Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dip Once, And Forever Hold Your Piece

The New York Times reports on some useful science out of Clemson.
On average, the students found that three to six double dips transferred about 10,000 bacteria from the eater’s mouth to the remaining dip...

Professor Dawson said that Timmy was essentially correct. “The way I would put it is, before you have some dip at a party, look around and ask yourself, would I be willing to kiss everyone here? Because you don’t know who might be double dipping, and those who do are sharing their saliva with you.”
So finish that chip. If you want more dip on it, use an uncontaminated chip as a shovel. And for civilization's sake wash your hands when you arrive at someone's home for the Super Bowl party.

Two Schmucks For the Price of One!

Thank you, Florida! I'm looking forward eagerly to the bye-ku's on BOTWT for the two worst real candidates in the presidential race.

Dropping out on the left, John Edwards, a handsomely coiffed and handsomely remunerated trial lawyer decided to lead a populist revolt against corporations. His policies would have had the best chance of creating a massive recession: trade restrictions, environmental restrictions, financial market restrictions, and zero restrictions on punitive verdicts. Even Democrats rejected Edwards because he promised to govern on behalf of a segment of the population, not to be president of all Americans.

Dropping out on the right-center, Rudolph Giuliani, a hard-nosed scrapper who traded his way up by being a tough lawman. He was a poor judge of people - wives and police chiefs - and would have brought an ego and attitude the size of the Empire State building to Washington. The only way he could sell himself to the electorate, he found, was to be ever tougher. He promised to be tough on illegal immigrants and tough on Al Qaeda. But it's more probable that if elected he would have been tough on Congress, tough on America's allies, and tough to vote out of office.

We're a long way from having a president, but we're a little closer to having a good one.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Executive Orders

If the presidency were a card game, President Bush's latest executive order would be a card that directs the person playing it to immediately forfeit all his Political Capital. It positions him well, however, to earn a lot of Legacy Points and win back the Republican Party's economic base. It may also serve as a wedge, forcing Democratic congressional leaders and presidential candidates to take a side on the issue: a true dilemma for those whose business it is to please all the people all the time.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Stocks Are Up

Apparently, Romney won the Republican debate last night. He went from distant second to distinct first-place at InTrade political securities. He last traded at $51.50, with McCain close behind at $44. The market is fluid though: in light trading, the latest bid is $52, but the latest ask is $59, reflecting a lack of market consensus on exactly how valuable he is. The spread on McCain is even larger, with a bid of just $26.

Giuliani utterly failed to distinguish himself in a very placid debate. The results are in: he last traded at just $7.60.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What Does This Remind You Of?

In the craziest news today, Hamas militiamen broke down the wall between Gaza and Egypt and 350,000 of them entered the Sinai Desert looking for food.

When's the last time 350,000 hungry people made a stunning escape into the Sinai... hmmm.

Hat tip to Drudge

Raising the Stakes

In all the presidential primaries so far, national convention delegates have been awarded according to inscrutable formulae, such as the one in Nevada which awarded Obama more delegates though Clinton won a majority of the popular vote. That changes next week.

Florida's primary, on January 29th, is winner-take-all and awards 57 Republican convention delegates. Winner-take-all isn't really winner-take all: in Florida, like Michigan and others, the winner of the state gets a bundle of statewide delegates, but district delegates are also awarded. The current leader in delegates is Romney with 59; Huckabee has 40 in second place and McCain 36. With a win in Florida, any of these candidates could become a bona fide front-runner.

Right now, InTrade political securities have McCain Florida shares selling at $50, Romney at $35 and Giuliani at $12. It appears that Thompson's withdrawal boosted Romney and sunk Giuliani.

Here's a helpful link on all the state's delegate totals and award process.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Most Valuable Statistician

Mike Lowell expresses Bayes Rule in a comprehensible form:
"If it's 99 percent accurate, that's going to be seven false positives," the Red Sox third baseman said Thursday before the annual dinner of the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. "Ninety-three percent is 70 guys. That's almost three whole rosters.
Put in those terms, blood testing is a very hard sell. But how else can MLB really stop the cheating?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Video of Randy Moss Beating a Florida Woman

It's all over the news: allegations that New England wideout Randy Moss assaulted a Florida woman. Moss says it didn't happen.

Global Review, however, acquired exclusive footage of Moss beating a Florida woman badly:

The woman in the video, wearing number 37, is James Butler.


This was originally a comment in response to Casey Zak's post about recent cosmological findings.
Calling these "awarenesses" [Boltzmann brains] brains is more an analogy than a comparison: the conditions under which the fluctuations of matter produce awareness is are infinitely more common than the conditions that produce aware brains.

This is (yet another) advance in science that makes the theory of atheistic origins seem less plausible than theistic ones.

All theories of origins require a belief in something eternal; atheistic origins take matter as eternal. Theistic origins take God as eternal. Either one requires a massive amount of faith; but the very fact of one’s own existence - or even the possibility of anything existing - is mindbendingly awesome. Seriously, think about it.

Theistic origins are more plausible because once a powerful, intelligent, eternal being is assumed, the rest of the cosmos follows logically, if simplistically. Why do atoms, ecosystems, and humans look like we were carefully designed? Because we were.

Atheistic origins require not only a faith in the eternity of matter, but the belief that enough random processes fell the right way, overcame entropy and chaos through sheer chance, and actually occurred. As these new calculations show, it is in fact infinitely more likely that we do not exist. I, dear reader, am only a figment of your fluctuating imagination, as are you and all history.

I find it much less a leap of faith to believe in a God I actively experience and encounter than to believe that the rest of my experiences and encounters are infinitely unlikely and yet occurred.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Johnson or King?

Behind the petty insults in the Democratic race, there might be a real difference in philosophy of social change.

First, some background. Hillary Clinton, trying to puncture the reverie of Barack Obama's rhetorical uplift, said:
"Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964... It took a president to get it done."
I don't think this is racist, even though President Johnson himself had questionable views on "uppity negros". However, it gives a window into Hillary Clinton's world. She believes that the key figure in the Civil Rights movement was a white Texan president. He was, in her calculus, more necessary than Martin Luther King, Jr.

But ask yourself this: without LBJ, would King et al have been able to pressure Washington into passing Civil Rights legislation? Without MLK, would Johnson have pushed for a Civil Rights bill?

While I disagree with the political ends of both Democrats, I find the means that Obama apparently favors far more attractive.

You Don't Know From Credit Crunch!

If you think 2007's subprime mortgage crisis was fun, just wait for this one. According to Moody's, growing entitlement spending could put the Federal government's Triple-A rating at risk in as little as 10 years.

Do we need to fix Social Security? Cut back on Medicare? It's either that, or slash a lot of spending and raise a lot of taxes in other areas.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"Thanks for nothing, Grandma"

Exit polls show that it was elderly women who helped Hillary carry New Hampshire (and embarrass Global Review in the process). As one of my friends said last night, "Thanks for nothing, Grandma".

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


You read it hear first: Global Review is predicting that Obama wins with over 50% of the Democratic vote. Clinton and Edwards will compete to break 20%.

Someone Is Looking Smart

Giuliani is hardly contesting New Hampshire. He's not fighting for Michigan. He won't show in South Carolina.

He's crazy. Crazy like a fox: Romney came out of Iowa in worse shape from his 2nd place finish than did McCain (4th) or Giuliani (6th). Similarly, McCain and Romney (and even Huckabee, for different reasons) have a lot at stake in New Hampshire. Giuliani can come in behind Ron Paul again and not compromise his campaign.

The G.O.P. campaign seems like it's shaping up as a tournament; or at least a series of one-on-one contests. Iowa was Huckabee v. Romney; New Hampshire is Romney v. McCain. The latter two will rematch in Michigan. South Carolina could end up being Thompson v. Huckabee, particularly if Michigan and New Hampshire split. A candidate can be knocked out only in primaries he contests.

Giuliani, therefore, earns the equivalent of a first-round bye. In Florida, he'll be pitted against whomever has emerged from the previous contests. It could be three-way: the winner of Huckabee-Thompson, the winner of Romney-McCain, and Hizzoner. But I'm guessing that a clear front-runner will emerge after South Carolina - Huckabee if he runs away with the state, the winner of McCain-Romney otherwise, and this frontrunner will challenge Giuliani.

Thus, in the spirit of creating an NCAA Division 1A football playoff, add to the list of proposed presidential primary reforms a sporting alternative: candidate playoffs. Seriously, this could work.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Hillary Dies On the Stump

Dana Milbank has a video essay chronicling an event today in New Hampshire that could well be the death of the Hillary campaign. If nothing else, it shows how easy it will be to beat this politician in November.

Click here to launch the video, or read Milbank's accompanying article.

Coda: Second-Guessing the Bill Strategy

Hillary's campaign had one big, big asset: Bill Clinton. He's wildly popular with those who remember him, connects with new voters like no one else, and is a headline machine. However, he also has outshined Hillary on more than one occasion. Particularly in Iowa, overuse of Bill made Hillary look small - and dynastic.

Hillary's show in Iowa confirmed my belief that the Clinton campaign could have gotten a lot more bang for their Bill by deploying him one state ahead. That is, he should "soften up" the ground for Hillary by being in New Hampshire while she was in Iowa, and in Nevada while she's in New Hampshire. That way the Clintons can dominate headlines and local news while it's less crowded, but still have something "new" to put on TV (specifically, the candidate herself) during crunch time.

In addition, deploying Bill one state ahead would implicitly answer the question, "Why is he here when she's running?" When the full campaign arrived, Hillary would arrive with it, and Bill - like a graceful opening act - would move on to the next location.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Sayyid Qutb

I think it is awesome that Republican candidates for president are name-dropping dead Muslim philosophers:
[Huckabee:] ... and Governor Romney mentioned Sayyid Qutb, executed in Egypt in 1966. He is one of the major philosophers behind this. And the fact is, there is nothing about our attacking them that prompts this. They are prompted by the fact they believe that they must establish a worldwide caliphate that has nothing to do with us other than we live and breathe and their intention is to destroy us.
Candidates should know this type of thing - and Americans should be aware as well.

Some background on Sayyid Qutb is here, some of his writings are on Google Books; the full debate transcript is here.

Friday, January 4, 2008


The Washington Post's Stumped election advice column headlines a question I sent in. Though it's actually hypothetical for me, I'm sure it's true for someone, and it's fun to have a question answered by a blogger I admire. Here's part of Stumped's response:
Dear E&O,

The office of California's Secretary of State was initially stumped when I called to make sure there would be no legal hurdles for a New Hampshire transplant who moves in that "magical window" (as the press officer put it) and wants to partake in a second primary. But the office got back to me to say, somewhat grudgingly, come on over.
Read my question and the rest of the response here.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Money Is On

According to InTrade Prediction Markets, bettors are paying $6.61 for a $10 payoff if Obama wins Iowa; a shockingly low $2.01 for Hillary; and $70.1 for Huckabee. On party nominations, the highest are Hillary, trading at $6.20, and McCain, trading at $2.70.

I'm glad someone does this!

Free-for-All 2008: Caucus-Day Edition

Iowa Republicans will vote tonight. Iowa Democrats will argue and stand around in clumps. The rest of us will wait with bated breath.

What are the trends heading into the first ballots of oh-eight? Obama and Edwards have closed on Hillary in Iowa - but remain far behind everywhere else. She can ride this out. If she finishes second, then she's within expectations and heading to friendlier terrain. If she finishes third, the other two will split the anti-Hillary vote in New Hampshire, and she'll regain command of the race.

On the Republican side, there's a lot less energy; marginal candidates could be aided by spillover get-out-the-vote efforts from Democrats. Most caucus-goers are still fundamentally unsatisfied with the choice of Romney or Huckabee. With McCain bounding up in polls, and rumors that Fred Thompson will drop out and endorse McCain, watch for McCain to garner lots of support as the "I'm-not-Mike-or-Mitt" candidate.

If McCain is indeed surging, as it seems, he did it not a moment too late. In fact, it may be too early: Romney has already turned on him. Conservative primary voters such as myself have been drawn to McCain as the process has worn on. Though we know we disagree with him on some important issues, he seems far more genuine and uncompromising than the other candidates. Huckabee is an amateur. Romney has been far too polished and political - and doesn't seem like he has any momentum toward a national election. So we've taken a collective second look at McCain, and found him refreshingly familiar. He's succeeded at staying under the radar - until this week - and his record hasn't come under attack like Huckabee's and Romney's. Whether Romney can eviscerate him in the five days before New Hampshire voters cast the first real votes of the primary remains to be seen.

Before being shocked by the chatter numbers below, note that since it is now 2008, the "2008" boolean qualifier I had previously used when searching candidate names has passed its usefulness. The result is more hits - for everyone. There is no qualitative difference in the results, but the numbers cannot be compared with last month's.

Rank Candidate ChatterRank Change
R.1 Gov. Mike Huckabee 41,113+3
R.2 Gov. Mitt Romney 38,4050
R.3 Sen. John McCain 28,0160
R.4 Rudy Giuliani 27,530-3
R.5 Rep. Ron Paul 16,387+1
R.6 Fred Thompson 14,909-1
R.7 Rep. Tom Tancredo 2,741+1
R.8 Rep. Duncan Hunter 1,656-1
R.9 Newt Gingrich 486+1
R.10 Sen. Sam Brownback 303-1
D.1 Sen. Hillary Clinton 56,4290
D.2 Sen. Barack Obama 45,151+1
D.3 Sen. John Edwards 38,302-1
D.4 Al Gore 13,064+3
D.5 Sen. Joseph Biden 10,186+1
D.6 Sen. Christopher Dodd 9,705-2
D.7 Gov. Bill Richardson 8,846-2
D.8 Rep. Dennis Kucinich 4,1070
D.9 Mike Gravel 7720

Notes: The Chatter Rankings are created by searching each candidate's name - now without the "2008" qualifier - in the Google News database.

See recent graphs of the Chatter Rankings plus Chatter Rankings from December, 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...

Jan 3, '08: McCain & Thompson over Clinton & Richardson
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

Surging At the Right Moment

As soon as Huckabee surged, in November and early December, the pundits knew it was too early. Now another candidate is surging - and with a strong third-place showing in Iowa, John McCain could begin running away with the election. Impossible? No. Just unlikely.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Let's Be Clear: Bad Idea

Several candidates for president - Romney, McCain, even erstwhile nemesis Giuliani - have championed the line-item veto as a solution to Washington's pork woes. Pork is a major problem - whether it's in transparent donations of taxpayer money to pet projects or hidden in broader programs. But the line-item veto will not solve the problem - it will only make the president complicit.

For the past hundred years, the president's role in lawmaking has grown, perhaps unconstitutionally. Giving the president a veto scalpel would allow him to reward friends and punish foes, and to trade horses with Congress. While most Republicans this cycle are making noise about controlling spending, are we really to believe that any of them - or their successors - would resist the temptation to buy votes for signature legislation with the odd bridge to nowhere or butterfly genetics laboratory?

The president doesn't need a scalpel - the mace he already wields is weapon enough to scare Congress into good behavior. What remains wanting is the courage to wield it - and changing the weapon won't make cowards brave.

Note: if you're from Massachusetts, you already knew that the title of this post is a rhyme.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Name This Celebrity

Who is this news article describing?
"It has been relentless... **** has had them from day one. But I'm not complaining. **** has taken on the **** and beaten them. ****'s so resilient. **** has the attitude, 'It is what it is', and just marches on."
It is what it is.