Saturday, December 29, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
For developing coverage
New York Times
The conservative Weekly Standard also has a piece suggestion that the Taliban were behind the assassination.
Friday, December 21, 2007
1) Populism overlap: Edwards and Huckabee are the most similar on economic policy, or in some sense, counter-economic policy. Both want to do whatever possible to regulate and penalize American corporations, and both are extremely protectionist and would favor low and mid-skill American workers over any other interest group. The leaves the largest room for Bloomberg, as a pro-business, pro-globalization candidate.
2) Lack of executive experience: Edwards has never run anything larger than his own law office and his own non think tank; Huckabee has never run anything larger than a church or the small state of Arkansas (population 2 million, GDP $92 B). Bloomberg, by contrast, founded a built the company that bears his name (now with revenue of $4.7 B), in addition to running New York City itself (population 8 million, GDP $457 B).
3) Comparable lack of foreign policy experience: Huckabee has almost no foreign policy experience, whereas Edwards seems to have squandered his time in the Senate, and despite being on the Senate Intellignce Committee in 2002 (and thus having a front row seat to the serach for WMD in Iraq), still voted for the war. Recanting doesn't change his vote. Bloomberg, on the other hand, has visited several countries during his term as mayor, and so stacks up relatively well against Huckabee and Edwards.
4) Diversity: Both Edwards and Huckabee are white Protestant males, so Bloomberg stops being the guy who prevented the first black, female, or Hispanic (or Mormon) president. In fact, he almost becomes the diversity candidate as a Jew.
If Edwards is the Democratic nominee, look to a lot of Democrats to think seriously about voting for Bloomberg. If Huckabee is the Republican nominee, look to a lot of Republicans to think seriously about voting for Bloomberg. If both are their respective nominees, the perfect storm might actually exist to elect this country's first third party president since the Civil War.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Glad to see that Congress has college students' best interests in mind.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Anne Applebaum has a great piece on slate.com about the fact that there won't be a real international campaign against the despicable treatment of women in
In many ways, that candidate could have been retiring Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel. Hagel is a social conservative down the line, on abortion, gay rights, and on gun control. He supported President Bush on social (and economic) issues more than any other senator. Hagel would have none of the problems of Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney (or even Fred Thompson) on convincing the Republican base that he support them on social issues.
However, on the issue of the Iraq War is really where Hagel would have thrived. While Hagel is a Vietnam veteran, like Senator John McCain, he has been one of the most consistently critical Republican voices on the war. Hagel can say, in a way that no other Republican presidential candidate short of Congressman Ron Paul can, that on this issue he has stood up against President Bush.
Hagel is the only candidate who would keep both the socially conservative fringe and the increasingly anti-war center together in his party. Without him, the Republicans will have a difficult time in 2008.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Perhaps the fact that Obama will be the first president with arguably as much experience growing up aboard since John Quincy Adams is not lost on Zakaria.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
What is missing from television poker is the win percentage from the perspective of each player. This stat would be calculated the same way, except the computer would also run through the possibilities in the other player's hands. This would be especially useful when a player with a great hand thinks he or she has a large chance of winning, even though the actual odds are much lower because another player has an statistically unlikely even better hand.
This would be slightly mathematically more complicated than the current win probability calculations, but would not be too difficult, and would enhance the viewer's experience.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
The article acknowledges that numerous studies have shown medical benefits to male circumcision, including reduced female to male H.I.V. transmission, reduced likelihood of carrying the human pap virus (which is harmless to men but can be transmitted to women and lead to cervical cancer), and a smaller chance of getting over sexually transmitted infections.
In light of the evidence that male circumcision decreases penal infections, which could have decreased fertility, it makes sense that ancient cultures took it upon themselves to circumcise all men as a precaution. This is in line with modern childhood vaccines - no one asks a child whether he or she would like to risk getting a terrible disease - the common wisdom is to do the prophylactic on everyone.
Furthermore, a Jewish bris (the Hebrew word for the covenant between Abraham and G-d, which included Abraham and all of his male decendent's circumcision) is a wonderful public ceremony welcoming a new boy into his community. Many religions have such a ceremony, and it is one of the most joyous.
However, the question remains that even if male circumcision is a medically sound idea, and if welcoming a new boy into his religious community is a wonderful ceremony, why must they be together? Why can't the circumcision be in private, and then the naming ceremony and party be in public? Why would a religion that in some sects is so Victorian about sexuality and modesty performs surgery on a boy's penis in public?
Perhaps in ancient times, the community needed to be sure that all of the men were circumcised. Otherwise, the first to find out might be the man's intimate partner, who might not be in a position to protest have intercourse with an uncircumcised man, despite her desire not to put herself at higher risk.
In this light, male circumcision becomes a conscious public health decision, done publicly to ensure compliance, and done on infants to avoid compromising the modesty of an older boy.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
"It is great news when the price of energy, food, transportation, health care and consumer electronics drops. But for some reason it is bad news when the price of shelter drops. . . . Shouldn't we be seeing stories filled with anecdotes about formerly priced-out middle-income families finally getting their chance at the American Dream?"
Weintraub is dead wrong. Housing (specifically, home ownership), is fundamentally different from energy, food, transportation, and electronics for three reasons:
First of all, unlike all of the other goods Weintraub mentions, housing is an appreciating durable good. Not only is designed to last a while, but consumers expect it to go up in value, as opposed to a car or a computer, which depreciate rapidly.
Secondly, consumers are both buyers and sellers of housing, whereas for the most part they are only buyers of the other goods mentioned above. While buying volume is greater than selling volume because of new home construction, and while there is a relatively small volume in used cars and electronic, the differences are still enourmous. Housing in this way is more like a stock investment than it is buying a car or food.
Finally, housing is really the only case where the average American can invest at significant leverage. Unlike corporations, which can borrow significant amounts of money for capital investments, the average American can not borrow without assets. In the case of a new homeowner, however, the new home is the collateral. This allows the homeowner to invest in a house when he or she only has the enough cash for 10% or 20% of the total value of the house. The homeowner gets to repay the mortgage over time, while capturing the upside as the value of the house increases. This is in stark contrast to other goods, where price increases only hurt the consumer.
As a result, housing price increases are vastly different from price increases in other consumer goods, because housing is a durable, often leveraged investment for the consumer, as opposed to a short or medium term purchase.
Monday, December 10, 2007
- Families that make between $120,000 and $180,000 per year will be asked to pay 10 percent of their yearly income in tuition
- Families that make between $60,000 and $120,000 per year will pay between zero and ten percent of their yearly incomes in tuition
- Home equity will also be eliminated from financial aid calculations
- Financial aid will cease to include student loans, moving to only grants
(For more info, see here.)
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Thursday, December 6, 2007
In addition to helping borrowers (homeowners) keep their homes (since their be able to make their payments), the rate freeze will help investors in mortgage securities. In the short term, the rate freeze won't affect the coupon payments of their bonds (since those were never going to go up). In the long term, while the collateral pools may run out of cash flows to pay the coupons, the expected principal write-downs will be far lower.
Overall, while this fix will only affect a fraction of homeowners and investors, it will likely have a net positive effect.
It does, however, raise a few eyebrows when the ex-Goldman Sachs treasury secretary calls for rates to be halted just after Goldman Sachs announces not write-downs in the third quarter but begins to look skittish about fourth quarter write-downs, which may be halted by the freeze.
It's a shame Biden isn't doing better in the polls. He's be a great president (a Biden/Obama ticket would be quite incredible). Short of that, he'll be a great Secretary of State for whoever the next president is.
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney finally gave his "Mormon" speech.
The frequent comparisons of this speech to then-Senator John F. Kennedy's "Catholic" speech in 1960 are misplaced. Kennedy's speech was about how he differed from Catholics on political issues, not on the general separation of religion and state. Romney, on the other hand, made no effort to distance himself from the more difficult parts of Mormonism, including its gross discrimination of African-Americans well into the 1970s. The entire point of JFK's speech was to clear up public issues with Catholic beliefs, and Romney ducked that effort entirely.
Furthermore, justifying why it is okay for a particular non-Protestant to be in national office is long outdated. Other recent non-Protestant candidates for president or vice president (e.g. John Kerry in '04, Joe Lieberman in '00 and '04, Geraldine Ferraro in '84) saw no need to justify their religion. Furthermore, there are several Mormons already in leadership positions in the federal government, including current Senators Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch from Utah, Harry Reid from Nevada, Mike Crapo from Idaho, and former Senator Paula Hawkins from Florida. Perhaps other most Mormon in presidential politics is Romney's father, a serious presidential candidate in 1968 while serving as governor of
In the actual content of his speech, Romney chastises those who "seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God." Here, Romney is stating his approval for a monotheistic religion that is universal for all American. Romney is fundamentally wrong. The numerous references to G-d in public life qualify as an "establishment of religion," which Congress has no business acknowledging under the Constitution.
Romney's claim that "We are a nation 'Under God'" is simply his own opinion, to which he is entitled. As president, however, he is not entitled to public money to subject others to his particular religious preference.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Notable is that the five sitting senators happen to be the same sitting senators who are running for president (Obama, Clinton, Dodd, Biden, and McCain). It is interesting that while four of them were at the same place today (the Democratic radio debate in Iowa), no one asked them about it.
It's also interesting that many of the 18 senators (all Democrats) who voted nay include the several of the more protectionist senators (e.g. Brown, Casey, Tester) elected from purple states last November, largely on the votes of anti-globalization Reagan Democrats.
It will be interesting to see how this protectionist thread (embodied by Edwards and Kuchinich at the presidential candidate level) plays out for the Democrats in 2008.
With Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel's decision to retire, and former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey D) and Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey (D)'s decisions not to run for the seat, the most promising Democrat appears to be Kleeb.
Yesterday, Kleeb posted a video that shows that he is strongly considering jumping in the ring.
This is certainly a race to watch.
While improved education for Americans, especially in science and mathematics, is always important, Edward's policy fundamentally misses the point. The number of brilliant, talented workers being denied visas to work in the United States is astounding. Adding insult to injury, many of these workers have spent years studying in the U.S., many at some of this country's finest universities. These individuals have a deep affiliation with the United States, and want to stay here.
Furthermore, since many of our undergraduate and graduate programs are at least partially publically funded (even at public universities), many of these students were funded partially at American taxpayers' expense. Despite the fact that the United States has already invested in the growth and development of these inidivduals, it routinely denies them working visas.
The consequences of this shortsighted policy are already beginning to take shape. One of the reasons that the world financial center is shifting away from New York toward London and Singapore is that many of these workers go there when they are denied access to the U.S. job market. They take their productivity (and their tax dollars) to another economy.
High skill job growth is not a zero sum game. The more brilliant, talented people working in the United States, the more opportunities there will be for other high skill workers, both American-born and foreign-born. The only question is whether the United States wants these individuals to work to improve its society, or take their productivity elsewhere.
Monday, December 3, 2007
It's time that this country got serious about legalizing medical marijuana (in the way that far more dangerous drugs are already legal), ending mandatory minimum sentences, promoting treatment over jail time, and sharply reducing our offensive actions abroad.
More than anything, we need to begin to heal our society from the cycle of violence that results from how we deal with drug addiction. It is a disease, and should be treated like one.
Where is the outrage in the rest of the world? Don't these theocracies understand that this kind of xenophobic blindness to the world will only retard their development toward egalitarian societies? Where are the liberal Muslim thinkers standing up and saying publicly that this is not okay?
This line is reminisent of the "Dated Dean, Married Kerry" bumper stickers in '04, suggesting that after voters had gotten over their momentary fling with the firery former VT Governor Howard Dean, they were willing to settled down with a more electable nominee, MA Senator John Kerry.
The problem with using this line is that it doesn't apply at all. Numerous writers (the New York Times' Frank Rich being one of them), have suggested that Clinton is no more "electable" than Obama, and that "Clinton-bashing is the last shared article of faith...that could yet unite the fractured and dispirited conservative electorate."
Furthermore, the momemtum is moving in the other direction i.e. toward Obama, meaning that voters, for once, are deciding to marry a candidate who satisfies both their heart and their head.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Oren correctly argues that peace is not made by bureaucrats (Israel’s Olmert, the Palestinian’s Abu Mazen), elevated to positions of leadership not by their own inner strength and resolve but by the sheer historical weight of their mentors (Sharon and Arafat, respectively). There is little hope that Olmert and Abu Mazen can bring peace, safety, and security to their people before each reigns in the more radical elements of his people (the ultra Orthodox settlers for Israel and the terrorist Hamas for the Palestinians).
That said, the Israeli population is in many ways closer to peace than they’ve ever been. Olmert’s Kadima party was elected with the stated intention to continue removing Israeli settlements from within the 1948 British mandate, a policy advocated by no prior Israeli government. A majority of Israelis are legitimately ready for the kinds of serious concessions (leaving Gaza and most of the West Bank forever, significant settlement withdrawals, land swaps, reparations, shared sovereignty over Jerusalem, dismantling the security fence).
The Palestinians are a sadder story. They rejected Abu Mazen’s Fatah party in favor of Hamas, whose stance on peace and reconciliation brings them back to before 1993 when Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization did not recognize Israel’s existence. It’s ironic that in once sense Abu Mazen has more legitimacy then any prior Palestinians leader to actually make peace with Israel, since he seems to legitimately advocate for it. On the other hand, he cannot even claim to represent a majority of his people, let alone control the more radical elements of his society that want to murder ever Jew between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
The best hope that will come out of Annapolis is what the Palestinian people will do when the next election arrives. They have now seen the effects of electing a recognized terrorist group to its leadership, and seen yet another opportunity for an end to the conflict squandered. They have also seen the next generation of real Palestinian leaders (Abu Mazen, perennial negotiator Saeb Erakat) who have begun to dismantle Arafat’s kleptocracy of lies and doublespeak.
For once, it appears the Palestinians are moving closer to a real “partner” for peace that Israel found in Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Jordan’s King Hussein. Hopefully, they will get there before it is too late to begin implementing a workable solution.