neither Newt Gingrich of Fannie Mae "I'm not a lobbyist" fame nor Rick Santorum of "I"m not a post senate lobbyist" background is ideally positioned to push attacks too far.

In fact, per the New York Times, since Newt wants to get rid of capital gains taxes, he, at least, is very much not in a position to push this too much.

Finally, how much will Mitt push back on attacks, and will he blow up at some point?

And, beyond chess-game politics, will Dear Leader use this golden opportunity to push for meaningful income tax code revision?


January 23, 2012

Take THAT Greg Laden on #arsenicgate and NASA

Well, well, well. It looks like NASA researchers claims of about a year ago to have found new, arsenic-based life just might not be so true!

Rosie Redfield, who was one of the initial leaders in the charge against the claims, said her follow-up research of the original project has found no such life form.

But now, Felisa Wolfe-Simon has said she wants to see Redfield's claims peer-journal published:
“We do not fully understand the key details of the website experiments and conditions. So we hope to see this work published in a peer-reviewed journal, as this is how science best proceeds.”
Sounds like a red herring deal to me. Redfield was doing peer research on the original claims. And, while her refutation isn't ironclad, it's good enough; per Carl Sagan, the burden's clearly on Wolfe-Simon now.

And, on NASA to fess up to just how shoddy  this was, as I originally blogged.

And on Greg Laden, to admit he was touting shoddy science, and being unskeptical in refusing to consider NASA had "good" PR reasons for its fluffery.

But, given his response to my comment on Google +:
Are you fucking serious? Is Steve Snyder Socratic Gadfly?
I probably shouldn't hold my breath.

Meanwhile,speaking of G+, other respondents to Phil Plait's post on the matter seem to take a he said, she said stance to this. Maybe some *want* real exolife like arsenic-based life to exist. I would love something like this to pan out, but, given what we saw from the moment Wolfe-Simon published, got fluffed by NASA, got defensive, and didn't apparently do follow-up on her own, including not clearly and fully addressing early concerns of the likes of Redfield, these people are riding the wrong horse for their hopes, and, in taking that he said, she said angle, not addressing the Sagan "extraordinary concerns" angle.

Scalia again not an originalist #teaparty folks

In the Supreme Court's ruling overturning a conviction based on warrantless GPS tracking, Justice Nino Scalia drew parallels with the Constitutional Founding Fathers, saying something similar would have been considered a Fourth Amendment violation by them, in all likelihood. But, despite the fact that, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted, police departments could either do similar stuff with other electronic trackers OR try to get, say, cell phone companies to turn over their GPS logs of suspects who have cell phones, Scalia slinked away from extending the Fourth Amendment parallels more broadly.

In general, it seems like older justices have little conception of the pace of technological change, either.

Therefore, contra Scalia, there's PLENTY of reason to rush forward.

Under his logic, if a colonial court had been asked whether it was constitutional, under the British constitution, to tax people on stamps without representation, he would have said no, but he would have said ... we'll consider a tax on ... er ... say, tea! ... if and when it comes up.

Whether he's more a tech illiterate or a big-spy government justice, I'm still not quite sure.

That said, Sotomayor had a chance to make a bigger splash. Had she joined the concurring opinion in this case, as this story notes, she could have gotten an expanded ruling:
In a separate concurring opinion, four justices—Alito, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan—criticized the majority’s approach as unnecessarily limited by "18th century" views of property. Noting that there are many services such as cellphone tracking, toll-road records, and modern cars’ onboard data recorders that allow cars to be tracked without trespassing, these justices suggested the need for a broader focus on privacy issues. In this they, like Justice Sotomayor, seem sympathetic to the D.C. Circuit’s suggestion that when the government collects a lot of bits of data about you, it’s the aggregate of the data—the mosaic that it represents about you—that determines whether there is a search, regardless of the status of any particular bit.  
Why she didn't, I have no idea. A great chance wasted.

A great new book on The New Deal

The New Deal: A Modern HistoryThe New Deal: A Modern History by Michael Hiltzik

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an excellent review of the New Deal, the motivations and organization of Roosevelt (and his Brain Trusters) and more.

Some of the best analysis is  near the end. Economists like Paul Krugman have had to defend the New Deal, and Keynsianism in general, against charges it actually made the Depression worse, by citing FDR's second term balanced budget focus. Hiltzik goes even further and notes that in Roosevelt's first term, only one year had a near-adequate amount of stimulus, with deflationary measures undercutting stimulus ones in other years. He even has Roosevelt's own words to quote. And ,he doesn't hesitate to tie this back to today.

Hiltzik also has a short but insightful chapter on the Supreme Court packing decision, including noting that, even after Roosevelt started getting "better" votes from the court, he couldn't let go of the "packing" idea.

Hiltzik also, among other things, says we should drop the "100 Days" focus, and more, of New Deal study.

Finally, Hiltzik, among many other things, notes that FDR's fear of "the dole" led him to reject the ideas of Frances Perkins and others, and NOT fund Social Security immediately and out of general revenue. (The immediate payroll tax deductions, but without benefits payments until the 1940s, were one of those deflationary measures mentioned above.)

This is an excellent starter and overview book on the New Deal. Without calling them "parallels," Hitzlik lets the reader see just how some of FDR's actions, and lack of system behind them, and the results of lack of system, apply well to The Great Recession of today and its aftermath, too.

View all my reviews

January 22, 2012

Pop Ev Psych vs. depression

Popular Evolutionary Psychology is well-known for its just-so stories about how all sorts of human conditions MUST have some sort of evolutionary advantage.

Well, this New York Times column expertly deflates that claim vis-a-vis depression. Besides presenting evidence that the ruminating thought style of depression is of little advantage if any, it notes that ... cancer has zero evolutionary advantage.
Even if depression is “natural” and evolved from an emotional state that might once have given us some advantage, that doesn’t make it any more desirable than other maladies. Nature offers us cancer, infections and heart disease, which we happily avoid and do our best to treat. Depression is no different.
Game, set, match.

Meanwhile, the more we learn about epigenetics, the more we realize that, not only does it TOTALLY upset the Pop Ev Psych applecart, it's even leading more and more biologists to consider "Lamarckianism lite" as a valid extension on traditional evolutionary biology.
But with the skyrocketing prevalence of conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and autism, which have no clear genetic etiology in the majority of cases, as Brunet pointed out, “It seems that all complex processes are affected by epigenetics.”
A whole new ballgame, in this case, to extend the metaphor.

#Infowars, government style: the War on Content

Even though SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, is on hold for now, its Senate cousin, PIPA, is still alive, and SOPA supporters aren't totally deterred. So, we probably should ask "what next" after the "War on Drugs," "the War on Terror" and now the "War on Content" or, to use a word I've used for private-sector information control, "infowars."

John Wilkins nails it: Whether with criminal sentencing or civil penalties, SOPA is just the latest installment in that list of government "prior restraint" actions.

And, because the court system has totally deferred to the executive branch in the War on Drugs, and largely so in the War on Terror, if the government decides to play the "safety and security" card as part of the War on Content, we're all screwed.

And, it would be easy for Team Obama to do this. Although the government has downplayed the issue of Chinese military hackers before, all it has to do is raise that specter in current debate and bingo, with many people. Or just claim that, because information content, especially in the entertainment industry, is one of the few things America still does well, there's a national economic emergency.

That said, assuming SOPA gets repackaged into something more sneakily palatable: What IS next? What's the next government "war"? Per friend Leo Lincourt, if the GOP gets re-elected, maybe the "War on Poverty" gets defined in a whole new way, like forced stoop labor on truck farms to get food stamps.

Meanwhile, in the War on Content, SOPA and PIPA aren't the only problems.

And, just as America is an empire without traditional direct occupations, when do we say that America, if not totalitarian, is at least an authoritarian in some ways?

#Infowars: The e-publishing Orwellianism of Apple

This is part of an ongoing series of blogpost about online "infowars" (NOT related to anything by Alex Jones!), itself a subset of my "dark side of the Internet" set of blog posts.

That said ...

Apple, the company of the "1984" commercial, once again opens itself to hypocrisy charges with its end user licensing agreement for its e-publishing system. The complaints by would-be e-book authors are coming fast and furious about Apple's attempts to keep control of e-book content published for money on its system after initial publication, per a link inside the story above.:
Apple, in this EULA, is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software’s output. It’s akin to Microsoft trying to restrict what people can do with Word documents, or Adobe declaring that if you use Photoshop to export a JPEG, you can’t freely sell it to Getty. As far as I know, in the consumer software industry, this practice is unprecedented.
Here's the exact language from Apple:
 (ii) if your Work is provided for a fee (including as part of any subscription-based product or service), you may only distribute the Work through Apple and such distribution is subject to the following limitations and conditions: (a) you will be required to enter into a separate written agreement with Apple (or an Apple affiliate or subsidiary) before any commercial distribution of your Work may take place; and (b) Apple may determine for any reason and in its sole discretion not to select your Work for distribution.
In other words, Apple wants sole distribution rights if you use its e-pub system. AND, it can say "eff you" at any time in the process of approval for you to use its system.

Connect that with Apple wanting to be THE e-publisher for school textbooks, and we have a problem, Houston.

That said, this IS Apple. And, no, this surely is NOT something that popped up after Steve Jobs' death. He surely had this in the pipeline long before he went to oblivion.

What's next? Amazon responding? Google starting its own e-books publication program, at least for paying authors? Both of those companies putting some code in e-books on their system, like an old-fashioned scrambler on pay cable channels, to prevent their being read elsewhere? Add in that Apple's system reportedly has compatibility issues and we're already heading that way.

Given that e-publishing is still relatively new AND that Amazon (and others) are challenging iPad in the tablet world, I'm going to guess that most self-publishing, for-profit authors who have brains are simply going to avoid and ignore Apple.

And that, in two-three years, Apple will quietly pull in its horns.

Florida: Romney tries for half a tax loaf

Mitt Romney, perhaps under a general note-taking from his South Carolina loss, perhaps under the prodding of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, is releasing some of his tax returns.

But the "some" is small, only covering 2010 and 2011.

So, will this help or backfire? There's the precedent of his own dad, who released several years of returns, as well as other candidates in general doing that on a regular basis for 30 years now.

I think it backfires. It keeps the "what's Romney hiding" issue front and center. Per the idea that Gingrich can do quite well in northern Florida, but not so well in the southern urban areas, it could be worth 3-5 percentage points in what's already looking to be a nasty battle.

That said, how well can Gingrich land blows if Romney ducks most debates? Or will that hurt Romney further?

And, if Gingrich wins Florida, even as more of his own laundry gets further airing, will we have the establishment pushing harder for Romney? For "anybody but Gingrich"? Can Santorum win by being quiet?

Stay tuned; Florida's going to remain fluid, even volatile.

Philosophy in politics cuts both ways

Gary Gutting, one of the New York Times' "Stone" philosophy column opiners, has a half-good column about how philosophy could better political discourse.

It's only half-good because he only talks about how Democrats, using philosophical principles, could more charitably interpret the ideas driving GOP conservativism. He offers nary an example of how Republicans could, and should, do the same.

It's "insight" like this which, on the intellectual side, continues to stimulate the drift, or whatever, from liberalism to neoliberalism, along with many other factors.

I'm really, really disappointed.

We'll see if he does a follow-up column looking the other way, but, I doubt it.

More GOP muddle ahead in Florida?

It's a populous state, and it's winner-take-all. That means it's going to be pricey as hell for advertising. Add in that all three of the non-Ron Paul, non-Buddy Roemer GOP candidates remaining in the race have sought former Gov. Jeb Bush's endorsement and not gotten it, this could be fun.

Santorum doesn't sound like he has the money to compete. Even with his money bomb donations, I know Paul doesn't. Gingrich campaign and Gingrich super-PAC money both fall short of Romney, but ... never say never.

This is a southern state, and Newt will have no problems playing the politics of race and other things. On the other hand, its old Northern retirees include Republicans as well as Democrats. Romney could "win" even by losing, if he forces Gingrich to bankrupt himself and to look combustible.

That said, Romney could lose even in winning if he doesn't heed Jeb Bush's hint and release his old tax returns ASAP. Count on Team Obama to "run" with that issue.

For both Gingrich and Romney, two things are key:
1. Managing the "expectations" game and
2. Running respectably, even in losing.

Losing by more than a dozen percentage points, for either one, will look bad.

For Santorum, not totally writing off Florida is key. Especially if he can make Newt work for conservative voter support, and threaten to deny him victory, he needs to keep at least a toe in the Sunshine State.

Meanwhile, Santorum has to be disappointed that, in South Carolina at least, his "he's the one" endorsement by a national powwow of religious conservatives translated into ... nothing more than a frothy Santorum mix.