Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Minor League

The Boston Globe errs today in an article about who will start tomorrow night's Red Sox game against Toronto. Kyle Lohse, recently sent down from Minnesota to Rochester, is identified as playing in Rochester, Minnesota. As all you RedWings fans know, the Minnesota AAA club is in Rochester, New York. No respect whatsoever. Also, Lohse is not a legitimate option for Wednesday night: he pitched nine innings on Monday.

A Globe story worth reading, however, is Bob Ryan's feel-good piece about the resurgence of the Pawtucket Red Sox, who are one of the hottest minor league tickets in the country, and are best known for hosting the RedWings in professional baseball's longest game ever.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Cowboys Against AIDS

Sebastian Mallaby of WaPo takes a three-years-later look at President Bush's promise to unilaterally massively increase funding for AIDS relief. At the time, it promised to be the first program to spend significant resources on treatment as well as prevention. His findings:

The administration's budget for 2007 requests $4 billion from Congress, more than quadruple the level in 2001. So the Bush team is on target to exceed the $15 billion promise...

the Bush administration began by refusing to buy pharmaceuticals that lacked approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, effectively closing the door to non-branded AIDS therapies. Starting in 2004, the administration fixed this problem... Given how often foreign aid is tied to exports from donor countries, it's remarkable that the Bush team stiffed Big Pharma in favor of cost-effective help for AIDS patients...

There's much more to be done -- 5 million more people get infected every year. But if you want to denounce rich countries for their negligence, the United States is the wrong target.

Of course, this is $4 billion more of deficit spending. But with all the worthless pork and dubious military, education and Medicare increases, this program is low on the list to be axed. Perhaps a better approach (or an additional approach) would be to make future increases contingent on willing contributions. Have the federal government give matching funding for taxpayer contributions. That would help citizens get involved in this most important kind of foreign aid, and it would enhance the public diplomacy aspect of the program.

Biking to Boston Albany

I got up on Friday morning at ten minutes past five. I was in shape, my bike had some known problems, but had ridden well on the long training rides. My baggage was pared down as light as I could make it. The weather was supposed to have scattered showers and overnight rain. I could deal with that.

I left at 5:50. By 7:00, the showers had found me. They stuck with me all the way to Syracuse. That's an hour and a half by car; five by bike. Then the wind picked up. But instead of the prevailing westerlies I expected, it was an unpleasant headwind. I stopped at an auto body shop to re-oil my bike as the now-sweltering sun had dried it up (after the rain had washed out all my oil earlier). I limped into Oneida and refueled with a quart of ice cream and my third banana of the day.

Then I made for Utica, which I struck before sunset. Going east from Utica, I was peddling to the chant of "Herkimer, Fort Plain, Canajoharie, Fultonville; Herkimer, Fort Plain, Canajoharie, Fultonville...", which were the main towns I had to cross to reach my destination: a hot meal and shower and a warm bed. I was equipped to bivouac outside, but the drizzle returned, and that option was very unattractive.

At this point I was riding quite well. There were plenty of hills getting to Fort Plain, but more than that was the miles. There were a lot of them. Whereas I had pre-calculated the lenght of the day's ride at 175 miles, in fact it was 205. I think the rain was a big part of my ability to ride all that way. As unpleasant as it is to have dirty water dripping into your eyes and mouth and to spend an entire day in soggy sneakers, it conserves sweat, and doesn't exhaust you the way the hot sun does. My toughest hours were the midday, when it was clear and humid.

Not that the night riding was easy. Dense fog rolled in as the last sunshine disappeared, so my last two hours were in pitch darkness, with only the occasional house or headlight to show me the road more than a few yards ahead of me. I got to the point where I welcomed even being blinded by an oncoming headlights, just for the company.

I reached my hosts in Fultonville at 11:00pm. I had ridden 205 miles in 14 hours and 3 minutes, plus three hours of breaks (which isn't as much as it sounds like). That means that I was riding at about 15 mph, which is my standard of excellence, the entire day.

I had lasagna, a long shower, and fell asleep before my head hit the pillow.

The next day was tough. I couldn't get up and leave early, because I'd gotten to bed at midnight. But I limited myself to eight hours' sleep, and tried to make what I could of the morning. But the first days' rain meant a lot of work in the morning: lubing the bike, reassembling my drying things, etc. I got off before 10:00, but it was already warm.

I rode well for the first two hours, considering how sore I was, getting down into Schenectady. But then through a combination of poorly laid-out bike routes, heat, and bike troubles, I slowed way down, stopping constantly. My bike started making funny noises, and I had to mess with it and finally stopped the racket by hand-tightening the axle. That's not something you're supposed to have to adjust.

There were also phone calls to make and receive. My mother was going to come and drop off my dad towards the end of the day. He would finish the day with me, and then we'd ride home across Massachusetts on Sunday. I hoped to be at the peak of the Berkshires by the time he was supposed to meet me, at about 6:30pm. This whole arrangement sapped my mental energy: if Mom was meeting us and driving home, why not just get in the car??

When a spoke snapped on the arduous climb out of the Hudson valley at Troy, I gave up. I couldn't ride much further without visiting a bike shop, and the tough push uphill was bringing out more uncomfortable-sounding noises from my rear axle and bottom bracket. So I gave up, called the AP's, and meandered down the river to Albany, where they picked me up a few hours later.

The moral of the story is: long bike trips are only fun at a leisurely pace. You see more by driving on I-90 than by biking NYS Bike Route 5. The only worthwhile sights were Cohoes Falls and the old industrial buildings of Cohoes, which had a 19th-century charm. Everything else was single-wide trailers and pickup trucks, with the occasional burned-down barn. I've had fantastic bike trips before: across Vermont to Montreal, across New Hampshire's White Mountains, through the Netherlands. But none of these involved racing against time for seventeen hours in a drizzle. So if I attempt the trip again, it'll be with company, and we'll budget four or five days instead of three.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Just Like Old Times

This takes me back (to circa 2001)... Pedro owned the Yankees for 7 innings (8 K, no runs), and then had the bullpen caugh up his lead in the 9th and lose the game in the 11th. Must have made him feel all warm and nostalgic inside.

Billy Wagner should probably call in sick tomorrow, actually.

No Such Evil

The Post story and resulting consternation yesterday were of naught. The Iranian dress bill is not as draconian as described, and makes no mention of minorities. Phew.

Friday, May 19, 2006


If the story below is true and the measure is signed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Global Review is proud to be the first voice to call for solidarity: Christians and Jews around the world should take up the prescribed badges, both red and yellow, in solidarity with those whose safety and citizenship is placed in jeopardy by this measure.

To loosed up the tension... James Taranto notes that this incident (if true) shows that history indeed repeats itself first as tragedy, then as Farsi.

Axis of Evil

Note: the veracity of this story is in question. Stay tuned.
Update (11:28 am) UPI believes the story enough to quote it.
Update (12:33 pm) Jerusalem Post and Y-Net News both cite the story.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel (as well as its LA counterpart) takes the story at face value. Also, Y-Net news reported on Monday that Iran had passed a "National Uniform Law" mandating strict Islamic dress for men and women.
Update (12:40) a Canadian commenter at HistoryMike points out that the National Post is a disreputable tabloid. Also, a commenter links to the IRNA press release on Monday's passage.
Update (1:02) Canadian PM Stephen Harper commented on the story a few minutes ago, saying it may be true and he considers Iran "very capable" of doing this.
Update (3:48) American Jewish organizations issued a joint statement, published in JPost.
They write: We have been seeking to clarify these reports but do not yet have confirmation. There are clear indications that various Iranian government agencies...are working on new uniforms to be introduced in the fall.

********** original post below **********

President Ahmadinejad of Iran is doing his best to live up to his "Axis of Evil" billing. Not satisfied with calling for Israel's destruction and fanning the flames of anti-semitism, Ahmadinejad is triggering Godwin's Law on a global scale:
Iranian expatriates living in Canada yesterday confirmed reports that the Iranian parliament, called the Islamic Majlis, passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical "standard Islamic garments."

The law, which must still be approved by Iran's "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi [sic] before being put into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims.

Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth. (from national post via drudge)
This is beyond insane, but in a way it's good: if passed, it removes any pretense of normalcy or responsible leadership from the Iranian regime, and should unite world opinion against them. It also has great potential to turn most non-militant Muslim Iranians against their government; note that they as well as minorities are being regulated by this law. Whereas the nuclear crisis appeals to Iranian nationalism, this measure divides by creed a society with a rich history or tolerance.

Historical note: the use of the badges or bands for Jews and Christians goes back to the Caliphate in Iran (source) and to Pope Innocent III, 1215 AD, in Europe (source).

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Free-For-All-2008: Ten Little Indians

More than ten: thirteen and fifteen, respectively. Most open primaries feature four to six competitive candidates, plus a few wishful thinkers. No doubt, we've got some wishful thinkers on this board: Daschle, Gingrich, Tancredo, and Huckabee (though not for lack of trying). We've also got a few candidates who want (very badly) to be president, but probably won't get so much as the time of day from their political machines, for obvious reasons: Jeb Bush and John Kerry. Lastly, several of the candidates very probably will not run: Rice, Reid, Dean, and Obama. That's five from each party, leaving eight and ten little Indians respectively.

Of the Republicans, Hagel and Brownback will probably gain no traction, with conservatives flocking to Allen, Romney, and Frist. Frist is a disaster; he'll run but won't make a sound. Centrist Republicans will congregate around McCain and Giuliani; leaving Pataki out in the cold. Pataki will probably drop out early and hope for a cabinet position. But it's no stretch to imagine that all seven of the others could run, plus issue candidates like Tancredo or good ol' Allen Keyes, with Allen, McCain, Romney, Giuliani my predicted order at the top.

On the far left, Bayh and Feingold will be trumpeted by the blogosphere, but with less confidence and less results than Howard Dean. If Joe Biden ever reads an opinion poll, he'll drop out, but that's no sure thing. From the DLC corner, Richardson and Clark don't have a chance; Hillary has that wing of the party completely locked up. Perhaps she's already promised them the Vice Presidency and portfolio of State. That leaves Mark Warner, Al Gore, and John Edwards as the middle-left candidates. Edwards will find that he's even more boring to voters in 2008 than he was in 2004, but he'll wait to find out the hard way. Gore got more in 2004 than Bill Bradley, but he has too much overlap with Hillary to mount a serious challenge. Same for Warner; Democratic primary voters don't find good governance nearly as sexy as protest votes (Feingold), we-wuz-robbed losers (Gore) or people with the last name 'Clinton' (what else does she have, seriously?). So I predict Clinton, Gore, Warner, Feingold, Edwards.

The monthly prediction is foregone...
May '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Romney.
Apr '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Romney.
Mar '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Rice.
Feb '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Rice.

This month's Chatter is way down. I expected a continued high volume after last month's jump, but the incumbant president seems to be stealing the thunder from his would-be successors with the immigration speech and new legislation. That may be good for him, if the adage about publicity holds true, but in any case it means that this month's rankings are less meaningful than usual. So don't let some of the big jumps and drops scare you - that's just a function of an anemic news environment.

Check out graphs of the Chatter Rankings from May 2005 through April 2006

Rank Candidate ChatterRank Change
R.1 Sen. John McCain 1,7700
R.2 Sen. Bill Frist 1,1300
R.3 Rudy Giuliani 709+5
R.4 Secy. Condoleezza Rice 6910
R.5 Gov. Jeb Bush 518+5
R.6 Sen. George Allen 411-1
R.7 Gov. Mitt Romney 379-4
R.8 Gov. George Pataki 341+4
R.9 Gov. Mike Huckabee 340+4
R.10 Sen. Sam Brownback 247-1
R.11 Newt Gingrich 2000
R.12 Rep. Tom Tancredo 179-6
R.13 Sen. Chuck Hagel 112-6
D.1 Sen. Hillary Clinton 1,6200
D.2 Sen. John Kerry 1,050+1
D.3 Sen. Harry Reid 749+1
D.4 Sen. John Edwards 586+8
D.5 Sen. Joseph Biden 5420
D.6 Al Gore 510+1
D.7 Howard Dean 478+4
D.8 Sen. Russ Feingold 463-6
D.9 Gov. Mark Warner 3970
D.10 Sen. Evan Bayh 202+5
D.11 Sen. Barack Obama 170-3
D.12 Wesley Clark 158-2
D.13 Gov. Bill Richardson 154-7
D.14 Gov. Tom Vilsack 1220
D.15 Tom Daschle 89-2

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 Rep. John Murtha, Gov. Brian Schweitzer, and Haley Barbour. Tom Tancredo, Wesley Clark and Tom Daschle were inducted last month, and are all undergoing a 'sophomore slump'. Some of the folks on the list almost surely won't run for president (Reid, Dean) and are there just in case, or as an indication of VP popularity.

See the Chatter Rankings from April, March, February, December, August, July, June, and May.

Mythbusting: the Racist Army

Every politically active and historically interested American should read Daniel Patrick Moynihan's report, "The Negro Family: The Case For National Action" (1964). This was very controversial at writing, and is now regarded as both counter-cultural and prophetic, as the problems Moynihan documents redoubled through the 1970's and 80's.

One statistic that deserves mention is that blacks were disproportionately underrepresented in the U.S. military at the time of writing. While this may have swung drastically during Vietnam (doubtful, anyone have data?), the stereotype of white commanders sending black troops to die seems to be an artifact of Hollywood and demagoguery. Moynihan writes:
Although service in the Armed Forces is at least nominally a duty of all male citizens coming of age, it is clear that the present system does not enable Negroes to serve in anything like their proportionate numbers. This is not a question of discrimination. Induction into the Armed Forces is based on a variety of objective tests and standards, but these tests nonetheless have the effect of keeping the number of Negroes disproportionately small.

In 1963 the United States Commission on Civil Rights reported that "A decade ago, Negroes constituted 8 percent of the Armed Forces. Today... they continue to constitute 8 percent of the Armed Forces."

In 1964 Negroes constituted 11.8 percent of the population, but probably remain at 8 percent of the Armed Forces...

In 1963 the Civil Rights Commission commented on the occupational aspect of military service for Negroes. "Negro enlisted men enjoy relatively better opportunities in the Armed Forces than in the civilian economy in every clerical, technical, and skilled field for which the data permit comparison."
The rest of Moynihan's work deserves to be quoted here, especially his prescient appeal on behalf of black men, but you'll just have to go read it yourself.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Stop Alphabetical Discrimination!

One of the top journals in my discipline, the Journal of Economic Perspectives, recently published research by economists Liran Einav (Stanford) and Leeat Yariv (CalTech) claiming that alphabetical discrimination occurs in our profession.
In this paper, we focus on the effects of surname initials on professional outcomes in the academic labor market for economists. We begin our analysis with data on faculty in all top 35 U.S. economics departments. Faculty with earlier surname initials are significantly more likely to receive tenure at top ten economics departments, are significantly more likely to become fellows of the Econometric Society, and, to a lesser extent, are more likely to receive the Clark Medal and the Nobel Prize. These statistically significant differences remain the same even after we control for country of origin, ethnicity, religion or departmental fixed effects. As a test, we replicate our analysis for faculty in the top 35 U.S. psychology departments, for which coauthorships are not normatively ordered alphabetically. We find no relationship between alphabetical placement and tenure status in psychology. We suspect the "alphabetical discrimination" reported in this paper is linked to the norm in the economics profession prescribing alphabetical ordering of credits on coauthored publications. We also investigate the extent to which the effects of alphabetical placement are internalized by potential authors in their choices to work with different numbers of coauthors as well as in their willingness to follow the alphabetical ordering norm.
Maybe Einav will win a Nobel Prize for this.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Need to do some post-finals shopping? Here's a few recommendations from a few minutes of surfing that began at Pau's blog. I'm off to Fight Club at R.I.T. Oops! The first rule of Fight Club is don't blog about Fight Club!

Saturday, May 13, 2006


My classmates and I tipped back shots of Jose Cuervo to celebrate the end of our first year today. It's been a long, tough ride, but we're all still arrive, and hopefully we've all passed. Now I get to spend an entire three-and-a-half months without that ubiquitous, pervasive academic guilt that has haunted me day and night for the last eight months.

More unexpectedly, I also found out what I'm doing this summer: teaching English in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco... how cool is that?!?!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

"I Lied"

Not long ago, people in Washington who found themselves uncomfortably quoted would invariably claim, "I was taken out of context". That's so 1990's; the new defense is, "I lied". Because it's normal to lie in massively self-damaging ways.

Exhibit A, of course, is Zacarias Moussaui, who claims he lied about his involvement in the September 11 plot.

Exhibit B, however, is perhaps more poignant, because he's a cabinet-level appointee, not a terrorist crackpot. Secretary Alphonso Jackson of HUD (disclaimer: he's my old boss's boss's boss) recently told a group of minority businessmen that another minority businessman lost out on a HUD contract because he disparaged the president (disclaimer: I worked for a HUD minority contractor). Now, Jackson says he lied. The anecdote never happened. He was just trying to scare a bunch of impressionable darkies. Oops, that's a lie too.

Handing out contracts based on politics is not something I ever saw at HUD (and I did see a good deal of contracting), but handing out contracts based on minority status is rampant. So we know Jackson is lying when he says "all HUD contracts are awarded solely on a stringent merit-based process". Does OSDBU mean anything to you, Mr. Jackson? Of course, you can't blame Jackson for championing racial and political profiling: he'd never be where he is now if it wasn't for being black and playing politics for years.

Monday, May 8, 2006


I honestly don't know whether to add my friend Steve's new "blog" to the blogroll. On the one hand, he's a good fella, even if he does tend to ramble on about his Korean War service sometimes, and has well-expressed opinions. On the other hand, his blog is on MySpace, which means he'll probably be sexually harassed by some grody old bureaucrat. Worse, it means that I (not being a grody old bureaucrat) can't comment on his blog without giving my everliving soul and 'net info to MySpace, which will immediately pass it on to several judiciously selected deviants. What's more, MySpace doesn't apparently allow him an external blogroll, thus violating the Third Axiom of Blogging, and making him incapable of link reciprocation.

Zero 'Kudos' to Steve for selecting an insular web "community" to blog in. My advice: cut bait and switch to a decent host while you still can.

Friday, May 5, 2006

The Two Arms of Peace

United States, Canadian, and African Union mediators have strong-armed the Sudanese government and Darfur rebels into an agreement. But they're not stopping there: the purpose of the agreement was to get Khartoum to permit a UN peacekeeping force. This two-armed approach - rifle and olive branch - will give peace a better chance than either on its own would have done.

Why is Sudan so keen on a peace deal? Aren't they the aggressor? Not really. The rebels began the fighting back in 2003. Sudan is at fault because their response has been overwhelming, disproportionate and inhumane. The reason a peace deal is so welcome to them is because it predicates any UN-led process with the sovereignty of Sudan over her own territory. This stipulation will prove more permanent than the concessions Khartoum made: disarming the Janjaweed and integrating the rebels into the Sudanese military as protectors of Darfur. C.f. Germany's loss of sovereignty in Alsace-Lorraine after WWI with their loss of industrial and military authority in the Rhineland. The first has remained in effect to this day; the second was abrogated without reaction before WWII.

As a result of the deal, however, it appears that Sudan is willing to allow UN peacekeepers, who are much better funded and equipped than their AU counterparts. These are the Darfurians' best hope for enforcement of the cease-fire and a return to normalcy.

The U.S. and AU both deserve kudos here. Robert Zoellick (Condi's #2) has pushed hard on the rebels, no doubt threatening to abandon them if they persisted in militance, and Salim Ahmed Salim (a doubly great name; he must be a good friend of Boutros Boutros-Ghali), the AU arbiter, has maintained the dignity, authority, and neutrality of the young Union. The European negotiator... oh wait, the Europeans didn't contribute sufficiently to make the papers. Even Canada contributed. The EU's contribution seems to be limited to: post facto cheerleading, and providing France as a ubiquitous geographical size comparison to Darfur.

Financial Times has a nice background summary going into the negotiations.

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Weird Schedule

Is it just me, or does somebody at MLB need to get a memo saying that scheduling twelve Yankees v. Red Sox games between May 1 and June 8 is a little overkill. That's 12 of 36 - one game in three. Ridiculous. And for the Sox, 11 more in that stretch are against Baltimore and Toronto, against whom we played 9 in April. Is there still baseball west of the Alleghanies?

One Down

The easiest of our exams - econometrics - is done with. I think I got about 60 or 70 points. The thing with 'metrics is that you can't solve questions unless you're brilliant. If you know the procedure, then you use it. And we were allowed a large cheat sheet, so I had some of the procedures written down. But if you don't know the procedure, the chances of you actually solving the problem in the half hour allotted to each question are slim to none. One thing I like about Genghis Khan's exams, though, is that he alots one point per minute - so you know if you spend 30 minutes on a 10-point subproblem, you're wasting time. This was a 180 minute exam.

Next up: Micro.

Monday, May 1, 2006

The Great Liberal of Our Time

Much has been made in the blogosphere about how American liberals and the Democratic parties have no great leaders and no coherent message. Reading yet another such account, exerpted from the New Republic, I was reminded that there is, in fact, a great liberal leader does exist, and has been one of the most laudable and prolific leaders of this time, greater than either Bushes or Clinton. He has a clear vision for a nation that uses power for good, both at home and abroad, and his goals and methods are unmistakably liberal.

I'm speaking, of course, of Tony Blair, who has refused to step down this year because he has not yet met his reform goals, and doesn't trust a new leader, who would be thinking about the next election, to meet them. He's a leader that Britain will remember - and America should.

Textual Healing

Frequent commenter Ali Baba (who has yet to deliver a proper legal critique of my research on the Federal wiretapping kerfuffle) and his classmates at G-Money Law have a blog: Sexy, Sexy Section Four. One of his classmates used the phrase "textual healing" in a Constitutional Law class (we're still trying to find out in what context) and another (eponymous) classmate of Ali's posted the lyrics to the obligatory parody at SSS4.

This goes right up there with Baby Got Book, aka "I Like Big Bibles."

Dougie to the Rescue!

Chris Snow reports that the Red Sox have redeemed Doug Mirabelli from San Diego in time to make tonight's start against Johnny Damon and the Yankees. As if this game didn't have enough excitement already! Hopefully, Dougie can put this into the history books with a game-winning shot or some such to announce his return to the team.

Does this mean the Sox are reassembling the 25? How great would a Dave Roberts trade be right now? And we need a lefty specialist... Mike Myers, call your office! OK, so maybe that's a stretch. Anyway, source is Chris Snow, with a hat tip to Dirt Dogs.