Friday, September 28, 2007


Drudge's splash headline informs us that Hillary Clinton wants to create a new government welfare program: $5,000 for every new baby. The story goes:
"I like the idea of giving every baby born in America a $5,000 account that will grow over time, so that when that young person turns 18 if they have finished high school they will be able to access it to go to college or maybe they will be able to make that downpayment on their first home," she said. The New York senator did not offer any estimate of the total cost of such a program or how she would pay for it. Approximately 4 million babies are born each year in the United States.

Clinton said such an account program would help people get back to the tradition of savings that she remembers as a child, and has become harder to accomplish in the face of rising college and housing costs.
Hillary does not understand economics. This should be fairly obvious: if you save money for people, it decreases their propensity to save more. This program is unlikely to make people more self-reliant (saving because they need to). Instead, it will make us more government-reliant, spending every penny we have now (and running up credit card debt) because we know the government will be there to take care of us if things go wrong. This is called social insurance, and it's not a bad thing, if your goal is to increase lifetime utility through higher consumption.

There are better ways to induce more savings. A tax break or a subsidy on savings would increase savings. In the long run, dismantling the social insurance structure would also make people save - but at the cost of decreasing lifetime utility and leaving some people destitute.

Or maybe the government should stop trying to tell people how to live their lives.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Bush Legacy

President Bush may have a largely disastrous legacy when he leaves office a few years from now. But there are some bright spots, most notably his swift application of pressure in support of pro-democracy movements in autocratic countries. The latest is the new sanctions on Burma announced today on the heels of the biggest protests Burma's military junta has seen since 1988. Burma is a country ripe for democracy: it has a credible opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, a strong and nonviolent civil-religious movement, and peaceful neighbors with functioning democracies (Thailand, Bangladesh, and India).

Growing democracies in Ukraine, Georgia, Lebanon, Afghanistan and weakening autocracies in Libya, Sudan, Palestine, North Korea and now Burma could be the most warming part of an otherwise tepid legacy for the 43rd president.

A Spotlight In the Right Place

Dana Milbank for WaPo nails it:
Without listening to Ahmadinejad, how can the world appreciate how truly nutty he is?
Absolutely. As President Bush said yesterday, "an institution in our country gives him the chance to express his point of view, which really speaks to the freedoms of the country". Ahmadinejad's speeches tell us two things. First, he is not beholden to the truth (Milbank really gets into this). Second, he is not accustomed to the embarrassment of a free press. His means of dealing with hard questions is to flatly deny the accusations - even when we have video of him saying the opposite in a Farsi news conference!

So accustomed to being worshiped and so unaccustomed to being questioned, he really stands to lose whatever scant credibility as a critic of America he formerly had.

Ahmadinejad has also stolen a page or two from Borat's script:
Borat: "You telling me the man who try to put a rubber fist in my anus was a homosexual?" (src)
Mahmoud: "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country"

Borat: "Democracy is different in America. For example: women can vote but horse can not!"
Mahmoud: "The freest women in the world are women in Iran."

Borat: "Although Kazakhstan a glorious country, it have a problem, too: economic, social, and Jew."
Mahmoud: "It is quite clear that a bunch of Zionist racists are the problem the modern world is facing today". (src)

Borat: [narrating] "He insist we not fly in case the Jews repeated their attack of 9/11."
Mahmoud: "If the root causes of 9/11 are examined properly - why it happened, what caused it, what were the conditions that led to it, who truly was involved, who was really involved..." (src).

Borat's chorus: "Kazakhstan friend of all except Uzbekistan"
Mahmoud: "For hundreds of years, we've lived in friendship and brotherhood with the people of Iraq."
I could go on.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Failed Experiment Ends

The NYTimes website has discovered that its readers are unwilling to pay to read its opinions. After two years, TimesSelect has been discontinued.

Global Review readers can celebrate by reading the incisive commentary of New York's finest: Paul Krugman, the Times economics writer, says Republicanism is racism. Jerome Karabel reveals the shocking news that rich kids go to elite colleges. Maureen Dowd uses the words uxorious and casuistry, but the Times fortunately lets you double-click on any word for its definition. How accommodating these titans of the mind are of us mere mortals! Of course, for opinion balance they do have a conservative writer, John Tierney. But wait, he's been shunted off to the Science Times. Balance... never mind.

Hat tip on the Times editorial glasnost to BrownPau.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Free-for-All 2008: The High-Water Mark of the Hagel Presidency

With the political campaign as boring as it has ever been and lots of other things to do in life, here are the (late) Chatter Rankings. Note that Hagel's bounce is because he announced he's stepping out of the race and retiring from the Senate. Hey, all publicity is good publicity, right? This is the high-water mark of the Hagel presidency.

The monthly prediction...

Sep '07: Giuliani & Thompson over Clinton & Warner
Aug '07: Giuliani & Thompson over Clinton & Warner
Jul '07: Giuliani & Thompson over Clinton & Warner
Jun '07: Clinton & Warner over McCain & Romney
May '07: Clinton & Warner over McCain & Romney
Apr '07: Clinton & Warner over McCain & Giuliani
Mar '07: Clinton & Obama over McCain & Giuliani
Feb '07: Clinton & Obama over McCain & Giuliani
Jan '07: Clinton & Obama over McCain & Giuliani
Dec '06: Clinton & Obama over McCain & Giuliani
Nov '06: McCain & Giuliani over Clinton & Warner
Oct '06: McCain & Giuliani over Clinton & Warner
Sep '06: McCain & Giuliani over Clinton & Warner
Aug '06: McCain & Giuliani over Clinton & Warner
Jul '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Romney
Jun '06: Clinton & Warner over Allen & Romney
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

Rank Candidate ChatterRank Change
R.1 Sen. John McCain 3,9150
R.2 Gov. Mitt Romney 3,267+1
R.3 Rudy Giuliani 3,199-1
R.4 Fred Thompson 2,6280
R.5 Sen. Chuck Hagel 1,141+8
R.6 Rep. Ron Paul 747-1
R.7 Gov. Mike Huckabee 6100
R.8 Secy. Condoleezza Rice 310-2
R.9 Newt Gingrich 293+3
R.10 Sen. Sam Brownback 237-2
R.11 Rep. Duncan Hunter 2020
R.12 Rep. Tom Tancredo 142-2
D.1 Sen. Hillary Clinton 6,8430
D.2 Sen. Barack Obama 5,0200
D.3 Sen. John Edwards 3,7870
D.4 Sen. Joseph Biden 1,892+1
D.5 Sen. Christopher Dodd 1,738+1
D.6 Sen. John Kerry 1,689+1
D.7 Gov. Bill Richardson 949-3
D.8 Al Gore 4990
D.9 Sen. Russ Feingold 336+4
D.10 Howard Dean 2990
D.11 Rep. Dennis Kucinich 266-2
D.12 Mike Gravel 130-1

Notes: The Chatter Rankings are created by searching each candidate's name plus "2008" in the Google News database. This month tested but not qualifying are John Cox (interference 204) and Jeb Bush (56). Purged this month are withdrawees Jim Gilmore (180) and Mark Warner (624; both will seek Virginia's senate seat), Wesley Clark (60) and Tommy Thompson (75). Non-contenders are kept on the rolls as Vice-Presidential possibilities (e.g. Rice) and benchmarks (e.g. Dean).

See recent graphs of the Chatter Rankings plus Chatter Rankings from August, July, June, May, April, March, February, January, December 2006, November, October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, December 2005, August, July, June, and May.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Rochester: Made For Living?

Rochester consistently scores high on quality-of-living surveys. The latest, by Expansion Management Magazine puts the ROC at #1.
Among metros with populations of over 1 million, Rochester, N.Y., ranked No.1, followed by Pittsburgh, Pa., Austin, Texas, Boston, Mass., and San Jose, Calif.
In order to get Rochester's metropolitan population above 1 million, I assume that Expansion counted snowmen as residents. More seriously, the metro area apparently includes Genesee, Livingston, Ontario, Orleans, and Wayne Counties, as well as Monroe County (pop. 735,000). That's a pretty generous definition of "metropolitan".

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Successful Draft

With the fourth pick in my fantasy football league this year, I think I had a pretty successful draft. Here's what the starting lineup will look like:

QB Tom Brady
RB Shaun Alexander
RB Willis McGahee
WR Deion Branch
WR Anquan Boldin
TE Todd Heap
K Neil Rackers
D New England

The NFL season starts in a couple days... bring it on!