Thursday, December 27, 2007

Baseball on the Radio

Baseball is cracking down, according to this radio report.

Merry Electionmas

Did you see the inane kerfuffle over Mike Huckabee's "Merry Christmas" ad?

The best (and most oft-quoted) expression of people's distaste for the ad comes from conservative softy Peggy Noonan:
I wound up thinking this: That guy is using the cross so I'll like him. That doesn't tell me what he thinks of Jesus, but it does tell me what he thinks of me. He thinks I'm dim. He thinks I will associate my savior with his candidacy. Bleh.
John McCain, however, also ran an ad with a cross in it:

McCain's ad distills the powerful story from his time as a POW in North Vietnam. Huckabee's people probably left the cross-shaped bookcase in the ad because it looked artistic and gave the ad depth. McCain's people wrote an ad around a cross. The question is, can a particular non-universal symbol bring people together? The Huckabee kerfuffle says no; the McCain ad and its response say yes.

Used openly and unapologetically, McCain's lines in the sand have left pundits as quivery as the Christmas pudding.

It's not that the irony is lost on the nattering class - Glenn Greenwald and others point that out loudly. But the simple truth is that Huckabee's ad was ineffective - it was political - but McCain's ad is brilliantly brave.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Free-for-All 2008: Christmas Rush?

It's December 14th; do you know where your candidate is?

This is crunch time. Voters who haven't given levers and chads a thought since November, 2004, will tune in for the first time during the next four weeks. Can the candidates generate any more attention than they already have? The evidence I'm gathering indicates "no" - particularly for the leaders.

From the Chatter Rankings' inception in May 2005, total chatter hovered between 10 and 20,000 per month until November 2006. In December 2006, however, it spiked to 70,000. Apart from a lull over the summer, chatter has remained of that order of magnitude, often lower. Here are the numbers for Hillary and Rudy over the last year:


Basically, the news reached saturation point a year ago, and candidates haven't gotten more (online, print) exposure than they did before. Perhaps there is more TV-time than a year ago - but wouldn't you have assumed the same about print media as well?

This is bad news for the Clintons and Giulianis of the race: they had high early name recognition and exposure, but they haven't been able to extend that lead at all. Instead, other candidates are getting a share of the news pie. Look at Mike Huckabee's numbers over the same period. He had a few big months, but mostly was garnering a fraction of the attention of the big candidates. Now, all of a sudden, "Huckaboom" is on everyone's tongue.


Perhaps the "Long Campaign" has its limits. And perhaps we, the news-reading electorate, have a limit as to how much political flak we'll read.

This month's data:

Rank Candidate ChatterRank Change
R.1 Rudy Giuliani 5,8300
R.2 Gov. Mitt Romney 5,051+1
R.3 Sen. John McCain 4,052-1
R.4 Gov. Mike Huckabee 3,685+2
R.5 Fred Thompson 3,213-1
R.6 Rep. Ron Paul 2,182-1
R.7 Rep. Duncan Hunter 321+2
R.8 Rep. Tom Tancredo 2760
R.9 Sen. Sam Brownback 153-2
R.10 Newt Gingrich 1380
D.1 Sen. Hillary Clinton 9,7800
D.2 Sen. John Edwards 6,679+1
D.3 Sen. Barack Obama 6,404-1
D.4 Sen. Christopher Dodd 1,6130
D.5 Gov. Bill Richardson 1,392+1
D.6 Sen. Joseph Biden 850-1
D.7 Al Gore 8130
D.8 Rep. Dennis Kucinich 6330
D.9 Mike Gravel 3030

Notes: The Chatter Rankings are created by searching each candidate's name plus "2008" in the Google News database. Tested but not qualifying is Alan Keyes (84).

See recent graphs of the Chatter Rankings plus Chatter Rankings from November, October, September, 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.

The monthly prediction...

Dec '07: Clinton & Richardson over Giuliani & Thompson
Nov '07: Clinton & Richardson over Giuliani & Thompson
Oct '07: Clinton & Richardson over Giuliani & Thompson
Sep '07: Giuliani & Thompson over Clinton & Richardson
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

Monday, December 10, 2007

Quality Opponents

Winning in the NFL is hard, unless you're visiting South Florida. But not all playoff-bound teams can necessarily compete once they arrive. Looking at the above-.500 teams in the NFL, here's where they rank against one another.

Strongest schedule? Only the Patriots and Jaguars will play (likely) above-.500 opponents 8 times. This is really remarkable with the Pats, since this type of metric always underestimates the quality of the opponents of good teams and overestimates the quality of opponents of bad teams. Given that the Pats have faced 3 of the top 4 other teams, it's hard to argue that any team had a tougher season than the Pats.

Weakest schedule? Only the Seahawks will slide through their season facing good teams just 3 times (Miami, by comparison will play 7 above-.500 teams).

Flimsiest record? The Giants have 9 wins against weak opponents and 4 losses against strong opponents. The Bills also haven't beaten a good team - and will need to beat at least one of the two more they face to get into the playoffs.

Friday, December 7, 2007

We Would Grow Too Fond of It

Footage of the war in Afghanistan.

Watch at least the last minute of the video (start at 4:45).

Some say that the terror of war has been lost on Americans; combat becoming like no more than a violent video game - Doom or something. But Doom has blood. This is more like Duck Hunter.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Turning the Corner

Has the U.S. turned the corner on CO2 emissions?

Jack at Watchblog highlights new government statistics that show a decrease of 1.9% in CO2 emissions in 2006 from 2005. A Department of Energy report from May, 2007 finds roughly the same conclusion with preliminary data, and offers details.

CO2 use dropped across the board - most steeply in residential use (it was a mild winter), but also in industrial, commercial, and even (by 0.1%) in transportation.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Iran and Uncertainty

The biggest news this week is the new National Intelligence Estimate that says CIA has "high confidence" Iran stopped trying to weaponize nukes in 2003.

Obviously, if true it's a good thing. But what if it's false? Or they re-started the program recently? Is it better for the civilized world to assume the worst or the best?

Privately, of course, each government needs to be prepared for the worst. But as we have seen, there is precious little we can actually do about the nuclear development, so the benefits to assuming the worst are slim.

Assuming the worst, however, does come with significant costs: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and possibly others in the region have decided they need to develop nukes to maintain the regional balance of power. If the common knowledge is that Iran is not working towards nukes, that will let the Arabs slow down, breathe easier - and keep the world safer for longer. And that's worth something.

Perceived Returns to Education

Economist Michael Kremer lectured at my department yesterday, reviewing the literature on evaluation of health and education aid in the developing world. It's an exciting literature, and one I may try to get in on. Among the points he made, not originally his own, one caught my notice.

Is it possible, wondered an economist, that people systematically underestimate the value of education? And how could that happen?

Well, we know people tend to live in neighborhoods and municipalities sorted by wealth. Thus, a poor child (in a poor neighborhood) is likely to know poor people. Some of them will have college degrees - but are more likely to be low-end outliers in income, and perhaps other measures. That is, the child's estimation of the return to college is biased by his implicit sampling method (those whom he lives near).

Does the same hold in a wealthy neighborhood? Yes! A child growing up in a wealthy neighborhood will know some non-college-educated people, but they are the ones who made good. Thus, he perceives less difference between college- and non-college-educated workers than he would if he sampled correctly.

If this story is true, than there is a positive externality to mixed-income neighborhoods and take-your-kid-to-work days. We already recognize that it's good to take poor children to educated workplaces - but maybe it's also valuable to take middle-class children to unskilled workplaces.