Bob Schwartz

Month: October, 2012

Mitt Romney Too Busy to Answer Questions from Kids

Mitt Romney has refused to appear on Nickelodeon to take questions from kids. He is too busy.

Here is the Hollywood Reporter story:

Mitt Romney Declines Nickelodeon’s Invitation for ‘Kids Pick the President’ Special

One spot Mitt Romney won’t be hitting on the campaign trail: the Nickelodeon studios.

The Republican presidential candidate declined an invitation from the children’s network to participate in its special “Kids Pick the President: The Candidates.” According to a release from Nickelodeon, Romney’s camp said he was unable to fit the taping into his schedule after multiple attempts from the network.

The special, part of Nick News With Linda Ellerbee, gives kids across the country the opportunity to ask questions of each candidate. It premieres at 8 p.m. Oct. 15. On Oct. 22, Nickelodeon will reveal the results of its Kids’ Vote poll, which has correctly predicted the winner of five of the past six presidential elections.

President Barack Obama sat down for a taping in the White House, where he answered questions regarding gun control, jobs, immigration, same-sex marriage, outsourcing, bullying and obesity, as well as light-hearted questions including his most embarrassing moment. (“Running into the wall is par for the course for me,” he says. “I’m running into doors and desks all the time.”)

Romney still will be featured in the special, with producers selecting previously taped clips from the campaign trail in which Romney addresses various issues raised in the kids’ questions.

“By answering kids’ questions directly, candidates show respect for kids,” says Linda Ellerbee in a statement. “We are disappointed that Mitt Romney wouldn’t take the time to answer the questions but are thrilled that President Obama participated in the special.”

Now in its 21st year, Nick News — produced by Lucky Duck Productions — is the longest-running kids news program in television history.

The Presidential Campaign: How Do They Get Away With This Stuff?

The refrain of this Presidential campaign, in the face of the breathtakingly nonsensical and mendacious, should be “How do they get away with this stuff?”

Consider these two related items.

1. In the view of most political scientists and pundits, the single most significant impact of being elected President of the United States is the power to appoint Supreme Court justices.

2. A recent survey found that only 34 percent of Americans can name any member of the Supreme Court. Only 1 percent could name the entire Court. The percentage who can name any particular justice:

John Roberts – 20%
Antonin Scalia – 16%
Clarence Thomas – 16%
Ruth Bader Ginsburg – 13%
Sonia Sotomayor – 13%
Anthony Kennedy – 10%
Samuel Alito – 5%
Elena Kagan – 4%

Presumably, a number of the people paying attention to the campaign and voting for President are the same people who don’t know the name of a single Supreme Court justice.

That’s how.

The Book On Lying

“Truthfulness can be required even where full truth is out of reach.”

In a season of seeming lies, there is only one book to read.

Sissela Bok’s classic Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life (1978) is the essential work on the topic. At the time of its publication, no philosopher had tried to create such a brief, readable and accessible analysis. It has not been done better since.

This book was widely read and debated when it was published in 1978. That’s not surprising. Watergate was still a fresh presence in our public life. Before that crisis, people suspected—even expected—that some politicians were engaged in lying. Discovering the President and his inner circle all engaged in high-level big-scale deception confirmed the worst suspicions.

Bok begins with some fundamentals:

“I shall define as a lie any intentionally deceptive message that is stated….The moral question of whether you are lying or not is not settled by establishing the truth or falsity of what you say. In order to settle this question, we need to know whether you intend your statement to mislead.”

“As dupes we know what as liars we tend to blur—that information can be more or less adequate; that even where no clear lines are drawn, rules and distinction may, in fact, be made; and that truthfulness can be required even where full truth is out of reach.”

“When we undertake to deceive others intentionally, we communicate messages meant to mislead them, meant to make them believe what we ourselves do not believe.”

She analyzes some of the justifications that arise in special circumstances, as when we believe we are justified in lying to liars or lying to enemies:

“Enemies, through their own unfairness, their aggressive acts, or intentions, have forfeited the ordinary right of being dealt with fairly.”

“For the harm from lies to enemies is peculiarly likely to spread because of this very casual way in which enemy-hood is so often bestowed. Most claims that lies to enemies are justified would not then stand up in the face of reasonable scrutiny.”

Bok makes it clear that even when seemingly justified, all lies of all kinds have moral consequences:

“Because lines are so hard to draw, the indiscriminate use of such lies can lead to other deceptive practices. The aggregate harm from a large number of marginally harmful instances may, therefore, be highly undesirable in the end—for liars, those deceived, and honesty and trust more generally. One can’t dismiss lies merely by explaining that they don’t matter. More often than not they do matter, even when looked at in the simple terms of harm and benefit.”

The Goldilocks Test for Phone Size

First things first: You iPhone folks can leave. You have no choice on the size of your smartphone, because Apple has made that choice for you. The iPhone 5 is no wider, but one-half inch longer, than the previous version. Take it or leave it, and millions are taking it.

Android is a whole different world or, as we’ve learned to say, ecosystem. Screens are getting bigger, for optics and utility, and so have the phones. Samsung pushed the limits by creating the Note, half-phone/half-tablet (a “phablet”) with a screen more than five inches in size. Even the same phone may have slightly different dimensions for each carrier. Someone has no doubt charted the dozens of sizes available; it is enough to say that there is probably an optimal size for just about everyone.

But what is optimal? That very practical question arose in the course of handling and comparing two of the most popular and capable Android phones of the past couple of years, the Samsung Galaxy S2 and S3. The S2 is superb, but in almost all respects the S3 is better. The S3 does have a bigger screen, and so is ever so slightly bigger to hold.

Ultimately, the question is not whether size matters; the question is whether it matters to you.

That’s what the Goldilocks test is about. There are three parts, one about style, two about functionality.

The style part requires a mirror. If you are someone who uses a smartphone for voice calls (though fewer now do), hold up the phone to the side of your head. Do you feel that you look cool or silly? Do you feel like a modern version of the 1970s hotshot with a monstrous Motorola Brick pressed to his ear? (see above)

The second part is portability. Without getting stereotypical, this is a divide between women and men. Many women carry their phone in a bag, where up to a point, size doesn’t matter. Men usually carry theirs in a pocket, and depending on which pocket and which clothes, this can be an issue. Jeans and tight pants can be a problem (it is taking unreasonable will power not to paraphrase Mae West: “Is that a phone in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”)

The final part is the most important: How much does size affect usability? This is where differences in hand size come into play. You want to be able to use a phone with one hand, and that’s going to depend on the hand that’s using it. This is also where the most objective part of the Goldilocks test was formulated.

Put the phone in the palm of your hand. Reach around the middle with your thumb and middle finger. If your fingers touch, you will mostly be comfortable using the phone with one hand. If not, you are on occasion going to find yourself doing some juggling or bringing in the other hand. It’s that simple.

Take the test. You want to be able to say about your phone, as Goldilocks said about beds, as others have said about the height of trees: This one is just right.