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.