Monday, December 22, 2008

The NFL Screws the Pats

The Patriots need to win next week in order to make the playoffs. In addition, they need either the Dolphins or the Ravens to lose. Complicating the matter, if the Pats lose and the Jets beat the 'Fins, the Jets go to the playoffs.

Thus, if the Patriots win, the Jets don't have much to play for: they'd need an unlikely Baltimore loss in order to get in. But that won't matter much, since all the games are scheduled for 1pm starts.

At least, that was the case until today, when the NFL in all its wisdom moved the Dolphins-Jets and Ravens-Jaguars games to 4pm. Thus, the Jets will know by kickoff whether they control their own future or not. If Baltimore pulls away from the Jaguars early, the Jets have no reason to keep fighting hard, and with Eric "Revenge" Mangini at the helm, they could happily let the game slip away, putting the Dolphins into the playoffs ahead of the hated Pats.

Still, the Patriots need to win next week, and it's only fanboy bloggers who are all atwitter over the scheduling changes. Belichick and his troops won't say a thing about it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Two Cheers for the (Latest) Bailout

As an opponent of the bailouts, I'm thrilled to see that President Bush has unilaterally extended $17 billion to the auto companies, conditional on their being financially viable by March. No really, I'm actually happy about this, at least given the little we now know.

Why? Because the money came out of the already-allocated $700,000,000,000. Rather than waiting for the next Congress to throw good money after bad in January, Bush (probably without meaning to) diminished the amount that my generation of taxpayers is likely to be on the hook for.

Given that the government stole $700,000,000,000 from me and my friends, I'd rather see that go to moderately wealthy autoworkers than to obscenely wealthy investment bankers.

It will be up to the Obama administration to make the rest of the hard decisions on this case. Hopefully, he'll show them tough love, call the loans if the automakers (especially Chrysler) don't become viable, and avoid spending even more money taxpayer money propping up the affluent.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday Cheer

What do these Christmas-related bits of data have in common?
  • Eating a lot at night is worse for you than eating a lot during the day
  • Sugar makes kids hyperactive
  • About 40% of body heat is lost through the head
  • Suicide rates are highest around the holidays
They are all false, according to IU researchers. The most interesting is the one about kids:
At least 12 randomised controlled trials looking at levels of sugar and behaviour - even in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - were unable to detect any difference. Scientists also found that when parents think their child has had a sugary drink they rate their behaviour as more hyperactive - so it is all in the mind.
In a related finding, the researchers say there is no cure for a hangover.

Sovereign(age) Default

With mounting debts, high current account deficits, and an angry population carrying a lot of private debt, the U.S. monetary and financial authorities are squirming. For a while, I've been predicting that the only way the U.S. will get out of the vortex of rising debt is by cheapening the dollar massively.

In the long run, a country carrying trillions of dollars of debt and populated by an indebted populace cannot be trusted to fulfil its obligations. Sovereign default has always been a problem in the developing world - and even sometimes in Europe. The U.S., which has avoided crippling levels of debt, has never defaulted, and probably never will - technically. There's a much cleaner way to get away from debt.

A massive, rapid dollar inflation will effectively shrink the amount of debt carried by anyone who owes dollars. Thus, a 50% devaluation could drop the U.S. public debt from 66% of GDP to 33% of GDP, once prices adjust*. Borrowers would win big - half their debts would effectively be written off. Lenders would lose big - half their dollar assets would disappear.

This scenario has never developed because most of U.S. debt has been held by Americans, and there's a hefty deadweight loss associated with inflation. However, if the government keeps doling out trillions, and American debt (public and private) is held increasingly by China, Dubai, and Russia, the benefits of devaluation begin to outweigh its costs to Americans.

How would the government do this? Usually, the Federal Reserve likes to change the value of the dollar the classy way, by shifting interest rates and buying and selling Treasury bills. When that doesn't work, they've got to do it the Robert Mugabe way, by printing greenbacks. And in case you think they'd never do that - or it wouldn't work - check the news today. The Fed used the promise of printing money to achieve a 3% one-day drop against the Euro.

It may be 10 or 20 years before debts get so cripplingly large that the president starts to pressure the Fed into abandoning its non-inflationary mandate. In all likelihood, the bank will never have to respond: when holders of U.S. dominated debt (read: China) get antsy about the future prospects of the dollar, they'll dump them at a loss, causing a devaluation the same as if the Fed printed money. We might get a devaluation much sooner than we'd planned just because our creditors lose faith. In the short term, at least, this is a more likely scenario, similar in spirit to Krugman's 1979 effort "A Model of Balance of Payments Crises".

Whether it's a sneak attack by the printers at the Fed, or a pre-emptive strike by Beijing, look for the dollar to depreciate - a lot - in the coming decades.

* It's unlikely that the benefit of devaluation would be 1-for-1: the chaos, loss of trust in the dollar, and retaliation by other countries would eat up a big chunk of the gains.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's the Eponymy, Stupid

Anyone remember the "Books Never Written" jokes popularised by Boys Life? E.g. "Why Should I Walk?" by Iona Carr. Well, here's one book that was written:
"Field Guide to Cookies"
The author? Anita Chu.

Besides humorous authoring, Ms. Chu is a structural engineer and a baker. She tells the NY Times, "Butter is like the concrete you use to pour the foundation of a building, so it’s very important to get it right: the temperature, the texture, the aeration." (Home bakers, by the way, may benefit from the article on butter).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Stimulus Spending

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent run down of a decade of Keynesian policy in Japan.
In 1992, Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa faced falling property prices and a stock market that had sunk 60% in three years. Mr. Miyazawa's Liberal Democratic Party won re-election promising that Japan would spend its way to becoming a "lifestyle superpower." The country embarked on a great Keynesian experiment:

August 1992: 10.7 trillion yen ($85 billion). Japan passed its largest-ever stimulus package to that time, with 8.6 trillion yen earmarked for public works, 1.2 trillion to expand loan quotas for small- and medium-sized businesses and 900 billion for the Japan Development Bank. The package passed in December, but investment kept falling and unemployment rose. By the end of the year, Japan's debt-to-GDP ratio was 68.6%.

April 1993: 13.2 trillion yen...

September 1993: 6.2 trillion yen... The economy didn't respond. By the end of the year, Japan's debt-to-GDP reached 74.7%.

February 1994: 15.3 trillion yen...

September 1995: 14.2 trillion yen...

April 1998: 16.7 trillion yen...

November 1998: 23.9 trillion yen... By the end of the year, debt-to-GDP hit 114.3%.

November 1999: 18 trillion yen... Debt-to-GDP reached 128.3%.
Since 1992, U.S. debt-to-GDP has hovered around 40%. Meanwhile, Japan's grew from 60% to a high of 180% in 2006. Back in 1990, plenty of people thought that Japan would overtake the U.S. as the world's economic superpower. That's not a worry you hear much anymore.

The U.S. has a unique opportunity to reassert its strength and economic vitality by giving the economy tough love in the coming year. We also have the possibility of reverting to the patterns of the rest of the developed world, the folks who have had 10% unemployment and massive public debts since the end of the Marshall Plan.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Spirit of Washington

David Brooks sings an elegy for sober governance:
Once America was a decentralized country, but now all roads lead to Washington. Mighty C.E.O.’s abase themselves before junior House members. Governors and mayors come groveling. The status of the lowliest bureaucrat has risen delightfully, and there is a feeling of overflowing abundance amid the national scarcity as Washington spends the trillions it doesn’t have. Such is the local boom that your humble ambassador can drive from his residence, and in a few minutes he can count 10 McMansions under construction.
But lo! There stands Corker like a damned stone wall... rally behind the Tennessean! As Horatius at the bridge, he stands his ground and keeps the hordes of voracious Tuscan CEOs at bay.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Rich and Poor in Haiti

My sister Kez has a terrific post about bridging the gap between Haiti's richest and poorest in her daily work there.
"He's 2 years older than me?" Abraham gawked. "But he's tiny! How is that possible?" Oh, Abraham! You have been so fortunate to be born into your family. You've never lived alone on the streets, you've never known real hunger...

Fares looked very seriously at me and said, "Miss [Keziah], I am going to be a radical and I am going to change this country."
Go on over and check it out - and lend her your prayers and encouragement as well if you know her.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Germany v. France in the BCS WWII Bowl

Nittany Line has an excellent parody of the BCS rankings, applied to World War II. Here's a hint:
The BCS commented " France had a single loss against Germany and following a preseason #1 ranking they only fell to #2."
Hat tip to Inos.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What's Best for Canada

Stephen Harper is shutting down the Canadian Parliament for the next month and a half. That makes him the wisest, most benevolent head of government on this side of Bhutan. While the rest of the West falls over itself passing ill-advised stimulus packages - the stimulus will last a few weeks, the debt will last for decades - Harper figured it was better to shut down his own parliament than to let the opposition take over and practice voodoo economics.

Better for him? Maybe. Six more weeks as Prime Minister of a non-meeting parliament isn't much of a prize, and his reputation will no doubt suffer for being so intransigent. But better for Canada? Almost certainly.

(evidently it's Canada Day at Global Review)

Health Insurance versus Health Care

In the looming discussion of nationalizing health care, I would like to add a helpful note on jargon: let's distinguish between health insurance and health care. Too often, those are considered synonyms, and the confusion in language has led to some confusion in policy.

Health care is, clearly, the receipt of medical services, including treatment and prevention. Universal health care is desirable for a host of reasons - humanitarian, economic, epidemiological, etc. I haven't met anyone who wishes health care was flatly denied to someone else. The debate over nationalization typically hinges on how to balance quality against distribution. Both are worthy goals; good people can disagree on the best balance.

Heath insurance, by contrast, is one means of paying for health care. Specifically, it involves pooling risk so that the unforeseen expenses don't bankrupt one's family. As with other kinds of insurance, risk-averse people are willing to pay somewhat more in expectation than if they self-insured; they are also prone to morally hazardous decisions.

As this country likely decides how to go about providing health care to as many people as possible, we should consider getting away from the insurance model. Most nationalized systems are basically big insurance plans, and the inefficiencies are substantial. The current system in the U.S. has broken down essentially because the inefficiencies associated with private insurance have become ponderous.

Whatever balance the new American health care system strikes, the goal we should all be able to agree on is that inefficiency - whether it comes from bureaucracy, externalities, or moral hazard - ought to be minimized. I and others who care more about the well-being of the American people than about telling them what to do will be favorably disposed toward the plan that offers the most health care with the least inefficiency.

A Worthwhile Canadian Initiative

Nicholas Kristof today highlights the most cost-effective way in the world to save lives and spur development.
Almost one-third of the world’s people don’t get enough iodine from food and water. The result in extreme cases is large goiters that swell their necks, or other obvious impairments such as dwarfism or cretinism. But far more common is mental slowness.
This is cheap and easy to fix.
Development geeks rave about the benefits of adding iodine and other micronutrients (such as vitamin A, iron, zinc and folic acid) to diets. The Copenhagen Consensus, which brings together a panel of top global economists to find the most cost-effective solutions to the world’s problems, puts micronutrients at the top of the list of foreign aid spending priorities.

"Probably no other technology," the World Bank said of micronutrients, "offers as large an opportunity to improve lives ... at such low cost and in such a short time."

Yet the strategy hasn’t been fully put in place, partly because micronutrients have zero glamour. There are no starlets embracing iodine. And guess which country has taken the lead in this area by sponsoring the Micronutrient Initiative? Hint: It’s earnest and dull, just like micronutrients themselves.

Ta-da — Canada!
So, for those of you who want to make a difference... I'm not sure what we're supposed to do. The MicroNutrient Initiative doesn't seem interested in donations. Anyone know of a way to contribute to ending iodine deficiency?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Long Shot for Steroids

Six players were suspended for doping by the NFL. Pat and Kevin Williams, the (unrelated) blocks of granite in Minnesota's run defense - suspended. An aging RB for the Saints, plus two defensive ends - suspended. And Bryan Pittman - suspended.

Bryan Pittman, the backbone of the Houston Texans, who had not missed a game since his 2003 debut, is gone. Who - tell me, who - will fill his shoes at long snapper? More to the point: was a long snapper really taking steroids? What for? The better to snap you with, my dear?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Memo to 12-year old boys

Deodorant can kill. Young, innocent Daniel Hurley will smell good at his own funeral.

Will deodorant kill you? Probably not. But ask yourself this: is it really a risk you're willing to take?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Would You Die for this Man?

A news article on today reminds me of Romans 5:7 (paraphrased slightly):
For it is rare for anyone to die for a righteous person, though somebody might be brave enough to die for a good pitcher.
In this instance, it's the Sawx pursuit of A.J. Burnett that's under discussion:
Amid speculation that the Red Sox are speaking regularly with the agent for A.J. Burnett in an attempt to land the pitcher, a baseball source said today that the Red Sox are still in the relatively early stages in negotiations with all free agents and that the team ultimately may be unwilling to pay the ultimate price for the pitcher.
It's true! They said that winning the World Series would change Boston fans, and make us complacent - and they were right. A good number two starter is available - and the Sox can't find anyone willing to pay the ultimate price! Time was, just a few years ago, fans would gladly immolate themselves for a fourth outfielder or a decent third base coach. Now? We can't even find a willing sacrifice for a proven starter.

The shame...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How Biased Is the Media?

Zogby International's post-election poll gives us an idea how effectively the media got across negative stories about the two tickets. This was a poll of self-identified Obama voters conducted last week. The results are a bit disturbing. Following a multiple-choice format, voters displayed their awareness, or lack thereof, of certain negative news from the campaign.
  • Aware that Palin was the candidate with a pregnant teenage daughter - 94%
  • Aware that Palin was the candidate with the pricey wardrobe - 86%
  • Aware that Biden was the candidate to predict Obama will be "tested" - 53%
  • Aware that Democrats currently control the House and Senate - 43%
  • Aware that Biden was the candidate who dropped out of an earlier presidential race due to plagiarism - 28%
  • Aware that Obama was the candidate who first won election by removing all opponents from the ballot - 17%
  • Aware that Obama was the candidate who said his energy policies would likely bankrupt the coal industry - 12%
This says a certain amount about the voters - less than half knew that Democrats control both houses of Congress. And it says a certain amount about the media - it managed to inform people very well of trivial "scandals", like Palin's wardrobe and Biden's "test" statement, and very poorly of serious content and history. The anti-Republican bias is also clear.

The group that commissioned the Zogby survey has a video of a dozen Obama voters trying to answer these questions on election day.

Hat tip to BOTWT.

An Infinite Number of Mathematicians Walk Into a Bar...

Great nerd joke, thanks to dave.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Most Valuable Jockey

Diminutive Dustin of the Boston Red Stockings won the MVP award; his teammate Kevin Youkilis came in third. Rob Bradford and Alex Speier posted a brief and incisive debate over who was the more deserving candidate on WEEI's webpage. They highlight lots of categories those two led, and who hit better against good pitching and who hit better in close-game situations.

The best stat, though, is this one, pertaining to Dustin "Swing For the Fences At Every Pitch" Pedroia:
Percentage of swings and misses on pitches faced: 8.1 (lowest in the AL)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tu Voto Es Secreto, Tu Firma No

How scary is Hugo Chavez's regime in Venezuela? For $1.50 on the street you can buy a government-produced database of all the registered voters in Venezuela, complete with information on whether they signed one of the anti-Chavez recall petitions, and what government welfare they receive. If you don't have time to go to Caracas, you can download the database here.

Besides Chavistas, the users of the Maisanta database include some well-known economists. One of the authors of this working paper presented it at my department today. Combining that database with household cross-sectional data from Venezuela, the authors find a significant increase in unemployment and a significant decrease in wages among those who signed one of the petitions in 2002-2003.

They presented this evidence in Venezuela, to which their audience said, "Duh. Why did you waste your time writing a paper about something so obvious?"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Another Bailout Needed!

Drudge highlights a vital industry frozen by the recent downturn. This one's a business for which the wankers in Washington and Brussels might actually be able to do something productive!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Today is Veterans Day. I had forgotten. The OpJo editorial brings home the horror of war with statistics from one day - the last day - of the Great War:
The guns fell silent 90 years ago today. Between the time that the terms of the Armistice were signed in the predawn hours of November 11, 1918 and the moment it came into effect at 11 o'clock that morning, the Western Front registered as many as 11,000 casualties, including a conservatively estimated 320 Americans killed and 3,200 wounded.
Still, it is good that war is terrible; we had until recently forgotten that and grown too fond of it.

Monday, November 10, 2008


McDonald's 8.2% rise in same-store sales worldwide this quarter is further evidence for the strong suspicion that golden arches food is an inferior good. The Dollar Menu looks more attractive the fewer dollars you have.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Don't Jinx Barry!

Congratulations to all those who voted for Obama last Tuesday. And now down to business. Don't call him "President" yet. That's scary. Don't you follow sports? Don't you know about jinxes? You don't want to screw this up.

We have a good term for Mr. Obama right now: President-Elect. It's now technically correct (according to the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, Sec. 3(c)), but it's a lot safer than President! An even better phrasing is something like, "presumptive 44th president".

If people keep on jinxing the winning candidate with this premature "President" talk, they're going to find boxes of uncounted McCain ballots lying around in swing states, or Barack's years as a Balinese pimp are going to explode into a career-ending scandal. So just leave the presumptive President-Elect well enough alone!

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Bradley Effect, and Fear of Winning

I'm afraid of what will happen if Barack Obama loses the election tomorrow. I'm afraid Europeans will pooh-pooh our electoral system and give John McCain four years of cold shoulder. The developing world will believe that the rich, establishment party stole the election from the challenger, just as many have seen happen in their own countries. (Iraqis will celebrate, at least - they'd have a U.S. president who believes their country is worth the wait.)

It would be worse within the U.S. Many liberals, young and/or uninformed, would easily believe that the election turned on fraud. After all, they've been watching CNN and MSNBC, and Obama has this election wrapped up, right? Many journalists, believing their own trope, will also view a McCain presidency as the unwanted, illegitimate child of an electorate they don't live with. They'll keep presenting all economic news as bad news, and assume the worst for another four years. (Remember the Clinton Era? We all knew the Dot-Com Bubble was a bubble, but the media reveled in it nonetheless, and blamed no one when it burst.)

I'm afraid that my liberal friends will hate my conservative friends if Obama loses this election. After all, they love their man, and we're lukewarm about ours. Obama losing to McCain would feel like a cosmic injustice. Obama, they believe, is the greatest thing since Kennedy or FDR or Lincoln. People who project messianic hopes onto their candidate are ill-prepared for his rejection. I'm afraid Erica Jong is right, and riots would break out in college towns or major cities.

I'm afraid that many black voters, already skeptical of the system, would be completely alienated - "We told you they wouldn't elect a brother". The media would be eager to report McCain as a beneficiary of the "Bradley Effect". But the Bradley Effect is dead. Obama far exceeded his polls during the primaries against Hillary Clinton. Still, the evidence won't be able to overwhelm the "we wuz robbed" gut feeling that is so familiar to sports fans. Instead of adventures in "post-racial" America, we'd likely see a retrenchment to the narrow interest politics that have dominated black electoral patterns (and left blacks under-served) since Reconstruction.

I'm afraid to try to explain a McCain victory in any words more than "More people voted for him". After all, this is the worst environment for Republicans since 1974. He shouldn't be able to win, not if we have two balanced parties. I'm afraid the media hasn't left people with an open mind about how this election will turn out. None of the meta-narratives embraced in this campaign call for the exciting young Illinoisan to lose fairly. If McCain does win (fairly), there'll be good technical reasons: young voters didn't show up, undecideds broke for the better-known senator, etc. But it'll be hard to sell those to an audience conditioned to believe only Obama could win a fair contest.

I predict an Obama win tomorrow, in the region of 350 electoral votes. But if, somehow, the polls are all wrong, and America elects John McCain, can't we all just get along? I hope so.

The Electoral System and Voting My Conscience

The U.S. electoral system is oft-maligned but provides checks and balances to the voting process of a very large republic. It also allows voters in states like mine, which is safely Democratic territory, to express our displeasure with both parties without affecting the election's outcome.

I was never an enthusiastic McCain voter, and his campaign pushed me to the point of ambivalence over the past two months. The biggest blow was McCain's muddled-yet-enthusiastic support for the bailout plan, which might be the worst Congressional bill of my lifetime.

In addition, McCain's campaign has shown a frightening inability to remain organized or on-message. That's not only ineffective campaigning, but it bespeaks an unreadiness to govern. The Republican establishment has united, thus, to defeat Barack Obama (a worthy goal), but not to elect John McCain.

The nomination of Sarah Palin for Vice President helped Mr. McCain's cause with true conservatives like myself. She arrives, after all, with reform and conservative credentials, and a realness that is refreshingly foreign to the elite "I'm-from-Washington-and-I'm-here-to-help" attitude embodied by Mr. Biden, among others. However, the campaign's deployment of Ms. Palin has erased much of that good feeling. Rather than campaigning as herself, she has been tasked with bulldogging Obama and pumping up crowds. She could have brought a common-sense, maternal integrity to the campaign, but the consultants (no doubt) believed she couldn't handle real campaigning and had to act as a glorified surrogate instead.

Thus, one day before the election, I remain an undecided voter. I won't vote for Obama. If he lived in Europe, he'd proudly call himself a socialist (he likes socialized medicine, socialized housing, socialized insurance). He hasn't found a problem he doesn't think government can solve. He hasn't found an issue on which he disagrees with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. He hasn't delivered on his promise to change the tenor of Washington politics. I urge those of you who live in swing states to vote for McCain - if only to forestall a government unified across all branches in its love for itself.

But I may not vote for McCain. Would Bob Barr (Libertarian) or Chuck Baldwin (Constitution) make a better president? Perhaps, perhaps not. But neither is going to be elected, and a vote for either registers my disillusionment with McCain. A vote for a third-party gives me a modicum of vengeance on a Republican Party that had a mandate to make government smaller, more transparent, and more fair and abandoned that mandate.

For whom will I vote? Ultimately, I might walk into the voting booth tomorrow at 7:15am without having made up my mind.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gifts and Loans

The NYTimes editorial page (which endorsed the $700 billion bailout one month ago) now bemoans the behavior of recipient banks.
Now, lo and behold, with $250 billion in bailout funds committed to dozens of large and regional banks, it turns out that many of the recipients of this investment from taxpayers are not all that interested in making loans.
Shockingly, the banks are not using the government's gift to extend loans, but to... wait for it.... buy up smaller, more profitable banks. That way, if JP Morgan Chase fails, an even bigger chunk of the banking industry goes down with her. Banking executives naturally want to protect their own futures, and ensure that everybody in the industry keeps getting a paycheck. Getting a big fat check from Uncle Sam is not going to turn them into philanthropists.

As I wrote to my Congresswoman last month,
Remember, what brought on this crisis was exuberant lending. No amount of bailing out is going to make bad loans look good to bankers now. An unsound business model is still going to be unsound, even if a government handout allows it to be solvent for a few extra weeks or months.
Banks behavior is perfectly rational. And perhaps politicians' behavior is also rational: they want to protect their jobs and benefit those who donate to their campaigns.

Will voters be rational next Tuesday, and throw out da bums? Here's a clarion call to voters of both parties: if the incumbents in your district and state voted for the bailout, vote against them on Tuesday. Let them know that we disapprove in real polls, not just the ones pollsters conduct.

Just a Pretty Face

It's a shame. An American vice-presidential candidate has been muzzled since nomination; hasn't given a press conference since September 7; hasn't met voters in a town-hall setting since September 10; has spewed inane talking points and canned rhetoric. Dana Milbank has the scoop (on Joe Biden, of course).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I'm not the first to carve a jack-o-lantern supporting Obama, and I won't be the last. But let's just remember that pumpkins - like acorns - don't have the vote in New York State, and I'll be voting against Obama.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bias Part II

Orson Scott Card isn't the only Democrat journalist furious with the flagrant pro-Obamitude of the media. Kirsten Powers of the NY Post notes that Biden is getting a free pass from the press:
Barack Obama's choice of Joe Biden as his running mate prompted a small wave of warnings about Biden's propensity for gaffes. But no one imagined even in a worse-case scenario such a spectacular bomb as telling donors Sunday to "gird your loins" because a young president Obama will be tested by an international crisis just like young President John Kennedy was.

Scary? You betcha! But somehow, not front-page news.

Again the media showed their incredible bias by giving scattered coverage of Biden's statements.

There were a few exceptions. On MSNBC's "Morning Joe," co-host Mika Brzezinski flipped incredulously through the papers, expressing shock at the lack of coverage of Biden's remarks. Guest Dan Rather admitted that if Palin had said it, the media would be going nuts.
I would add to Powers' remarks that Biden didn't get the kid-gloves treatment from the media when he was running against Obama, back in the primaries. His comment about Obama being "articulate and bright and clean" was heavily covered at the time. During her campaign against Obama, Hillary Clinton also felt (unfamiliar) opposition from the press.

Will the media be willing to hold an Obama administration accountable after they help elect him? Or will every economic failure and military snafu for the next eight years be blamed on George W. Bush?

Hat tip to James Taranto at BOTWT.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Card on the Media

Orson Scott Card is a novelist - Ender's Game, etc. - and (apparently) columnist. His sci-fi books focus on thorny ethical dilemmas, and characters act out their own salvation or destruction in the mode of Greek tragedy.

Card is angry now, principally at the media, and secondarily at his own party. Drudge links to the piece. Here are some excerpts.
An open letter to the local daily paper — almost every local daily paper in America...

[The credit crisis] was completely foreseeable and in fact many people did foresee it. One political party, in Congress and in the executive branch, tried repeatedly to tighten up the rules. The other party blocked every such attempt and tried to loosen them.

Isn't there a story here? Doesn't journalism require that you who produce our daily paper tell the truth about who brought us to a position where the only way to keep confidence in our economy was a $700 billion bailout? Aren't you supposed to follow the money and see which politicians were benefiting personally from the deregulation of mortgage lending?

I have no doubt that if these facts had pointed to the Republican Party or to John McCain as the guilty parties, you would be treating it as a vast scandal. "Housing-gate," no doubt. Or "Fannie-gate."

Instead, it was Senator Christopher Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank, both Democrats, who denied that there were any problems, who refused Bush administration requests to set up a regulatory agency to watch over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac...

These are facts. This financial crisis was completely preventable. The party that blocked any attempt to prevent it was ... the Democratic Party. The party that tried to prevent it was ... the Republican Party.

If you who produce our local daily paper actually had any principles, you would be pounding this story, because the prosperity of all Americans was put at risk by the foolish, short-sighted, politically selfish, and possibly corrupt actions of leading Democrats, including Obama.

If you who produce our local daily paper had any personal honor...

If you had any principles, then surely right now, when the American people are set to blame President Bush and John McCain for a crisis they tried to prevent, and are actually shifting to approve of Barack Obama because of a crisis he helped cause, you would be laboring at least as hard to correct that false impression.

If you had any personal honor...

...Honest people tell the truth even when they don't like the probable consequences....

Is getting people to vote for Barack Obama so important that you will throw away everything that journalism is supposed to stand for?

You're just the public relations machine of the Democratic Party, and it's time you were all fired and real journalists brought in, so that we can actually have a news paper in our city.
Congratulations to Card for taking on his own party and profession. And kudos to Bill O'Reilly for taking Barney Frank to task. Harshly.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Vicarious Victory

So the Red Sox lost a pitcher's duel last night. Our best wasn't as good as the Rays' best. The comeback in Game 5 preserved our dignity; the victory in Game 6 set up as exciting a baseball game as you can ask for. And our loss in Game 7 sent the best team in the AL to the World Series. Even I can admit that the Rays were the better team, both in the long haul and in a short series. It all boiled down to better starting pitching, game in, game out.

Why am I so comfortable with the loss? In no small part because during last night's 6th inning a woman dashed into the lounge where a few other fans and I were watching and breathlessly asked how the runs had scored. She was a Tampa Bay fan - and had been since going to Opening Day in 1998. Her family owns season tickets. She suffered through 10 seasons of ignominy. And she didn't really believe her team would pull it off. She said, in the 7th or 8th inning, "Even if they blow this, they've given us more than we could have imagined."

Watching a real fan take in the victory was good for the soul. She called her parents and planned for flying home to see Thursday's game in St. Petes. She was close to tears, hugging herself, hugging her friend, just staring at the bouncing mass of Tampa Bay players on the TV screen.

So for the real Tampa Bay fans - the ones who remember Fred McGriff... the ones who cheered Scott Kazmir when he was young and unproven... the ones who own ugly green-and-black gear, the ones who cried last night - GO RAYS!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Funniest. Candidate. Ever



And I went to bed early. The shame.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Over the Monster has a humorous take on the annual suffering serious baseball fans undergo at the hands (voices?) of the unserious, uninformed national announcers. If you've been frustrated by Chip Caray and co. this week, you'll enjoy this.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox have the Rays right where they want them. In elimination games since 2003, the Sox are 11-2, and twice won the ALCS after trailing 1-3 (or worse). Tremble, Tampa Bay fan(s?)!!

Bob Schieffer for President!

Last night's debate was so much better than the previous three, I was left wondering who had abducted my candidates and replaced them with interesting, intelligent human beings! Schieffer had permission to be more intrusive than the previous moderators, and he used his power well. Several times (but not too many) he interrupted one candidate to get the other's rebuttal on a characterization. Schieffer remained warm and avuncular throughout, and let the candidates free to go overtime when things really got interesting. Both seemed more on-the-ball and presidential than before.

Bob Schieffer's running mate should (of course) be Joe the Plumber. Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher was mentioned 22 times in the debate, much to his surprise. While watching last night, I said, "there should be a t-shirt for this". Sure enough, as of this writing CafePress features 289 different "Joe the Plumber" designs.

Schieffer-Plumber 2008: Avuncularity, Anonymity, Apposity.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lady In Red

Columbus Day weekend, Amsterdam and Lake George, New York.

Blog Action Day: Poverty

Today is Blog Action Day; thousands of bloggers are highlighting poverty issues to create awareness and stir action.

Better than anything I can contribute, check out my sister's blog, which chronicles her service in the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation. A recent post introduces us to new children at the home where she lives:
The older child was a 4 year old boy in the beginning stages of kwashikor, a protein deficiency malnutrition where the child's lower limbs become swollen, his hair turns orange and his skin begins to flake off. This boy only had the swollen legs. We prayed about him and talked it over together, but we decided not to take him. Dorothy's mission is supposed to be for infants and 4 years is a pretty long way beyond infant. I gave them peanut butter to feed the boy 3 times a day and we told the mother that we would talk to Dorothy and to other people that we know and see if we can find another solution for him.

We did take Miltha, the 9 month old girl. She is in a general state of malnourishment, simply because her mother is very malnourished so the breast milk she has been drinking has not been sufficient or abundant enough. She is strong enough to drink from a bottle, so we're going to start chunking her up!
Also, check out Inos' brief discussion of his stay in Muqattam, Egypt, a neighborhood where I've also worked.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mighty Mouse

The best laid plans of mice and men: Firefighters in Taiwan who were looking after the snake... thought that the live mouse would make a perfect lunchtime treat. But the furry creature had other ideas.

In the grand tradition of Brian Jacques' Matthias, the mouse won a thirty minute cage fight by slaying the viper.

Hat tip to BOTWT.

One Less Reason to Vote McCain-Palin

Tina Fey says she'll quit her show-stopping rendition of Sarah Palin if the real one wins the Vice Presidency in November. That's one less reason to go McCain-Palin (we're running thin here!)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bedeviling Rays

The Red Sox are about to open the ALCS at Tropicana "Field" in St. Petersburg. Studious fans know that place is haunted by catwalks and a history of bad baseball and bad blood. But what about the visiting team's accommodations? Apparently, the Vinoy Hotel is haunted. Read all about it:
[Scott Williamson:] "I looked, and someone was standing right where the curtains were. A guy with a coat. And it looked like he was from the 40s, or 50s, or 30s – somewhere around that era."

[Coach Frank Velasquez:] "The fact that it lined up with someone’s story that I never knew anything about just kind of helps me know that it was real."

Coach Gerald Perry... swears to this day that on the team’s third night in the hotel, he awoke to find his room door wide open when he knew he had bolted it shut before retiring to bed...

In the mid-1990s, the paper ran a story about a painting crew that fled their job site at the Vinoy after returning from a break to discover buckets of paint knocked off their scaffolding and splattered on the walls...

Thoroughly spooked, [John Frascatore's] family fled without their luggage. When they transferred to a room in the new wing of the hotel, front desk staff told them "that stuff happens all the time" in the old wing... Cito Gaston, whose hotel room door, which he’d locked and chained shut, kept opening in the middle of the night and then slamming. "Then I go check and nobody was there. Nobody was in the hallway. Nothing."

[Jay Gibbon] set the alarm clock on the bedside table, then washed up and prepared for bed. As he reached for the lamp, he noticed the clock he’d just set was now off. He sat up to reset it and discovered the cord draped over the dresser with the prong resting over the clock. “It kind of freaked me out” says Gibbons, "because the outlet was near the floor. How the hell did the plug get from down there to the top of the dresser and just stay there? Because I didn’t even move the clock."

It was at that moment Jon and Dana [Switzer] believed they saw the artwork hanging above their bed come to life. The painting depicted a garden scene with a woman in Victorian dress holding a basket with her right hand. According to John, her left hand, which had been by her chin, was now scratching the glass desperately to get out...

Gift shop workers... report frequently finding store items broken or moved when they arrive in the morning.
Ghosts or no ghosts (if this was Philadelphia, I'd assume it was fans causing mischief), the article concludes, the visiting team clubhouse at Tropicana Field is full of jumpy, bleary-eyed ballplayers in need of a good night’s sleep.

Hat tip to the CHB, Boston's own specter of the newsprint.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Life imitates Zohan. From the AP:
"It is not enough they (Israelis) are stealing our land. They are also stealing our civilization and our cuisine," said [Fadi Abboud, president of the Lebanese Industrialists Association]...

He said his group... seeks to claim [hummus,] the eggplant spread baba ghannouj and tabbouleh, a salad made of chopped parsley and tomatoes, as Lebanon's own.
The headline? Hummus War Looms Between Lebanon and Israel.

Hat tip to James Taranto at BOTWT

I Told You So

The Dow is down another 350 550 650 points today... after drops every day this week. The index has been down every single day since the bailout passed, by over 2000 points, or over 20% of the its September 30th value.

In the time it took me to write this, the reported value of the Dow dropped another 300 points.

Maybe the bailout didn't "rescue" the economy or "restore confidence" to Wall Street. Funny, huh?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"The Worst Debate Ever"

Politico does not think much of last night's Nod-off in Nashville.
Place the gravity of the moment next to the blah-blah-blah artifice of the rhetoric and overall insubstantiality of the evening and this is what you get: The worst presidential debate ever.
I can't claim as much expertise on the history of the debates, but apparently the rules and expectations have evolved toward the talking-point fests we've witnessed over the last few weeks. Sarah Palin has differed from the men in the race only in the transparency of her ignoring the questions.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


My sister in Haiti posted a series of photos from the island of Gonaives, showing the devastation left over there from Hurricane Ike.

NBC Explains the Bailout

Video of the SNL bailout conference is here.

Bring on the Rays!

Sox v. Rays: The Rumble in the Trop IX!


Two new blogs on the roll today: Free Convection, by reader and friend inos, and Kick-Boxing Rhinos by reader and old friend emily grace.

Free Convection yesterday noted the Pope's wise comments about the state of the global economy. Kick-Boxing Rhinos recently highlighted... yeah, that was immodest.

A question for Inos: what does "Free Convection" mean? Is that 'free' like, "Free Mandela!" or like "Free Donuts!"? And a question for emily grace: what was the word Madeleine L'Engle coined/used to refer to dragon excrement in A Wrinkle In Time or its sequel? Or am I misremembering something from my childhood?

Friday, October 3, 2008


To an electorate hungry for change, the current consensus in Washington is odious. The sitting President, both would-be successors, the Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader, House Minority Leader all agree on the single most important piece of legislation to cross the Capitol in decades.

A venerable professor in my department calls the $700 billion bailout "the worst Federal decision of my lifetime". Not a single Economics professor here is in favor. Four hundred economists wrote an open letter to Congress asking for patience and delay, at a minimum.

And yet, and yet: not a single of these unpopular "leaders", not one of the hungry presidential candidates, can muster the courage to stand with the American people and the economists against the financial interests? At a minimum, someone could say, "This is too rapid. We need time to digest and discuss the biggest investment of U.S. income since World War II." That would at least buy time for reality to set in!

Instead, the Senate sneakily initiated a taxation bill (this is unconstitutional), and loaded it with 400 pages of pork and tax giveaways to Congressmen's pet interests. The result may be a bill still worse than the first one passing a bribed and corrupt House.

Is there a challenge out to see which party or branch of government can become less popular? Will someone sue to force the Supreme Court to take a stand on Senate-initiated taxation?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

1907 Redux

I'm not the only one who thinks the 2008 Credit Crisis is comparable to the Panic of 1907. Gordon Crovitz writes in the Journal:
A key holdup to getting past this crisis is the continuing unknown of the remaining value of mortgage-based securities. In Morgan's day, price discovery resulted when he went around the room seeking details of balance sheets... Getting our arms around the scope of the bad debt would define the capital needs for banks, and there would be prices set that potential private-sector buyers of the debt could consider.
Wall Street doesn't need extra cash - they need a proper valuation of their own assets.

Dear Madame Representative

Dear Madame Representative,

Thank you for keeping the interests of the 99th District in mind in your consideration of the various Wall Street bailout proposals.

As a local taxpayer and economist by profession, I am concerned that Congress has been deceived by Wall Street. Wall Street and the finance industry claim that lending is crucial to American businesses everywhere. This is true enough. They also claim that an enormous bailout would solve the problem. This claim is not true.

If Congress gives $700 billion to Wall Street in exchange for worthless assets, where is the $700 billion going to come from? In the long run, from taxpayers like me. In the short run, it has to come from lenders. If the Federal Government is sucking $700 billion out of lending markets in the next year, lenders won't be able to loan that money to businesses that create jobs! What's more, the move will raise interest rates, making borrowing more expensive and dampening lending further.

Even if the government did not have to borrow the $700 billion in the short run, the bailout would probably not prevent a recession. Remember, what brought on this crisis was exuberant lending. No amount of bailing out is going to make bad loans look good to bankers now. An unsound business model is still going to be unsound, even if a government handout allows it to be solvent for a few extra weeks or months.

Suppose I am wrong. Suppose a $700 billion bailout really could prevent a recession. The most severe recession since World War II was the 1973-1975 recession. How much did the economy shrink? By about 5%. In today’s economy, a 5% contraction would be about $700 billion. Spending $700 billion to avoid a recession of less than $700 billion seems like a losing proposition to me – even if the bailout works.

Please vote against any resolutions that will use tax revenues or borrowing to bail out Wall Street.

Thank you for your time and your efforts.


- S***** F*****
Department of Economics
***** University

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


$700 billion is a lot of money, approximately equal to the annual output of the state of Florida, or of the six New England states. That's more than 5% of the total output of the United States. Only 16 countries worldwide produce that much in a year. And the Secretary of the Treasury has asked for that much in a one-shot attempt to stabilize U.S. financial markets.

As an economist, this seems to me a high-risk endeavor. The money will come from loans, which have to be paid back by future taxpayers regardless of the plan's success. As a taxpayer, I'm worried the proposal pursues a questionable goal: welfare for investment bankers?

Finance is not supposed to consume a large portion of a country's resources, but it's understood to enable growth. So when the financiers ask for their pound of flesh, do we pay up, or risk the consequences? Two countervailing credibility problems form the horns of this dilemma.

First, the prospect of a big bailout introduces a moral hazard. Investors at home and abroad should not be led to believe that Uncle Sam will cover losses once the cost gets high enough. Companies that become "too big to fail" are too big of a liability to us all.

Second, the prospect of a financial crash introduces a default problem that could become widespread. If insurers and loaners lack confidence in the ability of borrowers to repay - or to be backed up by the government - interest rates will rise, hurting the U.S. as a net debtor.

The recent history of this crisis is not encouraging. Remember the Fannie & Freddie bailout? The government made a commitment of up to $200 billion. That didn't save AIG or Lehman Brothers, and didn't turn the stock market around for more than a few days. Why should $700 billion now have any positive ripples when $200 billion a few weeks ago slid like a drop into the ocean?

Likewise, the oddest thing about the crisis is how limited it has remained in scope. Some economists say that financial markets are an important indicator of where the real economy is heading. Some economists say that consumer confidence is a vital indicator. Well, stocks have been falling steadily for a year, dwarfing the daily fluctuations. Consumer confidence is nearing all-time lows. But the real economy seems to be healthy! Unemployment is near long-run averages, labor productivity is rising, real wages are rising, and GDP growth is choppy but positive.

None of this guarantees that a recession is not "right around the corner." But it does cast doubt on financial and consumer confidence measures as indicators of economic activity. Do we really need to pull out all the stops to "save" an economy that's plugging along on the strength of export-driven activity? This is no boom, but the fundamentals of the economy are, ironically enough, strong.

These twin doubts - in the efficacy of a potential bailout and in the actual extent of the crisis - make me leery of any expensive bailout package. I offer a rare commendation to legislators from both parties who greeted the $700 billion Rube Goldberg machine with skepticism. Here's hoping they can't agree on anything, at least until we know more about the extent of the crisis and the likelihood of success.

This is cross-posted on Watchblog.

Rochester Marathon

I ran the Marathon in formal shoes and slacks! And at mile 25, I'm still looking chipper, while Mike (in that unstylish number) really looks beat-up. More pics here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Annenberg Records

Now that reporters have had time to pore over the records of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (background here), its details are emerging - both of Barack Obama and terrorist William Ayers's involvement and of the CAC's operations and goals. Stanley Kurtz finds the CAC a disturbingly radical organization.
[T]he Daley archive contains additional board minutes, the Collaborative minutes, and documentation on the groups that CAC funded and rejected. The Daley archives show that Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers worked as a team to advance the CAC agenda...

CAC translated Mr. Ayers's radicalism into practice. Instead of funding schools directly, it required schools to affiliate with "external partners," which actually got the money. Proposals from groups focused on math/science achievement were turned down. Instead CAC disbursed money through various far-left community organizers, such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or Acorn)...

CAC records show that board member Arnold Weber was concerned that parents "organized" by community groups might be viewed by school principals "as a political threat." Mr. Obama arranged meetings with the Collaborative to smooth out Mr. Weber's objections.
Kurtz paints a picture of an ideologically centered organization, seeking not to improve the education of city students but to educate them in "political consciousness, Afrocentricity and bilingualism". These goals may or may not be invidious, but they are certainly not ones I would want promulgated across the land (at the expense, as noted above, of math and science). In a position to do good in his community, Mr. Obama chose instead to push a political agenda. Why would he do differently as president?

When in control of grant money, Mr. Obama chose not to give the money to public schools, but rather to private groups. But now as a politician he opposes school choice because money would be leaving public schools. Is this a principled position, or just leftodoxy?

The CAC history also provides further evidence that Mr. Ayers launched Barack Obama's rise from ineffectual community organizer.
One unsettled question is how Mr. Obama, a former community organizer fresh out of law school, could vault to the top of a new foundation? In response to my questions, the Obama campaign issued a statement saying that Mr. Ayers had nothing to do with Obama's "recruitment" to the board. The statement says Deborah Leff and Patricia Albjerg Graham (presidents of other foundations) recruited him. Yet the archives show that, along with Ms. Leff and Ms. Graham, Mr. Ayers was one of a working group of five who assembled the initial board in 1994. Mr. Ayers founded CAC and was its guiding spirit. No one would have been appointed the CAC chairman without his approval.
Mr. Obama has displayed a consistently leftist ideology in his decisions throughout life. It's only in his rhetoric that the "one America" emerges.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Not to brag, but...

I didn't take the photo - it was a candid shot by a D&C photographer. But still, I can brag about the subject, can't I?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Help for those in need

This is an interesting form of philanthropy:
NBA star Doug Christie and his wife, Jackie, announce that they will purchase 3,000 shares of corporate stock to help with the AIG financial crisis. The Christies, who are no strangers to helping people in need, have graciously used their star appeal to bring awareness to the issue...

"We encourage all our fellow men and woman to buy at least two stocks to help with the global economic crisis," said Jackie Christie. "We want everyone to step up and help in any way that they can. This is a huge crisis we face, but together we can make a difference. Do not just sit by and watch."
Save America's suffering investment bankers! Hat tip to BOTWT.
English-to-Pirate translation engines exist! Hat tip to Trina.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Summer Wanes

Yes, we did make homemade pretzels from scratch! No, I have no idea why blogger insists on flipping that picture on its side!

Ask An Economist

As an economist, I get asked about financial crises a lot. And I really don't know much more than the average informed citizen: my branch of economics is not concerned with firm-level finance. Stephen Levitt, of Freakonomic fame, sounds a similar note:
As an economist, I am supposed to have something intelligent to say about the current financial crisis. To be honest, however, I haven’t got the foggiest idea what this all means. So I did what I always do when something related to banking arises: I knocked on the doors of my colleagues Doug Diamond and Anil Kashyap, and asked them for the answers.
Diamond and Kashyap's response - lengthy but comprehensible - is on Levitt's blog.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Is Barack Obama Muslin?

Inquiring minds want to know! In fact, Obama has never denied being Muslin! For the answer, click here. For a little more on this, click here.

Hat tip to James Taranto at BOTWT.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

No Taxation For Yankeedom!

If this is what my New York state taxes go to support, I might just go into (state) tax revolt. Woodstock museums and Bridges to nowhere are bad enough, but this is a bridge too far.
Assemblyman Richard Brodsky said the commitment of $550 million to $850 million in taxpayer money was based on an unsubstantiated threat that the Yankees would leave New York. He said in a new report that the team predicted the public investment would generate 1,000 new permanent jobs, but the actual total would be 15.
Comparably, Hillary's $1,000,000,000 earmark subsidy for "Destiny USA" - a mall in Syracuse, NY, is an equal abuse of taxpayer money by narrow local interests. Why is this not seen as flagrant corruption? OK, so that is how Rolling Stone sees it.

Hat tip to Drudge

Monday, September 15, 2008

Clinton in McCain's House

John McCain was asked recently in an interview whether he would offer Hillary Clinton a cabinet position in his administration. He replied with something diplomatic about how she wants to remain in the Senate where she will be an influential legislator together with whom the president will need to work. Still, I can see a place for a Clinton in a McCain administration - but not Hillary.

Last year, Bill Clinton was often floated as a possible Ambassador to the United Nations in a potential Hillary (or other Democratic) presidency. That position is probably the best one for him, and he is probably the best man for the job - Democratic or Republican. Like any ambassador, he would not be responsible for creating policy, so his presence would not give undue influence to the voters of 1992. He would, however, be responsible for diplomatic strategizing, confronting those enemies so recalcitrant they lack a Washington embassy, and being the face of the U.S.A. in Manhattan's global village.

These jobs would emphasize Bill Clinton's strengths, furthering his bipartisan disaster relief work, and letting him serve his country just a few miles from his Harlem office. It would rehabilitate his image as a statesman, tarnished in the Democratic primary (and leave him free to re-tarnish it in another bruising Hillary run in 2012).

The appointment of Clinton would let McCain emphasize his differences with the Bush administration on foreign policy - which are small, but significant. McCain agreed with Bush (and Hillary) on the need for a war in Iraq in 2003, a disastrous misjudgment in my view. He agreed with Bush (but not Hillary) on the need to win the war decisively, despite the setbacks of 2006, a vital long-term decision in my view. But McCain could show a different style in his prosecution of these policies: showing more respect for allies and working within rather than around international institutions.

Just as the Bush foreign policy style can be best characterized with the appointment of UN Ambassador John Bolton, McCain's could set the tone for a new era - and apologize to the world for defeating their darling, Barack Obama - by appointing Bill Clinton to this high-profile position.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Some pointers on the Great White North. It's really big. And it sucks.

(According to the Arrogant Worms).

Global Review Scoops Rove

Karl Rove offers essentially the same analysis in his article today as Global Review put forth last week. I wrote:
If Obama continues to be drawn into an open, candidate-to-candidate fracas about experience [versus Palin], then McCain clearly wins... Obama can win this battle and lose the war if the media will run with it.
Rove wrote, at greater length:
It's a matchup he'll lose. If Mr. Obama wants to win, he needs to remember he's running against John McCain for president, not Mrs. Palin for vice president... Mr. Obama has again started a debate he can't win.
People who say that the Palin choice stripped McCain of his best talking point against Obama miss the point: Palin was the bait, and the Obama campaign's esophagus is where the hook, line, and sinker are right now. Obama will have to extricate himself if he's going to get any traction and regain control of the dialogue. Comments about porcine makeup aren't helping.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Paglia on Feminism

Writer Camille Paglia, a liberal and libertarian, has one of the more compelling articles I've read recently in her Salon column. She makes her position on the upcoming election clear, but goes on to criticize her own side in clear, philosophical terms. Almost as a side note, she makes explicit an argument in favor of legal abortion that reveals its own structural underpinnings.
Oh, the sadomasochistic tedium of McCain's imprisonment in Hanoi being told over and over and over again at the Republican convention. Do McCain's credentials for the White House really consist only of that horrific ordeal? do McCain's sufferings in a tiny, squalid cell 40 years ago logically translate into presidential aptitude in the 21st century? Cast him a statue or slap his name on a ship, and let's turn the damned page...

Conservative though she may be, I felt that Palin represented an explosion of a brand new style of muscular American feminism. At her startling debut on that day, she was combining male and female qualities in ways that I have never seen before. And she was somehow able to seem simultaneously reassuringly traditional and gung-ho futurist. In terms of redefining the persona for female authority and leadership, Palin has made the biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment.

As a dissident feminist, I have been arguing since my arrival on the scene nearly 20 years ago that young American women aspiring to political power should be studying military history rather than taking women's studies courses, with their rote agenda of never-ending grievances.... It is certainly premature to predict how the Palin saga will go. I may not agree a jot with her about basic principles, but I have immensely enjoyed Palin's boffo performances at her debut and at the Republican convention, where she astonishingly dealt with multiple technical malfunctions without missing a beat. A feminism that cannot admire the bravura under high pressure of the first woman governor of a frontier state isn't worth a warm bucket of spit.

Let's take the issue of abortion rights, of which I am a firm supporter. As an atheist and libertarian, I believe that government must stay completely out of the sphere of personal choice... But the pro-life position, whether or not it is based on religious orthodoxy, is more ethically highly evolved than my own tenet of unconstrained access to abortion on demand. My argument (as in my first book, "Sexual Personae,") has always been that nature has a master plan pushing every species toward procreation and that it is our right and even obligation as rational human beings to defy nature's fascism...

Hence I have always frankly admitted that abortion is murder, the extermination of the powerless by the powerful. Liberals for the most part have shrunk from facing the ethical consequences of their embrace of abortion, which results in the annihilation of concrete individuals and not just clumps of insensate tissue.
Read the whole article.

Gordon Brown Endorses Himself

There's a "row" over British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's endorsement of Barack Obama, breaking the honored convention of non-involvement in foreign elections. Brown, after all, will have to work with whomever is elected.
The Prime Minister's office and the British Embassy in Washington were last night involved in an embarrassing behind-the-scenes operation to try and limit the fallout from the incident. They were alerted after the highly influential Drudge Report website picked up the story, sparking a flurry of comment and analysis from election watchers in the US.
The Telegraph notes that Brown's endorsement is "of dubious value" - Brown is as unpopular in Great Britain as he is unknown in America. That suggests that the real target of the endorsement is Brown himself. He wants to sidle up to Obama - wildly popular in England and throughout Europe - in hopes that British voters will associate Labour with the Democrats.

This hope seems far-fetched as well: American politics hasn't been a decisive issue in London politics since Lord North's government fell.

Hat tip to Drudge

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


The Red Sox have a tasteful Thank You ad in the Globe today, appreciating the 16 million ticket buyers who helped the team set a record for consecutive sellouts. It offers some valuable statistical insight into the stupidity of proposing marriage in front of 37,000 of your closest friends.
648 Marriage proposals
359 Yesses and 89 Maybes
That's over 456 games. Not only are these guys so uncreative that there's more than one proposal per game, 31% of them get shot down flatly! Please, men, at the game you should be on your seat or on your feet, not on your knees.

Cowboy Up

Doug from Soxaholix has the best spin on the world-ending Brady injury:
C'mon, people. It's embarrassing. Cowboy the f*** up. Look at it as a challenge — Now you really get to see what a genius Belichick is as he works his magic without Brady.
We should at least allow Matt Cassell the dignity of losing a game before we all queue up on the Tobin Bridge.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Religious Oppression

Muslims in Western China are subject to a set of stringent rules reminiscent of the Book of Daniel or the depredations of Antiochus Epiphanes. NYTimes reports:
The rules include prohibiting women from wearing veils and men from growing beards, as well as barring government officials from observing Ramadan...

The limits on religious practices put in place by local governments appear to be part of the broader security crackdown. The areas affected by the new rules are near Kuqa, a town struck by multiple bombings on Aug. 10.
Is there any more effective way to turn a population against its government than by forbidding people from practicing their religion and traditions? If this doesn't create more militants and separatists, I don't know what will.

Meanwhile, in Cairo, oppressed Christian minority slum-dwellers in Muqattam are still waiting for the government to fully respond to a massive rock-slide Saturday. At least 31 are dead; those buried in the rubble have not yet been counted. The government seems to be treating this as a police operation: the victims are being treated as a security threat rather than cared for.

Hat tip to inos.

Objects in Mirror Are Closer than They Appear

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Zapped Willow

On Craig's List today:
My brother had a willow tree taken down after it was hit by lightening a month ago. Because it was hit by lightening most of the sap was zapped out of it so is lighter than normal.
Best of CL!

Loaded for Moose

Sarah Palin showed last night (transcript, video) why John McCain selected her as running mate (besides the ethics-reformer, popular-governor, social-conservative reasons).

Mitchell of Chicago Sun-Times states, "Sarah Palin may come from the backwoods of Alaska, but she has the heart of a street fighter." Shanahan of The Sun writes, "Democrats and their Lefty media backers had been sneering that she was a small town nobody... You will not be hearing that again." Romano for Newsweek says, "The most powerful part, at least for the journalists in attendance, came about a quarter of the way in... I say 'powerful,' but mostly I mean 'terrifying.'" Marketwatch notes a significant uptick in voter perceptions of Palin's efficacy following the speech. WSJ asks, "Is there still an enthusiasm gap?" Kay of National Post writes, "Her pointed barbs at Obama's weaknesses were legitimate, and slyly, amiably expressed." The Trib opines, "And if you're a Democrat, don't be too swift to dismiss Sarah Palin as just a compelling and talented speaker."

The difference one evening can make!

Update: RedState breaks news that Palin's TelePrompter stopped functioning halfway through the speech:
Unfazed, Governor Palin continued, from memory, to deliver her speech without the teleprompter... Contrast this to Barack Obama who, when last his teleprompter malfunctioned, was left stuttering before a crowd unable to advance his speech until the problem was resolved.
Hat tip to Drudge

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Anbar Awakening

OpJo notes an astounding event:
[O]n Monday, U.S. forces formally handed control of a now largely peaceful Anbar to the Iraqi military. "We are in the last 10 yards of this terrible fight. The goal is very near," said Major-General John Kelly, commander of U.S. forces in Anbar, in a ceremony with U.S., Iraqi and tribal officials. Very few in the American media even noticed this remarkable victory...

For Iraqi politics, the Anbar handover is especially meaningful because the Shiite-dominated Iraq military will now provide security in a largely Sunni province. Anbar is the 11th of 18 provinces that the coalition has turned over to Iraq control, but the first Sunni province. The government of Nouri al-Maliki now has a further chance to show its ability to represent the entire country, the way it did when the Iraqi military routed Shiite militias in Basra and Sadr City in the spring.
Wow. The U.S. is pulling out of Anbar on its own terms, with (some) Sunna and Shia in agreement. That was unthinkable two years ago.

Coup d'Etat

McCain's campaign may have scored a coup d'etat with the appointment of Palin. If Obama continues to be drawn into an open, candidate-to-candidate fracas about experience, then McCain clearly wins. Right now the top banners on Drudge Report are:

MCCAIN: 'She's been in elected office longer'
Obama can win this battle and lose the war if the media will run with it.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Governor Palin

Eschewing the obvious pun on Governor Sarah Palin's name, any analysis of this suddenly-famous Alaskan is basically a comparison to the three men already in the race. Palin was Global Review's favorite for the veep slot (I regret I didn't write that a few days ago), and she brings strengths to the race, in a way perhaps only Governor Bobby Jindal could have matched.

Palin and McCain.
  • Palin's young; McCain is old. Balance.
  • Palin's female; McCain is male. Balance.
  • Palin's a former mayor and sitting governor; McCain is a legislator. Balance.
  • Palin's strongly pro-life; McCain is weakly pro-life. Balance.
  • Palin's warm and cuddly; Cindy McCain is powerful, and quiet about her good deeds. Who's really the first lady here?
  • Palin's a proved reformer; McCain is a proven reformer. Emphasis.
  • Palin's not very loyal to the GOP; McCain is not very loyal to the GOP. The voters are not very loyal to the GOP.

Bottom line: Palin balances the ticket very well and exemplifies the strengths of the next generation of the GOP.

Palin and Biden
  • Palin's a reformist governor; Biden is an old-school senator. Palin wins.
  • Palin's well-spoken and poised; Biden is your uncle after too many drinks. Palin wins.
  • Palin is a woman; Biden is a tough debater. Neutralization of a key Biden strength.
  • Palin has a cute family; Biden has a cute family. Neutralization.
  • Palin has a working class husband; Biden has working class family. Neutralization.
  • Palin's balances her ticket; Biden balances his ticket.

Bottom line: Biden's a bigger, stronger senator than Obama, and there was a risk he could run roughshod over a Romney or a Pawlenty. He can't run roughshod over Palin without looking ungentlemanly; besides, she's spritelier.

Palin and Obama
  • Obama's young, Palin's younger.
  • Obama has no executive experience, Palin's the only executive in the race.
  • Obama's an outsider, Palin's a further-outsider.
  • Obama started in dirty Chicago politics, Palin reformed dirty Alaska politics.
  • Obama's got a brief record, Palin's got a briefer record.
  • Obama has a great public persona, Palin has a great public persona.
  • Obama has a great personal narrative, Palin has a good personal narrative.
  • Obama has a cute family, Palin has a cute family.
  • Obama's a novelty, Palin's a novelty.
  • Obama's African-American (13% of the U.S. pop), Palin's a woman (51% of the U.S. pop).
  • Obama's a loyal partisan, Palin assaulted the corrupt Alaska GOP from within.

Bottom line: I had to reverse the order of the comparisons here. In sketching this, it quickly became obvious why Palin was chosen: she mitigates almost all of Obama's innate advantages. At the bottom of the ticket, of course, she's can't punch her weight, but Obama's a hard candidate to land good punches on anyway. Palin represents a positive way of running against Obama: she can affirm all his personal strengths, but add to them actual executive experience.

Crucially, Palin can speak from personal experience on a number of issues. She has a son in the military - take that, Michael Moore. She's Alaskan, and her husband is an oilman of the blue collar variety, so she can speak knowledgeably about drilling. She's a woman who gave birth to a Down's Syndrome baby, so she can speak compassionately and passionately about children's right to life and the evils of eugenics. She was a mayor, so she can speak about hometown issues with a fluency the three senators in the race seriously lack. She was a governor and a reformist, giving her more executive experience than the three senators in the race combined.

She represents the future of the GOP. Palin-Jindal 2012, anyone?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Following Gustav

Stay tuned to Brendan Loy's Weather Nerd blog for updates on Hurricane Gustav. Loy is the guy who famously predicted cataclysm in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina hit.

Recession, My Ass

The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.3% in the 2nd quarter of 2008, which is above the long-term average. Exports increased as foreigners purchased more American goods with the weak dollar.

Can all the politicos and journalists who haven't got a clue please stop talking about the "recession"?