Friday, December 30, 2005

Introducing: Roberts Stole Second!

Congrats to my brother Barn, who posted his first real blog post today at the blog he (by "he" I mean "I") laboriously set up yesterday: Roberts Stole Second! Look for incisive, if poorly spelt, commentary on the BoSox from this child prodigy. Go drop him a comment... but don't encourage his blogging too much; Mom isn't sure she wants her second son turning out like the first one. (Just kidding, Mom!)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Free-For-All 2008: It Isn't Brett Favre's Year Either

After a three-month (or, should we say, one-semester) hiatus, the Chatter Rankings are back. Comparing my results to the semi-formal poll taken by Dave at of potential Republican nominees, you'll see almost no correlation. So what do the Chatter Rankings actually measure, and does it matter?

At best, the Chatter Rankings are a proxy measure for public awareness of each candidate. That is to say, both absolute ranking and change in ranking are meaningful measurements. Possibly, one but not the other is meaningful. This is not difficult to check: if we see strong trends over time, and the upward-trending candidates outperform downward-trending ones in poll and primary results in 2007 and 2008, then change in ranking would seem to be meaningful. If high-ranking candidates outperform low-ranking candidates, then absolute ranking is meaningful.

But either (or both) of these measures may be quite uncorrelated with actual election prospects. Absolute ranking may be a function of current newsmaking capacity. For example, George Bush, Tony Blair, and Osama Bin Laden outperform most candidates on the list; but this does not reflect electability in 2008. At the same time, it may be that news cycles are sufficiently random that a candidate's improvement this month has little correlation with his expected improvement next month.

If I had understood anything from my Statistics/Econometrics course this fall, I could turn all of this into efficient and incomprehensible equations. More's the pity.

Does Russ Feingold belong on this list? Each month I profile at least one candidate. This month's newcomer is the senator from Wisconsin. Does he really belong here? The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel likes him in the race as a gadfly, to stir up intelligent debate. But they use the word "quixotic" in the concluding paragraph. A lefty Wisconsin paper praises him for standing up against the USA Patriot Act, both in 2001 and now. Like many paleocons, I view the USA Patriot Act as an excess comparable to some of our Cold War paranoia. If Americans react as strongly as they should to the NSA wiretapping revelations, and if more abuses come to light in '06 and '07, Feingold could become a savior for national integrity. Add to his defense of civil liberties a squeaky-clean reputation built around campaign finance reform and balancing the budget, and it's easy to see where 16 years of dubiously run national security could get a reformist some air-time.

Ultimately, however, Senator Feingold is liberal. Very liberal. Very liberal and Jewish and divorced. And while he may win over some civil libertarians with his principled stances, he'll have a hard time convincing anyone in his own party that he is electable. He may be a kinder and gentler Howard Dean, but we take the position that neither of America's top two cheese-producing states will be a president-producing state in the near future.

See also: Draft Russ site, blogs, Russ for President, Primary2008 profile, Official Senate site.
Rank Candidate ChatterRank Change
R.1 Sen. John McCain 1,130+3
R.2 Gov. Mitt Romney 1,090+1
R.3 Sen. Bill Frist 643-2
R.4 Secy. Condoleezza Rice 633+4
R.5 Rudy Giuliani 561+6
R.6 Gov. George Pataki 450-4
R.7 Gov. Jeb Bush 416+2
R.8 Sen. Chuck Hagel 219+4
R.9 Sen. George Allen 188+1
R.10 Newt Gingrich 70-5
R.11 Sen. Sam Brownback 66-4
R.12 Gov. Mike Huckabee 65-6
D.1 Sen. Hillary Clinton 1,4400
D.2 Sen. John Kerry 7740
D.3 Sen. Russ Feingold 695+9*
D.4 Gov. Mark Warner 621-1
D.5 Sen. John Edwards 545+3
D.6 Sen. Joseph Biden 425+4
D.7 Howard Dean 3470
D.8 Gov. Bill Richardson 329+1
D.9 Sen. Harry Reid 282-4
D.10 Sen. Barack Obama 169+1
D.11 Gov. Tom Vilsack 161-7
D.12 Sen. Evan Bayh 103-6
Notes: The Chatter Rankings are created by searching each candidate's name plus "2008" in the Google News database. This month's tested-but-not-qualifying list is Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, Wesley Clark and Dick Gephardt. Russ Feingold was tested but did not qualify in August; now he's high on the list after making noise about running. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dick Cheney continued to qualify, but as cannot and will not (respectively) run in 2008, and tend to make news for largely non-election reasons, they were left out.

See the Chatter Rankings from August, July, June, and May.


I'm trying to get comments working for the unwashed masses... have patience. Oh, and I hope y'all like the new background. I'm too lazy to spend hours trying to create a personalized one.

Saturday, December 24, 2005


Merry Christmas Eve! Remember the pain and joy of the Holy Family this year; ignore the shopping wars. Some lyrics to meditate on:

Joseph took his wife and her child and they went to Africa
To escape the rage of a deadly king
There along the banks of the Nile,
Jesus listened to the song
That the captive children used to sing
They were singin'
My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by
My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by
Through a dry and thirsty land, water from the Kenyan heights
Pours itself out of Lake Sangra's broken heart
There in the Sahara winds Jesus heard the whole world cry
For the healing that would flow from His own scars
The world was singing
My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by
My Deliverer is coming - my Deliverer is standing by...
- Rich Mullins

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free;
While God is marching on...
- Julia W. Howe

The angels are singing over the plains
The shepherds are quaking, echoing refrains
And all of our slogans, designed to take away the pain
Meant nothing to the Son of God that night in Bethlehem...
- Reese Roper

My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me —
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation...
- Mary

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Samson and Delilah

I've been asked to comment on the Johnny Damon situation, but I think my mother said it best: "He really is an idiot!"

Why did this happen? One reason: Scott Boras. Scott is a dollar man, and he makes his players see things his way. Here's how I see the respective negotiating positions:

Damon: Like Samson, he needed his hair. With the cult status he had in Boston, he was beginning to make quite a name for himself beyond MLB circles. He wants to be a rock star, and I don't think he realizes just how straight-edge George III wants his ballboys to be. The hair will go, and, I think, an awful lot of promotion opportunities with it. Damon has been told that he'll have a bigger stage, bigger numbers, and easier access to major TV interviews, etc, in the Big Apple, but I think he'll suddenly find that he's no longer a rock star, and now just a baseball player.

Red Sox: Let the pitching era begin! We'll always score some points, with Manny and David in the middle of the order, and 'Tek et al around them. No worries. Really. Damon was nice, but not necessary. So I applaud the Jed & Ben for not passing the $10 million line. He wasn't worth more than that.

What happened: Damon was convinced that it all boiled down to the top-line salary figure and was seduced by the glitz of New York. Maybe he wasn't Jesus after all; he was Samson. I cringe at comparing Steinbrenner to the comely Delilah, but he's seducing Damon and cutting his hair... yikes.

For next season, I strongly support a pitch-and-field Red Sox model. The team presently has a surplus of pitching: HOLD ON TO IT! Pitching is twice as valuable in July as in December, and by carrying extra starters, we can (a) afford to make a big deal to fill a hole or cover an injury during the season, and (b) keep our pitchers well-rested so they can compete into October. The "Big Stick" offense couldn't deliver better than 93 wins in 2005, and the smart money in baseball has always been on pitching-strong teams. So roll with the punches, and go for it in '06.

Election Posturing

Israel recently made an understandable decision to disallow Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem - land they annexed - from voting in the upcoming Palestinian elections. The stated reason is that they don't want to allow Hamas on the ballot; the underlying reason is that they view East Jerusalem as sovereign, non-negotiable territory and will not give it up. It's an indefensible position, of course, in any court of international law, but Israel's idea of international law has more to do with the size of one's tanks than with legal niceties.

Given the realities, what's a vote-hungry Palestinian politician to do? Begging the Americans to intervene is bad; begging the Israelis to reconsider is worse. Asking for outside Arab or European help would be dangerous (i.e., Israel might crack down hard) and/or ineffectual. Being beholden to your opponent in a dispute really narrows the options.

My advice: forget due process and go for maximum publicity. On election day, start holding elections in East Jerusalem as normally as possible. Make sure turnout is high, and get the Western, Arab, and Israeli press on the scene with cameras rolling. That forces the Israeli security state to make the decision of whether to forcibly break up the democratic process or to back down on their threats.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Thanksgiving Photos

Here are a few snaps from my family's visit to Rochester for Thanksgiving!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Blocked From Baseball

Cubans are in an uproar. Their pride and joy - the national baseball team - is being shut out of the World Baseball Classic, hosted by the U.S. The Treasury Department made the call a few days ago, according to ESPN (hat tip to Soxaholix for the link).

Now, I think the embargo is dumb and ineffective (obviously). But if we are going to do anything to hurt Cuba, this is precisely the right thing to bar them from. International sanctions have a very poor record: they almost never cause the desired change, and they often have undesired side effects; e.g. the strengthening of Saddam's regime. When sanctions have worked, it's because those being sanctioned felt shamed and excluded by those whose opinions they valued. The main example of this is apartheid South Africa. Economic sanctions against the Republic had very little effect; social and sport sanctions had a great effect. Remember, the powerful in any country are always rich: we'll never starve Castro. But we can make Cubans feel like their government is responsible for isolating them from the rest of the world. Letting the Cubans play would be to hand Castro a public relations prop for rallying national support; shutting them out will show ordinary Cubans the benefits of being a part of the Pax Americana.


My classmates and I have been paroled! I was the first person to complete the semester, handing in my econometrics exam paper after just 40 minutes, and leaving the room to applause and high-fives. Now I'm light as a feather and free as a bird for the next four weeks. Boston - here I come!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Hasta La Vista, Stadium

Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadium in Graz, Austria, may be renamed, according to an article linked by Drudge.
"Ja, ve liked him ven he slaughtered bad guys by the dozens in film," said city council member Uta von Schuberdorf, "But he has now allowed ze execution of a bad guy in real life, and zat is simply unacceptable. Free Tookie!"
OK, that wasn't actually in the article... but how far is it from the truth?

Thursday, December 15, 2005


After spending sixteen hours in the library yesterday, J.T. Edgeworth appeared to me in a fevered dream. After a lengthy discourse and several examples, I woke up screaming, "THE PARETO SET IS CONNECTED! THE PARETO SET IS CONNECTED! IT HAS NO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLES!"

Apparently the inspiration was sufficient to propel me to victory on the Micro exam. I didn't get everything right, but I had memorized in rote what turned out to be 50% of the exam (mathematical proofs, mind you, not facts). It really paid off to prove seven times that a Radner equilibrium implies an Arrow-Debreu equilibrium, and vice-versa.

The next exam is the worst: Econometrics. Werner is quite an amiable fellow, and I hope he joins us for a beer after administering the exam, but I think I knew more econometrics before he opened his mouth on September 1. I seriously question whether I'll pass this course.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Trying Saddam

Last year as one of the coordinators of the National Model Arab League, which includes an "Arab Court of Justice", a simulation with no real-world counterpart, I suggested holding a trial of Saddam Hussein in the court. However, after thought and consultation, we decided that such a trial would be a controversial and divisive farce that would ultimately degrade the court.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Move Is Made!

The sale of InstantReplay was finalized tonight, so as of today, Global Review is operative. Unfortunately, I have final exams through the end of this week, so I should be studying, not re-establishing myself in the blogosphere. But if you'll be patient, I'll clean this new place up and get started with Global Review over Christmas break.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005