Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Turkey Day!

I hope all Global Review readers had a great turkey day... and have a wonderful Thanksgiving, too.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Samuel Eto'o and Bostjan Cesar compete with each other for the most girly foul and the most absurd overreaction. How is it that people root for these prima donnas? My love for soccer precludes a tolerance for antics like this (from the Serie A).

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Ben Bernank and the Quantitative Easing

Viral video on quantitative easing. Hilariously informative.

Like Landsburg I don't agree with everything they say, but it certainly puts the problems with the Fed starkly.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Solve the Deficit

...without leaving your chair. Absolutely awesome little game from NYTimes: you make the hard choices about which programs to cut or taxes to raise in order to solve the Federal deficits in 2015 and 2030.

This shows that solving the deficit is not as much hard as it is painful. It also highlights the magnitude of certain big programs - leaving Afghanistan and limiting Medicare and Social Security growth can account for 92% of the projected 2030 deficit. The biggest bopper on the tax side is to get rid of most deductions.

Check it out!

The Phelps Critique

Kudos to Sen. Bob Corker and Rep. Mike Pence for trying to apply the Phelps Critique to the Fed's mission. Better late than never!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rational Stimulus?

David Brooks is way out of his depth writing about the divide among economists on how to respond to the recent recession. He claims:
The economic approach embraced by the most prominent liberals over the past few years is mostly mechanical. The economy is treated like a big machine; the people in it like rational, utility maximizing cogs...

These models can be used to make highly specific projections. If the government borrows $1 and then spends it, it will produce $1.50 worth of economic activity. If the government spends $800 billion on a stimulus package, that will produce 3.5 million in new jobs. Everything is rigorous. Everything is science.
David Brooks doesn't, clearly, understand rationality. If $1 borrowed and spent by the government produces $1.50 in the economy, the government should borrow infinitely! This "regularity" is not reproduced in any rational-optimization model of which this economist is aware.

Moreover, within the discipline, those who believe in optimizing agents, intertemporal tradeoffs, and rationality typically are anti-stimulus. Those who are in favor of the stimulus and who have the ear of the Obama administration - Krugman, Stiglitz, Hall, etc - are typically more solicitous of 'heterodox' behavioral approaches. The Keynesian approach of the Obama administration is predicated on the famous concept of "Animal Spirits".

Brooks has it completely backwards: the administration and its 'technocrats' have relied on empirical regularities which lack theoretical underpinnings. What we need is exactly what November voters demanded: a return to rigor and reasonable intertemporal tradeoffs.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Internationalist

Remember how electing Barack Obama was supposed to restore America's honor in the world and end our unilateralism and isolation? I know it seems a long time ago, but when Bush was president, those of us who traveled took a lot of flack for his policies.

With Obama, it's so much different the same. At the G-20 Summit, Obama has been shellacked by squadrons of world leaders who are angry at Obama's administration for taking the politically easy route and devaluing the dollar, instead of manning up and cutting deficits. Are these guys Tea Party members? When did England, France, Korea, Japan, China, and Germany become racist reactionaries? Don't they know that deficits don't matter because we're all dead in the long run?

As long as the Democratic Party remains beholden to labor unions with a screw-thy-neighbor ethos, it will never be a good partner for America's allies.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why Charlie Lost

Friend Adam Ramey has an excellent quantitative analysis of the Massachusetts gubernatorial election. He shows that while turnout was just about equal in November and in the January special election which delivered Sen Scott Brown (R), Democrat-turned-Independent played a very effective spoiler role, giving a plurality and four more years to Gov. Deval Patrick (D).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Down Goes Gerry! Down Goes Elbridge Gerry!

Californians took to the polls and slayed the monstrous Gerrymander. The campaign pitted the voices of California governors Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Grey Davis (D) against the quiet money of Nancy Pelosi, Howard Berman (whose brother Michael was given $1.3 million in bribes to draw the lines to make safe Democratic incumbents back in 2001) and a horde of other incumbants. The new redistricting commission will be drawn by lot, like a jury, from a pool of at least 36 candidates, who remain from an applicant pool of 31,000 eager Californians.

So look your last on California's "Ribbon of Shame" 23rd district. Get ready for big, squarish blocks, communities of democracy replacing the fiefdoms of autocracy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Big GOP Win?

InTrade investors are predicting a big GOP win. Republican control of the House is selling at 95, and Democratic control of the Senate dropped in the last three days from a steady 55 to a surprising 45. The math is tough for a GOP Senate, unless seated Dems switch sides, but it's still possible.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Global Review Endorsements: National

Outside my own district are a few key races Global Review should weigh in on.
  • California Ballot Questions #20 and #27: This could be the most important race of the year. Voters in the most populous state have the chance to end Gerrymandering. As California goes, so goes the nation. When Americans can be shown a map that tells the story - "Look, square districts in California, tortured snakes in your state" - they will understand how corrupt a system is in which the politicians get to pick their voters instead of the voters picking their politicians. So Californians need to Vote Yes on #20.

    But it's not that simple. Opponents of the ballot initiatives - sleazy labor unions, mainly - have fought back, hoping to confuse the electorate with an equal and opposite measure. They want to abolish the nonpartisan commission that #20 relies on! It's barefaced political trickery, and Californians need to show themselves worthy of competitive districts. Vote No on #27.
  • Delaware Senate: The storyline here is that Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell beat establishment liberal Mike Castle for the Republican nomination, and that O'Donnell has no chance in the general election. The second part is false: she has a better chance in the general than she had in the primary, in which she was basically unknown. But the first part is also false. Christine O'Donnell isn't so much a Tea Party candidate as just a Candidate. She's a lifelong self-promoter, and caught the tide at the flood. Global Review endorses her opponent, liberal Chris Coons (D), for two reasons. First, O'Donnell is unlikely to faithfully represent the Tea Party, the GOP, or her state. She would be an embarrassment to all three. Second, with O'Donnell as incumbent, Beau Biden, the Veep's son, would probably take the seat from her in 2014. Global Review believes dynasties are anathema to American liberties, and does not want Beau Biden running for his Daddy's seat the same way Andrew "Mario W." Cuomo is doing in NY.
  • Massachusetts House, 4th District: [An open letter to my parents] Vote for Sean Bielat over Barney Frank on Tuesday. I don't know a ton about Bielat, but I do know a lot about Frank, and in an economy and a Congress where a lot of people are losing their jobs, he deserves to lose his more than anyone else. He is the Chair of the Financial Services committee, and angrily defended Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac up to the day they collapsed, saying they posed "no risk" to the economy. They became the biggest culprits in the crash in 2008. After promising for years that federal money would never be used to bail out Fannie & Freddy, they got more money - and quicker - than anybody else.

    Then, when Frank's committee drafted financial reform legislation, it was harsh and punitive to surviving banks, even those who had not contributed to the crash, while placing no substantive restrictions at all on Fannie & Freddy. Frank has had thirty years in Washington, and his experience made him arrogant rather than experienced and closed-minded rather than savvy. In Sean Bielat's line of work, a performance that bad would have led to a dishonorable discharge or a court-martial. Give Frank a rest, and give Bielat a chance.
  • Alaska & Florida Senate: In each state, a GOP presumptive nominee was ousted in a primary challenge, and is playing to spoil. The storylines differ somewhat, but the endorsement is clear: Vote your party, not the person. Whats-her-name in Alaska got the seat from her daddy and thinks it belongs to her; Crist in Florida thinks he's the second coming, and has entertained caucusing with Democrats if that would get him elected. We can't purge megalomania from politics, but we can at least punish those who flaunt it publicly.
  • Lastly, Global Review issues a general endorsement of Tea Party-backed candidates. The Tea Party will not "take back America", despite their rhetoric, but they will provide a cohesive bloc of skeptical votes in the House. Presuming a GOP-led House for the rest of the Obama administration, the Tea Party may end up being the in-house enforcement of fiscal sensibility on the otherwise Schizo-Keynesian Republican Party. There are not enough Tea Partiers to pass any radical legislation (even good radical legislation, like restoring Federalism by repealing the 17th Amendment), so fiscally-conscious moderates have little to worry about.

Global Review Endorsements: New York Local

Following up on Saturday's endorsements in high-profile New York state races, here are endorsements in Rochester's elections, and principals for voting in legislative and court races throughout New York.
  • County Court: Global Review does not believe that judges should be elected. They ought to be insulated from public opinion because judicial decisions are narrow by nature. A ruling that is unfair to one person may be very popular generally. But judges are elected in New York, and to abstain in all races is to give the power of their appointment simply to other voters. Thus, a rule of thumb is to vote for incumbents when possible, and to abstain on open races unless there are pressing reasons to select one over another. In Monroe County, only one incumbent is running - Kelly C. Wolford (D). Global Review endorses Judge Wolford, and refers readers to the D&C's excellent endorsement page for a more opinionated take.
  • New York Senate: The sitting senators belong to the most dysfunctional deliberative body in America. Since all of the Senators supported their respective parties in the embarrassing standoff last year, instead of seeking compromise, all of them deserve to be fired. A randomly selected group of New Yorkers couldn't do a worse job if they tried. Vote agains the incumbant, and in favor of his Republican or Democratic challenger in every race. The D&C agrees with me on all counts except Robach (R) v. Wilt (D), in which it refuses to endorse either one.
  • New York Assembly: The Assembly is little better, and is under the heavy thumb of Shel Silver. Even in one-party rule they have failed to balance budgets - often failing even to pass budgets - and failed to change the culture of politics-uber-alles that prevails in Albany. Worse still, all but 12 New York Assemblyman come from uncompetitive districts, and Democratic Speaker Sheldon Silver refuses to give up the power to draw these uncompetitive lines. Global Review endorses Republicans across the board. Until Democrats agree to basic reforms, like allowing Assembly members to bring legislation to a vote, ousting Silver is the #1 priority. The D&C agrees with this prioritazation, although it is less categorical in its endorsements.
What has this exercise in endorsement taught us? All politics is national (or, at least, statewide). The most important vote a U.S. Rep casts is for Speaker of the House; the most important vote an Assembly member casts is for or against Silver. The main issues facing the legislature dwarf the small-caliber local conflicts or expertise of the candidates, who will spend most of their careers saying "aye" or "nay" to the central leadership.

In Bill We Trust

How smart does Bill Belichick look now?