Barackology and Obamatics

Best use of a mathematical term in a political discussion:

Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm.
—Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic Monthly, “Goodbye to All That”

By which he means that our soft power — linked to our moral standing in the world — would increase by some multiplicative factor rather than some additive amount: log(new US) = log(old US) + log(Obama) means that (new US) = (old US)×(Obama), more or less…. Which is, of course, technically meaningless but still manages to metaphorically convey how big an effect Obama’s election would have.

Sullivan is an interesting case, a gay, English, former Reaganite turned (as far as I can tell) Obama supporter, but evidently despite his academic/intellectual credentials, somehow enthralled by political personalities as much as ideas (hence his question, Obama, “The Reagan of the Left?”, which, sorry, I still can’t find it in me to aspire to).