Monday, October 13, 2008


If anyone is going to the Lower East Side (say to buy a lulav and etrog this week), check out the Pickle Guys. You won't be sorry.

Blue Hill Restaurant

Blue Hill Restaurant is a local/organic/environmentally responsible paradise. Everything is fresh and spectacularly prepared. including:
  • Three kinds of pickled cauliflower
  • Dried kale
  • Arugula and tomato salts
  • Haddock, beets, and horseradish cream
  • Smoked tomato and almond soup
  • Poached yolk and eggplant
  • Bass with cauliflower and pesto
  • Honey ice cream with caramelized condensed milk cream
  • Chocolate bread pudding with vanilla ice cream

Friday, October 10, 2008

Time for a return to defined benefit plans

Lost in this past bearish week (US stocks are down ~20% since Monday morning) is a recent debate about retirement plans: defined benefits vs. defined contributions.

Defined benefits is the old system. After a certain number of years of work, one's company will guarantee a certain amount of money each month during retirement. These disbursements are funded from current worker's paychecks, and managed either by the company itself or by a contractor. Social Security is, in effect, a giant government defined benefits plan.

Defined contributions is the new system. We can take a certain amount of money out of our paycheck each month, tax free, and invest it as we choose, letting it grow tax free until we retire and then draw funds out as we need it. This has been attractive for three reasons:

1. It creates a direct link between the money I'm putting aside versus the money I'm getting out, bypassing any potential pyramid schemes (as Social Security has been the past few decades, with more people paying into it and than getting money out of it).

2. It allows each individual to set his or her own risk tolerance and direct investment accordingly.

3. Finally, and most importantly, it shifts the risk from the employer to the employee. This is primary reason that employees have switched to these plans.

The problem with defined contribution plans has reared its head this week: panic. The massive sell off on Wall Street is in part a function of millions of individuals deciding that their retirement accounts have dropped low enough and must be liquidated before they decline further. This, of course, pushes stock prices even lower.

A defined benefits plan would not fall victim to such a panic routine, since defined benefit plans have much better and more accurate projections of future liquidity needed (i.e. payouts), and also (should) have access to both private and government insurance and hedging mechanism to protect themselves against downturns. Companies should certainly shift their allocations in times such as these. But they are far less likely than individuals to simply dump their holdings into a falling market.

Defined contributions plans were supposed to be the herald of a new ownership society. Instead, they are a mechanism for irrational risk taking and collective panic.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Cabinet Selector

Here it is: the ultimate technocrat toy I've been waiting for: a cabinet picker!

Here are my picks (notes where I dissented from the majority of pickers):

Ag: Stenholm
AG: Holder
Com: Furman - huge campaign advisor; liberal leanings
Def: Danzig - Gates too polarizing, Reed's seat may go Rep, which would hurt chances of 60 seats
Ed: Napolitano
E: Moinz
HHS: Sebelius
HS: Kelley
HUD: Franklin
Interior: Inlsee
Labor: Granholm - term limited and can't run for pres/vice, with no senate seat likely to open up
State: Richardson
Trans: Rendell - Obama has talked a lot about putting more emphasis on Trans, and Rendell would add diversity (Jew)
Treas: Geithner
VA: Duckworth
EPA: McGinty
OMB: Orszag - From CBO, with Furman already used above
Trade: Brainard

Ag: Sanford
AG: Giuliani- he's the reason why McCain won California and became the nominee
Com: Whitman
Def: Lieberman -makes it easy for Republicans to pick up Joe's seat - and he deserves a big prize if McCain wins
Ed: Keegan
E: Wilson
HHS: Huckabee - anti-obesity enthusiast - would give him a national profile
HS: Keating
HUD: Ken Blackwell - previous HUD experience
Interior: Allard
Labor: Engler
State: Woolsey - Lieberman not going to be State - he's not a negotiator; Negroponte too close to Bush administration
Trans: Peters
Treas: Paulson
VA: Sias
EPA: Shayes
OMB: Holtz - Eakin
Trade: Schwab

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Thoughts on the VP Debate

1. Joe Biden hit a home run. He is a consummate gentleman. Someone (maybe his debate partner, MI Gov. Jennifer Granholm) said to him, "Joe, shut up and smile," which he did perfectly. He was always on point, with loads of facts at his fingertips. Furthermore, he was never condescending toward Palin. And, most importantly, he did not make a single gaffe.

2. Gwen Ifill should have dropped out of moderating the debate. As soon it became known that Ifill had a book coming out next year with Obama's name in the title, she should have stepped aside. The fact that she did not meant that Ifill was on eggshells the entire debate, unwilling to press Palin when she dodged a question (which happened almost every question). Another moderator should have repeated questions that either Palin or Biden would not answer.

3. Sarah Palin may not know who Achilles was, since she did nothing to convince me otherwise by making no effort to answer a question about what her Achilles Heel is.

4. And finally, the real loser of this debate was John McCain. Joe Biden made point after point about how McCain has voted on the wrong side of an issue, and Palin made almost no effort to refute them. If this were a high school debate, Palin would have lost in a landslide, since, at the end of the day, it is the unrefuted arguments that count.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Excellent local restaurant in Charlotte, NC

If you're in Charlotte, I recommend eating at Ratcliffe on the Green. It's a "farm to feed" restaurant, with most of its produce, fish, poultry, and meat coming from about two dozen local farms, and a menu that changes weekly.

Everything was excellent - from the buttermilk biscuits and a taste sweet pumpkin apple soup to start, to the goat cheese, pear, walnut, and greens salad to the wild rainbow trout with tomato-basil risotto. The ostrich (so I've been told) was also very good.

Ratcliffe also does lunch, if one if in the downtown Charlotte area during the day.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Republican Party and Community Organizing

Last night at the Republican National Convention, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin mocked and belittled IL Senator Barack Obama's experience as a community organizer. This was dispicable. Do Republican even know what community organizing is? Here's a definition from a good friend of mine who is a professional community organizer:

"Community organizers, as many of you know, have loads of
responsibilities. The biggest one is helping people educate and
empower themselves to have agency in their lives and fight for their
own interests and for a better world."

It's incredible that the Republican pary would take such offense at the this. What did the founding fathers do when they met in their homes in Boston and New York and Philadelphia and Virginia? Community organizing! How have women gained the right to vote? Community organizing! How did the marches and protests in the civil rights movement happen? Community organizing! G-d forbid people actually meet among themselves and think about what problems they have and how best they can work together to make a difference. And G-d forbid they ask someone with experience bringing people together and experience petitioning government to help them be more effective.

On a more specific note, you should read the middle section of Obama's first book (Dreams from my Father) about his experiences in Chicago as a community organizer if you haven't already. It's an amazing story of a young man who spent time talking to people on the South Side of Chicago. Not as a politician, but just as a guy interested in helping them fight for themselves. It's experience that I think makes Obama exceptionally qualified to be President of the United States. There are plenty of people like the residents of Wasilla, AK in the US. But there are also plenty of people like the residents of the South Side of the Chicago, and they need our help more than ever.

Obama's experience as a community organizer gives him an incredible perspective, and it's something to be applauded. It's a big reason to vote for him.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The speech Joe Lieberman should have given

"Tonight is a difficult night for me. For the first time in my life, I am speaking at the Republican National Convention. As a lifelong Democrat who had the priviledge of running for Vice President on the Democratic national ticket in 2000, I never thought I'd be so publicly supporting a Republican candidate for president. But, today, here I am, and here's why.

"I've worked with John McCain for twenty years in the United States Senate. He and I have agreed on many issues and collaborated on legislation many times. In the past few years, however, on terrorism and on keeping America safe, he and I have seen more eye-to-eye than I have with many of my Democratic colleagues, especially Senator Obama. I support our President's effort to make us safe, from Afghanistan to Iraq and beyond, and John McCain and I stand together on that front.

"Many of my Democratic colleagues do not see the progress we have made in Iraq in these past few years, and many continue to oppose a surge that John and I supported that has achieved results. Another of my colleagues, Senator Biden, even wanted to break up Iraq into multiple countries. Unlike these colleagues, John McCain has held firm in his support for our efforts for peace in freedom in Iraq, and he will continue them as president.

"I also agree with John on other issues, from his efforts to reform immigration, campaign finance, and curb global warming. John has shown true bipartisan leadership on major issues facing our country, and for that I stand with him. I urge you to stand with him as well."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Time for Joe to go

Okay Senator Reid, enough is enough. As much as it pains me to say it, it's time for you to strip Senator Joe Lieberman of his seniority and his chairmanship.

First and foremost, let's clear up a misconception. If Lieberman caucuses with the Republicans in the Senate, won't the senate be split 50-50 the way it was in 2001, with Vice President Cheney give the Republicans control? No.

Each two-year congress passes an organizing resolution at the start of its term. Most organizing resolutions (including the one passed in 2007) contain no mechanism for the senate to switch control, even if the majority party actually becomes the minority party. This actually happened in the 83rd congress in 1953-1954. Though the Democrats at times had a majority, LBJ remained minority leader. (Read more about it here.)

The only way that the senate leadership and committee chairmanships can actually change control is if such a mechanism is actually written into the organizing resolution, as it was in 2001, which was subsequently used when then VT. Sen Jim Jeffords switched parties. For the same to happen this year, the new Republican majority would have to pass a new organizing resolution, which of course could be filibustered by the 50 Democratic senators. This may have PR consequences, but it likely will be only for the final few months of this congress' term.

Now - why have I finally given up on Lieberman? I actually like him - I like who he is - I like the fact that there's an observant Jew in congress - I like his positions on most issues. I remember the moment in 2000 when Al Gore picked him - I was never prouder to be an American Jew. Furthermore, I lived in Connecticut for 4 years after that, and thought that Lieberman was all in all an excellent advocate for the state.

Furthermore, in 2006, I had a relatively strong aversion to Ned Lamont. Primarily, I think Lamont's opposition to the war in Iraq came far too late. Unlike Senators Jack Reed and Russ Feingold, or then State Sen. Barack Obama, Lamont waited until it was politically easy to oppose the war. I have a hard time giving him much credit with that. So, had I voted in CT that year, I would have voted for Lieberman in the primary, and likely still voted for him in the general election.

However, now is different. Refusing to endorse a presidential candidate is one thing (a la Sen. Chuck Hagel). Endorsing a candidate from the other party whom you agree with is one thing (a la former Sen. Linc Chaffee). But attacking your own party's candidate is another (a la former Sen. Zell Miller). We'll see what Lieberman's speech is like next week. But if he specifically attacks Senator Obama as unfit to lead this country, Reid should boot him out.

Joementum can carry him somewhere he's wanted.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Best tailor in Manhattan

If anyone needs a tailor, go to Silhouettes & Profiles.

The tailors there (supervised by Irene) do an excellent job in a short amount of time at a reasonable price. Furthermore, Irene strives to produce excellent work. I tried on a pair of pants she had worked on, and she saw that the seam wasn't straight (from a past tailor). She offered to fix it in 10 minutes at no charge (after closing hours).

Finally, when my total bill came to $63, but neither of us had change for a $20, she said to call it $60. First vendor I've even been to who rounded more than $0.04 in my favor.

So, for your suits and dresses, go see Irene at Silhouettes & Profiles.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Obama/Biden and Hillary Clinton

Continuing my previous post about Bill Richardson, Hillary Clinton's stock has also gone up.

Ignore that fact that Clinton was not picked to be Obama's running mate; this was never going to happen. Clinton's stock has gone up Obama has gone with the Cheney model: a vice president who won't be eyeing running for president in eight years.

Biden will be 73 in 2016, too old to run for a first term (remember the political cartoons in '96 about Dole choosing which set of teeth to wear that day?). Clinton, on the other hand, will be 68, which, in most cases is young enough to run, especially for a woman (given that women on average live longer than men). A Tim Kaine or Evan Bayh pick would have made it very difficult for Clinton to run in 2016. Joe Biden means that the 2016 race could be Clinton's for the taking.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Obama/Biden and Bill Richardson

There's another ex-presidential candidate whose stock just went up: NM Gov. Bill Richardson. There has been an open question since Richardson endorsed IL Sen. Barack Obama (which caused former/perenial Clinton strategist James Carville to call him Judas, since Richardson had served in two capacities in then-President Bill Clinton's cabinet): what did Richardson want?

Richardson is savvy enough to know that there was no chance that Obama would put him on the ticket. Having an African American nominee is incredible. Having him pick a Hispanic VP candidate is too much. Richardson knew that the best he could hope for would be Secretary of State.

Richardson's main rival for that position was none other than DE Sen. Joe Biden. So, Richardson must have breathed a sigh of relief on Saturday morning when Obama took Biden out of running for State. In some ways, this is a better allocation than the other way around. Richardson may have spent a decade in the house, but he's more of a negotiator and an executive than a legislative mastermind. Furthermore, Richardson did not prove to be the best campaigner or debater last year. Biden, on the other hand, knows the legislative process better than almost all active politicians.

This must all be very exciting for Richardson, as he just became the front runner to be the first Hispanic Secretary of State and the highest ranking Hispanic in American history.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lower the drinking age

In today's Chicago Tribune, Steve Chapman argues that the drinking age should stay at 21.

Chapman is wrong. Chapman fails to understand what a draconian drinking age does to binge drinking for 16-20 year olds. Underage drinkers, unable to buy alcohol in a safe commerical setting (with a sober bar tenders who cannot serve them if they are visibly impaired), instead consume in private, unsafe settings.

Furthermore, especially on college campuses, binge drinkers are loathe to seek medical attention, since they rightly fear disciplinary action. This compounds the situation above, where underage drinkers are incentivized to drink quickly and privately, and then not seek medicial attention if needed. Surely public safety is not best being serve.

Chapman makes the argument that a higher drinking age lowers drunk driving deaths. This is not the best way to prevent drunk driving. Drunk driving requires not just a drunk individual, but also a car. The answer to drunk driving is therefore to have more police patrols late at night, and more draconian punishments for drunk driving (long time license suspensions, car confiscation, jail time), rather than less alcohol. If society is serious about preventing drunk driving, then a DUI should be treated as a very serious crime with very serious consequences.

One final idea: Perhaps those between the ages of 18 and 21 should be able to drink legally under certain circumstances. Perhaps one must have a high school degree or GED to drink legally. Or, one must have to pass an alcohol awareness course. Regardless, our current law should be changed.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Gay in Iraq

Horrifying piece on about the systematic abuse of gays and lesbians in Iraq.

Where is the outrage in the international community? Where is the outrage among American leaders? Is their silence related to their willingness to write discrimination into state constitutions? Surely a behavior that some consider morally reprehensible does not justify silence in the face of rape and murder.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Honor Killing in the US

Another honor killing, this time not far from Atlanta. A man "strangled his 25-year-old daughter San- deela Kanwal with a Bungee cord in her bedroom because she wanted to end her arranged marriage."

This is beyond domestic violence. It is, as prominent moderate Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali says, a systematic way of punishing Muslim women who refuse to along with the sexist rules of their society.

Where is the outrage from America's political and moral leaders? Where are the efforts from national women's organizations to create hotlines to help women in trouble? Where are their priorities? Isn't standing up for women being systematically murdered by their own families an important cause?

Seamless Web

Just wanted to mention, and excellent way to order restaurant food online. Its features include:
  • Only showing restaurants that deliver to your address, so you never have to figure out whether you're in a delivery zone or not
  • Ability to tip your delivery individual with your credit card
  • Frequent discounts, up to 20% off
  • Ability to save repeated orders
It's a great site - I highly recommend using it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Republican VP Prediction

Senator John McCain will pick: Former MA Gov. Mitt Romney.

Romney has:
  • Economic experience - former CEO of Bain & Company, founder of Bain Capital, savior of the Olympics, Havard JD/MBA. To get wonkier than this you'll have to get into Ben Bernanke territory
  • Vigor. Romney may not be much younger than McCain, but he looks much younger, and so provided youthful looks without looking inexperienced.
  • Money. Romney's personal fortune could come in handy if McCain and his public financing wind up way behind Obama's machine.
  • Vetting. The country's seen Romney, and the most scandalous thing was that he once tied the family dog to the roof of the car. That's it.
  • Michigan. Romney's family has deep roots there, which could help McCain win the state.
  • Mormons. While Romney's religion may hurt McCain with evangelicals, many of them were unhappy with him as it is. On the other hand, adding Romney to the ticket insures Mormon financial and political support, which could help in swing states like Nevada and Colorado.
While AK Gov. Sarah Palin or LA Gov. Bobby Jindal would be exciting picks, McCain is not going to give up his experience argument with a neophyte pick. It'll be Romney.

Goldwasser, Regev, and Kuntar

Last week, Israel traded convicted murderer Samir Kuntar for the remains of Sergeant Major Ehud Goldwasser and State Sergeant Eldad Regev. There are a few points of note about this exchange:

1. Israeli doctors hypothesize that Seg. Goldwasser and Seg. Reven likely died before most of the major combat operations in July 2006. However, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah did not inform the Israeli that his POWs were deceased. This is a violation of all international conventions on POWs. Israel (and America) release at least the names and well beings of its prisoners, so that families at least know that they are safe. To without such information is gross human rights violation. However, the international community has been completely silent about this.

2. Israel released Samir Kuntar, convicted of murdering multiple Israelis, including brutally bashing the head of a 4 year old girl. Kuntar is not an innocent Arab caught hanging out with the wrong people. He's a brutal murderer. There are many innocent people sitting in Israel's jails who deserve to be released. Kuntar is not one of them.

3. This is also more frightening because Kuntar was given a hero's welcome. When would Israel (or America) ever give a hero's welcome to a combatant who gruesomely murdered a child?

4. Given that Nasrallah likely knew that the Israelis were dead, he still allowed thousands of Lebanese civilians to die and hundreds of thousands to be displaced. If he had informed the Israelis that the soldiers had died and returned their remains, he could have prevented the deaths and hardships to so many people. Instead, Nasrallah used them a pawn to build support for his group and hatred against Israel. Where is the outrage from the international community?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Democratic VP Prediction

Senator Barack Obama's VP pick will be Indiana Senator Evan Bayh.

Bayh is (in no particular order);
  • Young
  • From a red state
  • An experienced executive (as governor of Indiana)
  • A foreign policy wonk on the hill for almost a decade
  • An early and fervent Clinton supporter
Way back in the fall of 2006, Bayh had some of the most sensible rhetoric on Iraq. Furthermore, there's nothing like an Obama/Bayh ticket to make McCain look old and out of date. Bayh is the best possible mix of youth, bipartisanship, change, and experience (both executive and foreign policy) that Obama needs. It's time to put him on the ticket.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fannie and Freddie

Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson announced on Sunday that it would guarantee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government-sponsored public home mortgage purchasers. (Read Paul Krugman on it here.)

This is a smart move on Paulson's part for the following reason: the mortgages, for the most part, are money good. Fannie and Freddie do not have any subprime mortgages, by definition. Despite the fact that the ABX AAA (a rough measure of the probability of default of mortgage backed securities of that rating) is trading a 50, it's extremely unlikely that 50% of those mortgages will default. Therefore, while Fannie and Freddie may need some injection of government capital (raising valid questions about the bizarre mix of capitalism and socialism that govern the two organizations), they are not likely to lead massive government bailouts.

The timing of this announcement is interesting as well. Conventional wisdom is that the rate cuts of the past year will take about 12-18 months to take effect. This means that the equity markets will likely turn the corner within the next year. Paulson's actions are therefore a stop gap measure to boost confidence at a time when the equity markets are bearish, until they begin to recover.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Excellent dessert bar

ChikaLicious is to dessert what Una Pizza is to pizza: a chance to enjoy the highest quality of a particular type of food (dessert in this case), and to share in the experience of its creation.

It is only open Thursday-Sunday, takes no reservations, and only serves dessert. Patrons can choose from one of seven desserts (from a daily changing menu), with each come with a first course (chamomile ice cream with blueberry paste), and a third course (petifores, chocolate truffles, and pistachio shortbread cookies). ChikaLicious also offers wine pairings for each dessert, ranging from port with the liquid chocolate tart to a fruity, fizzy wine with mint ice cream and strawberry sorbet (which comes with brown sugar cookies).

The best part, though, it that half restaurant are front-row seats to the dessert assembly process. Chika and her assistant assemble each dessert in perfect harmony, take the appropriate pieces from each oven, fridge, and freezer, and then alternating steps of the algorithm for that dessert. It was truly amazing to watch.

A final note - for those of us who do not eat animal gelatin, Chika was happy to accommodate.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Kosher Restaurants in Toronto: Gladstone's

Gladstone's is a good Kosher restaurant. The food is well prepared - try the special mushroom soup if they have it, the Sardina steak (pronounced with a long "i", as in "someone's in the kitchen with sar-DINA"), or the sweet potato fries.

However, as with many kosher restaurants, the service is something between lethargic and comically incompetent. No spilled food or massacred orders, just run of the mill largocity.

How to end suicide: Remove easy methods

Fascinating piece in yesterday's New York Times magazine about how to prevent suicide. The piece cites three data-based examples that lower suicide rates:

  • Shifting British ovens from poisonous coal gas to less harmful natural gas
  • High guard rails on the Golden Gate bridge
  • Fewer guns in homes
The article argues that most suicides are impulsive, and removing easy methods gives individuals more time to think through their actions.

It's worth a read.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

"Fair and Balanced" Photos

Unbelievable story about Fox News doctoring the photos of two New York Times reporters to make them appear more ominous

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Bulldozer plows into crowded bus on Jaffa Street

A Palestinian deliberately drove a bulldozer in an Egged bus near the old Central Bus Station, with at least four dead and dozens wounded.

May G-d heal all those wounded in today's attack, and may G-d help the Israeli government decide on the appropriate response.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Best Restaurant in Boston: Radius

Radius is perhaps the best restaurant in Boston. Everything was absolutely spectacular, from the miniature potato gnocci with peas and chanterelle mushrooms to the cod prepared two ways (one with mustard and chanterelles, one milk breaded over greens), to the cookie sampler for dessert (double chocolate with cherries and macadamia nuts, toffee and mango).

If you're in Boston and want a very fancy dinner, Radius should be your pick.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

New Obama Ad

New Barack Obama ad running in several different states across the country.

The question is, with the number of Americans who think Obama is a Muslim/America-hater/black supremist/liberal/Yankee/radical, is this ad really going to chance their mind? Are there people who still don't know what a remarkable individual Obama is and actually can be convinced?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

McCain: Not much maverick left

Matt Taibbi writes a scathing portrayal of how John McCain is running for president as the same disgusting Republican candidate that the Bush/Rove mentality has created, and that many Americans are buying it.


"Immediately after his speech in New Orleans, a pair of sweet-looking old ladies put down their McCain signs long enough to fill me in on why they're here. 'I tell you,' says one, 'if Michelle Obama really doesn't like it here in America, I'd be very pleased to raise the money to send her back to Africa.'"

"...I catch up with a man named Ron Saucier and a woman who would only identify herself as Mary. Ron says his problem with Obama is the integrity thing. 'He exaggerates too much,' Ron says. 'He's not honest.'....'OK,' I say. 'What does he exaggerate about?'...'Well, like that time he was saying he had a white mother and a white grandmother'...I ask him how this is an exaggeration....'Look, you either are or you aren't,' [Mary] says....'And he aren't,' Ron says, nodding with relief."

Monday, June 16, 2008

M class planet, anyone?

Astronomers have identified scores of new exoplanets (planets outside our solar system).

The exoplanets other the past decade have tended to be very large and very close to their stars, due to a selection bias in the detection method. With each new round of planets, astronomers move away from this bias, bringing us closer and closer to detecting an Earth-sized planet at a reasonable distance from a star.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Meet the Press with Chuck Todd

Political Insider's Taegan Goddard suggests NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd (formerly of the National Journal) as the new host of Meet the Press.

Goddard is spot on that Todd is perhaps the only journalist at NBC with the breadth and depth of political knowledge to be successful in that role. Furthermore, Todd has the potential to grow into the guy of everyman-gravitas that Russert so beautifully embodied.

More on Russ

Howard Fineman tells an incredible story about what a fundamentally decent human being Tim Russert was.

Bob Herbert on American families and economics

Bob Herbert had an excellent piece in yesterday's NYT about how unbelievably stretched American families are.

Since this president has no desire to improve their situation, the next president will have a large task ahead of him.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The loss of Tim Russert

Tom Brokaw just announced on NBC that Tim Russert has passed away. This is a huge loss to the political world.

Read more about it here and here.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Webb and Jindal

Good profiles on Webb and Jindal, two potential V.P. candidates. Wouldn't it be great if the vice presidential nominees were even more exciting than the presidential nominees?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

It's Obama

This is really it. Barack Obama will be the Democratic Nominee for President of the United States.

Read his speech tonight here.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Primary Predictons: 6/3

Montana: Obama
South Dakota: Obama

The Comeback Ego

Fascinating piece in Vanity Fair about post-president Bill Clinton.

World Science Festival a Big Hit

This past weekend's World Science Festival in New York was a huge success, drawing well over 100,000 people to an outdoor festival and 46 other sold out events. One of the best was Alan Alda's staged reading of the play QED, which Alda premiered on Broadway a few years ago, about the physicist Richard Feynman at the end of his life.

Read festival co-founded and Columbia Physics Professor Brian Greene in yesterday's NYT.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Primary Predictions: 6/1

Puerto Rico: Clinton, by more than 10%

Thursday, May 29, 2008

New York State Recognizes Same-Sex Unions from Other States

New York Gov. David Paterson just issued a directive that requires all of New York State's agencies to recognize same-sex unions issued by other states. Well done, governor.

A side note to why this is so important to this blogger: Throughout my life, I've had the privilege of knowing many adult same-sex couples. Some were teachers, some were doctors, some were professors, some were administrators, and some were clergy. They came from many different religions and cultural backgrounds. All of them were in monogamous, long-term relationships that from my perspective seemed as sincerely committed as any of the adult heterosexual couples I've known.

As a result, I've been a strong advocate for government recognition of same-sex relationships, so that these individuals could enjoy all of the legal rights and privileges that my heterosexual friends receive. To deny them these rights is baseless discrimination, on par with historical discrimination based on race, gender, religion, and national origin.

Monkeys think, therefore they grab

Fascinating piece in today's New York Times about technology that lets monkeys control mechanical arms with their thoughts. It's right out of science fiction, and has implication for those with spinal cord injuries.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Syndey Pollack, Zicrono Livraho

Hollywood legend Syndey Pollack passed away today. Pollack's career spanned many films, from directing, producing, and acting in the 1982 classic Tootsie, to recently appearing in and producing Michael Clayton.

Mars Attacks

NASA has successfully touched down its Phoenix Mars Lander. Check out updated pictures on NASA's website.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

New Belgian/French Brunch Restaurant

If anyone is in the Georgetown/Palisades area and looking for a place for brunch, check out Et Voila. All of the food is excellent, which also simple, fresh, and relatively inexpensive. The lox benedict and Belgian waffle with home made whipped cream are excellent.

It's been open for less than two weeks, and so is still relatively uncrowded, so one shouldn't have trouble getting a table.

(Hat tip to VFB.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Teddy Kennedy, R'fuah Sh'lema

Teddy Kennedy was diagnosed yesterday with a malignant brain tumor. This is a crushing blow to Americans of all shapes in sizes. Kennedy's work as a senator over the past five decades has touched all of us. He truly represents the best of what American politics has to offer.

For more, read tributes here and here.

Lebanese Unity Government

The major powers in Lebanon just signed a major deal in Doha, Qatar. (Hat tip to FBK.)

Key highlights:

"As part of the deal, 11 of the 30 ministers in a national unity government in Beirut will be Hizbullah members, giving the Shiite organization the right to veto any decision."

"The sides also agreed to appoint Lebanon's army commander, General Michel Suleiman, the next Lebanese president."

Another important achievement for Hizbullah was an amendment to the current election law: The sides agreed to return to the 1960 Election Law, which includes a change in the election districts, and particularly in the Beirut district which will be divided in three. The current law allowed the anti-Syrian camp to win the elections."

Hopefully this will bring peace and stability to Lebanon.

VP polling already

Survey USA polled head-to-head match-ups in Pennsylvania and New Mexico, asking voters whether they preferred Obama or McCain, each with one of four running mates: John Edwards, Kathleen Sebelius, Ed Rendell, and Chuck Hagel for Obama, and Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Joe Lieberman for McCain - a reasonable mix of former primary opponents, swing state governors, and opposing party mavericks.

The results show Obama/Edwards and McCain/Huckabee being the strongest tickets. Obama/Rendell does well in PA (no surprise), and all of the McCain tickets do relatively well in New Mexico.

Ideally, Survey USA would run polls like this in every state, which would give more data toward the question of whether vice presidential nominees matter. These two polls seem to suggest that they do.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirenomics life for me

Check out a great review of Peter Leeson's new book on the politics and economics of 17th century pirates (arrrr!).

Here are also a few older pieces from Freakanomics and the New Yorker for those you that just can't get enough of academics talking about pirates.

Super cool Mars Lander

Today's Science Times has a spectacular description of the mission, specs, and mechanics of NASA's Phoenix Lander, which is expected to touch down on Mars at 7:53 PM EDT today.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Primary Predictions: 5/20

Kentucky: Clinton, by more than 20%
Oregon: Obama, by more than 10%

Also in Oregon, Steve Novick will win the democratic senate primary.


Check out this creepy SNL video:

A Beer with Steve Novick

In addition to the presidential priamry, tomorrow Oregon's primary will also select the Democratic nominee to challenge Senator Gordon Smith. The top two candidates in the polling are Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley and lawyer and activist Steve Novick.

Novick relased the following add, which is worth watching (hat tip to JHE):

VP Losing Home State

So who will be the VP nominees for each party? Much has been made about whether a VP nominee can carry his or her home state.

Looking back over the past 40 years, the winning VP candidate has always carried his home state. (The losing candidate has not.)

2004 - Cheney - Wyoming
2000 - Cheney - Wyoming (Also, Lieberman carried Connecticut)
1996 - Gore - Tennessee
1992 - Gore - Tennessee
1988 - Quayle - Indiana
1984 - Bush - Texas
1980 - Bush - Texas
1976 - Mondale - Minnesota
1972 - Agnew - Maryland

The last time that that a winning VP candidate did not carry his home state was 1968, when sitting Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew failed to win his home state of Maryland. (The Nixon/Agnew ticket lost by 20,000 votes, compared to 178,000 for independent candidate George Wallace, so we'll never know what would have happened in a two-way race.)

Don't evoke Neville if you don't know what he did

Chris Matthews shows why having an intricate knowledge of history is an asset for a pundit; having some is requirement. (Hat tip to Publius.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Obama responds to Bush's foreign policy

Watch Obama's speech from South Dakota, responding to Bush's comments on foreign policy before the Knesset in Israel.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

California Supreme Court Legalizes Gay Marriage

Read about it here.

Today is a proud day in America's ongoing civil rights struggle.

Let your kids play outside

The blog freerangekids has an excellent post about a mother who gave her 9-year-old a subway map, metro card, $20, and a few quarters for phone calls, and told him to find his way home. He did, have gained much from the experience.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Edwards, Kleeb and more, oh my!

John Edwards just endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president. The odds of Edwards being AG just went way up.

Scott Kleeb won the Nebraska Democratic senate primary. He faces off against former governor and Ag Secretary Mike Johanns. This will be an interesting senate race. Nebraska's other senator is a Democrat, and Kleeb beat expectations in the 3rd district's congressional race in 2006.

Finally, here's a fun one. What do the 97 senators not currently running for president have to say about being their party's VP nominee? Read about it here.

June/July Strategy for Obama

Chris Cillizza has an excellent post on what Obama should do once the general election campaign begins in earnest.

Also The Atlantic's Josh Green has a great piece on Obama's fund raising machine (or, more accurately, fund raising mob).

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What Clinton Should Do

Former Senator George McGovern, who knows a thing or two about how a vicious primary challenge can destroy general election chances, has some advice to Senator Clinton about how to finish the primary campaign: Travel around with Obama, clearly state her differences, and then eventually call it a day. That's it.

Getting struck by lightning

Excellent piece in today's Science Times about how to get struck by lightning and live: do it while inside a Faraday Cage.

A Faraday Cage is a metal container that takes advantage of the following effect in electro- magnetism: If a conductor (e.g. a metal container) is put in an electric field, the electrons in the conductor move according to the forces from the field until they are in equilibrium (meaning that any further movements would increase the electrical potential energy of the charges).

This allocation of charges also has the effect of creating a field that exactly counters the external field. The effect of this is that inside the Faraday Cage there is effect from the external field. So, if a large charge were transferred to the surface of the cage (e.g., from lightning), the charges on the surface would reorient themselves in a new way that exactly cancelled out the external force, leaving anything in the cage unaffected by the charge surge.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Primary Predictions: 5/13

West Virgnia: Clinton by a large margin.

It won't dent Obama's chances of the being the nominee, and should actually help him, since he saves face by losing to Clinton while she's running (as opposed to losing to Clinton after she's dropped out).

Obama on Israel

Read about it here, especially if you think Obama isn't pro-Israel enough.

How to stick it to Junk Mailers

Blogadilla has a hilarious post about how to get back at junk mailer. Apparently, one can take one of those "No Postage Necessary" envelopes, put it on a box filled with bricks, and mail it. The junk mailer will then have to pay something like $0.20 an ounce.

The only catch to this is that since 9/11/01, all packages must have a return address before the post office will mail them. So, the junk mailer will know where the package came from, and so may either take you off of the mailing list, or may retaliate with more junk mail, albeit without "No Postage Necessary" envelopes.

Conservative populism

The New Republic's Jonathan Chait makes an excellent point about the current political philosophy espoused by the Clintons. Chait calls it "conservative populism," which unlike "liberal populism," which is based in social science and facts, is based in anti-social science and a deliberate disregard for facts. Hillary Clinton's blanket abandonment of all economists in the face of alleged popular support for a gas tax holiday is only one example of this phenomenon.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Eric Schlosser on Corporate Espionage

Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness, has an excellent piece in today's New York Times. Schlosser argues that the public American corporations use more and more unethical and illegal tactics to spy on those whom they see as a threat. Just as "A Senate inquiry during the 1930s prompted companies to disband their private armies and stop spying on labor unions," Schlosser argues for federal hearings and action to curb these current round of spying.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Primary Predictions: 5/6

Indiana: Clinton, by less than 10%
North Carolina: Obama, by more than 10%

The engame is now set. There is no way that the Clinton campaign can catch up in delegates (assuming that even if Michigan delegates were alloted that Obama would get some proportional to the "uncommitted" vote). Her error was that she disregarded smaller, less populous states in February and March, such that Obama was able to wrack up giagantic margins and take a lead in delegates (since we've all seen from the past few primaries that winning a large primary by 10% doesn't really help a candidates margin much).

That said, Obama will not get a majority of the delegates without a significant surge of superdelegates. It is looking more and more likely that this will only happen if Clinton concedes.

So, one more month of Clinton trench fighting until the calls for her to drop out grow to a deafening roar. At which point she has two options: drop out and let Barack be the nominee, or bloody him further that the party turns to an even bigger Clinton family enemy: Al Gore.

It's your call Hillary.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Best Pizza in NYC

Even with pizza, you get what you pay for. Without a doubt, Una Pizza Napoletana's Anthony Mangieri makes the best pizza in New York City. He uses the best possible ingredients (including imported wood for his oven), and hand makes each and every pizza. The experience itself is also amazing, since from the tables one gets to watch Anthony make each pizza.

It's expensive - two individual pizzas and wine will run you over $60 - though when did a filling spectacular dinner in Manhattan cost less than that? Una Pizza is certainly worth a trip.

Unpasteurized milk

Excellent piece in Harper's about unpasteurized milk (hat tip to ABP). Milk is one of those things that is more dangerous in the short term if unpasteurized, yet in the long has likely has a role in increased incidences of immune deficiencies (allergies, etc.).

Here's the simple question: If I can legally buy cigarettes and a restaurant can serve raw fish, why can't I buy unpasteurized milk? If the government thinks that, with appropriate labeling about the risks I'm taking to my health, I'm mature enough to choose my smoke and my fish, why can't I do the same with my milk?

Furthermore, why can't we just test all unpasteurized milk for the most harmful bacteria and then pasteurize the milk that is above safe level. This way, we're allowing people to benefit from drinking unpasteurized milk without exposing them to undue risk.

Voter ID Laws: Worst of both worlds

The Supreme Court recently ruled that state laws requiring government-issued photo ID to vote are constitutional. As Marie Cocco points out, these laws are mostly a blatantly partisan attempt by Republicans to disenfranchise democratic voters.

Let's start with the ideal. In this fantasy, there would be a national database. Each potential voter would present him or herself for identification (be it photo ID, fingerprint, retinal scan, or cheek swab), and then after verification, he or she would be allowed to vote. Registering for identification would be as simple as registering to vote, or as simple as getting a birth certificate. Every citizen would have the appropriate means of identification, at no charge and minimal inconvenience.

Now let's return to reality. Every voter does not have equal access. Government issued photo ID are expensive, and odds are if someone doesn't have the money to get them, he or she certainly doesn't have the time to jump through the necessary hoops to get one for free. Furthermore (which is why it always seems to be Republicans pushing for these laws), the voters most affected by these laws are likely to vote Democrat, making this far more about partisanship and far less about combating voter fraud.

So, ideally, should states require ID to vote? Yes. Given our current system of access to government identification, can we equitably require ID to vote? No.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tom Friedman on the gas tax and more

Tom Friedman returns to the New York Times op-ed page with a bang, scrutinizing not only Senators McCain and Clinton's support to a gas tax holiday this summer, but also congressional ITCs (investment tax credits) for clean energy.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Kristof on the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement

Nicholas Kristof makes the point that Congress should pass the U.S.-Colombian free trade agreement because, unlike most other trade deals, it will only lower tariffs on American exports to Colombia, and not on Colombian exports to the U.S. This is because tariffs on Colombian exports are already piratically zero, thanks to an older anti-drug trafficking law from the elder Bush administration.

So, the risk to American jobs from this agreement is minimal, since any outsourcing to Colombia has mostly already happened. On the other hand, lowering tariffs on exports to Colombia should help America's trade deficit, since it will make its exports more competitive compared to exports from other states around the world.

Rating Agency, Downgrade Thyself

This Sunday's New York Times magazine has an excellent piece on the rating agencies (i.e. Moody's, S&P, Fitch) and their role in the current credit crisis.

One thing that the article does not mention is that in addition to all of the conflict of interest and underlying data problems, the rating agencies also could not keep up with the plethora of new structures being created. They could not adequately model each and every new structure, and so we were forced to make even more approximations when determining default profiles for securities.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

West Wing meets Clinton/Obama Brokered Convention

Former West Wing producer and congressional staffer Larry O'Donnell wrote a hilarious script for an Obama/Clinton brokered convention. It's worth a read.

Pennsylvania Primary Predictions

In today's long-awaited Pennsylvnania primary, Hillary Clinton will win, with a margin of 5-10%.

Obama and trains

Last Saturday, Senator Barack Obama (and Senator Bob Casey Jr.) held a whistle-stop tour campaign tour of eastern and central Pennsylvania. The campaign rented a train car at the back of an Amtrak train, made up in the style of President Harry Tuman's whiste-stop tour 60 years ago.

Their first stop was the Wynnewood train station, where a crowd of 6500 gathered to hear Obama. This station, along with many of the others between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, has been in nearly continuous operation for over 150 years. It is now on SEPTA's commuter R5 rail, which carries commuters to and from downtown Philadelphia every day.

Obama gave his standard stump speech at the event, which was nothing short of electrifying. If he wins Pennsylvania today, it will be on the backs of these suburban supporters who will likely turn out for him in droves.

However, Obama missed an opportunity at this rally. One solution to this country's energy problems is to re-invigorate its trains. Trains have the lowest carbon footprint per passenger-mile than any other form of transportation, and dollar for dollar are often the most comfortable.

At the very least, we need a high speed train line between Washington DC and Boston, which can rival air travel for efficiency. Other countries have had high speed trains for years, yet the American ones travel only twice as fast as they did one hundred years ago.

Beyond this, faster local trains can link communities currently only linked by car. The trains around New York City are the best example, but the ones around Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington also serve their purpose of efficiently transporting commuters from near their homes to near their offices. Cities like Detroit, Los Angeles, Houston, and Miami could drastically decrease their carbon footprints by investing in rail infrastructures.

It's time that a presidential candidate make upgrading the nation's train structure a campaign priority. Obama has put energy policy in the center of his campaign. It's time to add trains too.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cabbie and GPS navigators

In the good old days, cabbies were renowned for their ability to get anyone anywhere faster than any other motor vehicle (and perhaps some small aircraft).

Today, however, every cabbie seems to have a GPS navigation device (often Garmins). Beyond that, many still even ask for directions. Two weeks in a row, Philadelphia cab drivers have been unable to get from the Airport to the suburbs, and even find themselves asking for directors once they get near their destination, unable to trust their Garmins while unable to get to their destination.

A colleague of mine even had a New York cabbie who couldn't get from the east side to La Guardia airport. He turned on his Garmin and subsequently began making following its advice to make seemingly random turns that got him even more lost.

The art and skill of cab drivers used to be instantly knowing the fastest route to your destination and being able to lightning-quick in game changes whenever needed. Today's cabbies seem to be one step up from a guy with a rent-a-car and Garmin.

High skill immigrants need not apply....

The Economist's Lexington column has an excellent piece on how absurd the United States' high skill immigration policy is, and with all of the talk about low skill immigrant and amnesty and bigger fences, we lose sight of the immigrants who can add an enourmous amount of value to our economy.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Do you want to switch doors?

The New York times has a great demo and explanation of the classic Monty Hall problem, as well as a few other more difficult problems.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Sen. John McCain, circa 1997

Here's a link to an old New York Times Magazine piece on McCain from back in 1997, when McCain had just come off of campaign as a Bob Dole surrogate, and was beginning his quest with Sen. Russ Feingold for campaign finance reform.

One fascinating point toward the end is McCain's warm relationship with fellow Arizonian Democratic Rep. Mo Udall.

This is a great glimpse at McCain before he began his first run for president.

Urge Yale to influence China to peacefully resolve Tibet crisis

Yale sophomore Eli Bildner has been building a campaign urging Yale to use its newfound influence with China (from recently ramped up collaborative programs with univerisites and government official) to speak out against human rights abuses in Tibet.

After two weeks, Levin et al. finally responded ( The work, however, is far from done. Please nudge Yale to keep up the pressure on China by signing Eli's petition at

Why unions should be pro Colombia FTA

Interesting opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal about how the US-Colombian Free Trade Agreement, would actually help US jobs, since it would make US exports to Colombia more competitive in the global market.

Cleaner Jets

Excellent piece in today's New York Times on how to build cleaner jet airplanes.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Presidential campaign article round up

The New York Times on how Warren Harding may have been the nation's first black president.

A fascinating analysis comparing the Pennsylvania presidential primary to the last competitive Democratic primary in Pennsylvania, where now Gov. Ed Rendell beat now Sen. Bob Casey Jr. Ironically, Clinton does well in places where Casey did (who supports Obama), and to win, Obama will have to replicated Rendell (who supports Clinton)'s concentrated success around Philadelphia.

Finally, a piece about the making of the Kennedy/Johnson ticket, which could be a forebearer of an Obama/Clinton ticket.

Krugman on food pieces

Paul Krugman, in a return to his chosen profession of economics, has a an excellent piece in today's New York Times about how world food prices have gotten so high.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

American Pie: Wholesome Monogamy?

After watching American Pie: Beta House, the sixth American Pie movie, and third to go straight to DVD, American Pie looks a bit more wholesome.

There are two reasons for this shift in viewpoint. First of all, the gross out gags with bodily fluids that were so out of control ten years ago now look relatively tame by comparison.

The second, and more interesting reason, is the prevalence of monogamy through the series, and especially in the last movie. For the most part, each character only has sexual relations with one other character. There is next to no infidelity on the part of anyone in the major cast of the movies. Despite all of the nudity and high school/college antics, each character remains true to his or her sweetheart.

Aside: The other interesting thing about the movie is that the traditional frat boy's nemeses are not the administration. They are the members of the geek fraternity. However, this is the non circa 1990s geek as seen in Saved by the Bell. These are geeks with a better house, more money, and more attractive girls. Perhaps in a 21st century era of Google, hedge funds, private equity, being a big geek isn't so bad after all.

Patriot Act: Bringing down politicians one prostitute at a time

Last night on his HBO show, Bill Maher made a great point. Despite allegations that former NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer violated 80+ year old anti-prostitution laws, the actual law that snagged Spitzer was none other than the US Patriot Act, which provides banks the legal groundwork to monitor private financial transactions.

It has been well known for a few years that the Patriot Act has been far more effective at fighting prostitution and other more mundane crimes than terrorism. In the wake of the Spitzer scandal, however, this is now a pattern when the Patriot Act has been used to bring down politicians, including Spitzer and former AL Gov. Don Siegelman.

In most of the these cases, the perpetrators are criminals would should be brought to justice. However, most of these are cases where under pre-9/11 consensuses about privacy and civil liberties, they would not have been caught. The question remains whether the waning of civil liberties that the public agreed to in the wake of 9/11 is justified for fighting non-terrorism crimes.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

World Science Festival in NYC

This is exactly what America needs to kick start its recent lagging in scientific education and achievement.

Tickets go on sale April 8.

Stuff young Jews like

Great new blog. Check it out.

Obama leads in PA

Read about the poll here.


"Obama is narrowing the gap with white voters, trailing just 49-38, while maintaining his
customary significant advantage with black voters. He leads that group 75-17.
Obama also leads among all age groups except senior citizens, with whom Clinton has a
50-34 advantage. The poll shows the standard gender gap with Obama leading by 15
points among men while trailing by 10 points with women."

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Major PA Jews back Obama

Read their letter here.

Ancient Mechanics

Excellent piece in today's Science Times about the overlap between science and classics and understanding how ancient scholars understood the physics behind everyday technology.

Cleaning up Bush's mess has a spectacular new ten-piece series on how to fix the damage the Bush administration has done. The first four pieces on education, technology, foreign policy, and the military are up.

Bob Reich on why we need more regulation

Bob Reich says it all:

"Some of the dollars I'm sending to Washington are now being used to backstop Wall Street investment bankers, hedge fund and private equity managers, and anybody else associated with a borrower that's too big to fail. The reason they're too big to fail is they've borrowed so much from me and from you - from our pension funds and money-market funds - that if they went bust, our savings would disappear. Even the danger of them going bust might make us so anxious we'd demand our money, which would close down the entire financial system.

"The reason they've been able to borrow so much from us without putting up much of their own capital is they're unregulated, and don't have to put up their own money. The tax code also rewards them for borrowing rather than investing, by letting them deduct interest payments on the money they borrow. The tax code also allows them to treat the earnings they get on the investments they make with the money you and I lend them as capital gains rather than ordinary income. So many of them are paying taxes at a lower marginal tax rate than you and I are paying.

"Finally, when the risky investments they've made with our money go bad, we get a housing crisis, and the value of our homes - our biggest assets - plummets. And our pension funds get socked. Yet most of them continue to pull in whopping incomes. James Cayne,the former CEO of Bear Stearns, left the company with a $232 million pay package. That's because when they place risky bets that pay off, they get the windfall, and when their bets go bad they're bailed out with our tax dollars.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Gore's role going forward

Excellent piece by David Shribman on where Al Gore fits into the current presidential race. While Shribman does not go as far as others in saying that Gore could emerge as a compromise candidate (perhaps on a ticket with Obama), he does analyze Gore's political history, and suggest that Gore really could go either way on actively ending the Democratic race.

Science education at Yale

Excellent piece in today's Yale Daily News encouraging science and math study at Yale. The author makes the point that many Yalies have the mathematical and scientific background from high school to study those subjects in college, yet take a defeatist attitude and shy away from those classes.

The article avoids the even more important point: that a strong background in science and math can immensely help graduating seniors in the job markets, in a wide variety of scientific and business fields.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Bob Casey Jr. endorses Obama

This is especially fascinating given the close ties between the Casey family and old Clinton loyalists James Carville and Paul Begala who helped Casey's father get elected governor and have been strong supports of his efforts.

Brooks on McCain

David's Brooks column almost makes one want to vote for John McCain on foreign policy. Unless one prefers Obama's foreign policy approach. Or has listened to McCain's economic policy. Or is terrified how far he'll gay-bash and pander to get conservative Evangelicals to turn out to vote in November.

Stuff consultants like

This website is hillarious. Personal favorites:

"Action items"
"Low hanging fruit"
"Taking it offline"
"Herding at the gate"
"Two tone dress shirts"

Thursday, March 27, 2008

End the dealth penalty

Spectacular piece in today's L.A. Times by a wrongfully convicted felon, who spent nearly 20 years in prisons. He is thankful today that he was not sentenced to execution, since he very well could have been executed before the DNA test that proved his innocence.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Gun control and Pennsylvania

According to the National Journal, gun control will be a major issue in the upcoming Pennsylvania primary and in the general election this fall.

Two laws in particular failed to pass the PA legislature this past year: one "to limit handgun purchases to one gun a week" and one to "require handgun owners to report lost or stolen weapons."

How could this be so difficult? Who needs to buy more than one handgun a week? And how does it impinge on a lawful gun owner's rights to tell the state that he or she has lost a firearm that could now be the hands of a criminal?

It is amazing the lengths that Americans will go to avoid any method of curbing gun violence in this country.

Meghan McCain

GW has an excellent profile of John McCain's 23-year-old daughter.

Obama's foreign policy

Today's American Prospect has a must read piece on Obama's foreign policy and how it is fundamentally different from Hillary Clinton's.

Additionally, Barack Obama's tax returns are now available online. (Right click and hit save targe as - it's over 50 MB).

We're still waiting for Hillary Clinton's tax returns.

A penny for...not much

Spectacular piece in the New Yorker about how the government loses money minting pennies (and nickels), and how the U.S. can follow other countries and move beyond its small coins.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Halt the stimulus

Bruce Bartlett argues that Congress should backtrack on its $100+ BN stimulus package, since the last stimulus didn't help much, and that this one will be far better spent shoring up the financial markets than helping people make a small debt in their credit card bills.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

General Election Projections has started its general election projections, with one map for Clinton v. McCain, and one for Obama v. McCain.

The Obama one shows far more purple states in play, including Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Iowa, whereas the Clinton one shows Clinton competitive in the biggest toss-up prize of all: Florida.

The speech Hillary Clinton could give has a spectacular piece on the kind of thoughtful, intelligent, post-sound bit speech that Hillary Clinton could give on gender.

It'd be a brilliant move on her part to out-Obama Obama. But there's no way she'll do it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Crayon Physics has a great piece on a really fun and simple computer game called Crayon Physics.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama on race

Watch Barack Obama's speech on race in America. It's incredible. And he wrote it himself.

Paterson comes clean

In an attempt to stay ahead of any scandal, New York Gov. David Paterson announced that both he and his wife had extramarital affairs during a rocky period in their marriage several years ago.

Good for Paterson. He has acknowledged that his marriage wasn't always perfect, that he and his wife both drifted apart from each, and now have worked things out. The individual was not a prostitute, intern, political appointee, house page, or alter boy.

This falls entirely under Paterson's rights as a private citizen, and, by acknowledging it on day one, he has put it behind him and not let it jeopardize his administration going forward. Finally, an honest, humble politician.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Economist's poor choice of graphic

The Economist's excellent Lexington column on American politics used an insensitive image for Eliot Spitzer: a crusader knight.

Apparently, the British magazine does not realize that representing a Jew in the garb of medieval Christian knights who murdered thousands of Jews in the name of their G-d, preemptively absolved by the their Pope for the murders, would be a bit insensitive.

Spitzer may have been a crusader in the common, small "c" use of the word today, but that does not justify representing him in the white-and-red-cross garb.

Majority Leader Hillary Clinton

MyDD mentions an interesting way out of this mess for Democrats, brokered by Al Gore, Harry Reid, and Howard Dean: in exchange for dropping out of the presidential race, Harry Reid will resign as majority leader and nominated Clinton for the job, leaving her as one of the most powerful Democrats on the hill, with about 55 Democratic senators in the next Congress. Reid would then be lining himself up for a cabinet post in the Obama administration.

The Bear's been shot

Bear's Stearns storied 80 year plus history came to an end yesterday, when JP Morgan Chase bought it for $2 a share, which is far less than the real estate value of Bear's building alone, not to mention its current market cap. Bear's balance sheet must look so awful that this $250 MM deal was worth taking.

What's next?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Irshad Manji's first Moral Courage Project event

Last Tuesday, Irshad Manji, author of "The Trouble With Islam Today," hosted Dr. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im, a professor of law at Emory University and author of “Islam and the Secular State,” at the first event of her new program at NYU.

Read more about the event here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Carlyle Capital about to collapse

After defaulting on more than $16 BN of debt, Carlyle Capital, private equity giant Carlyle Group's fund for investing in mortgage backed securities, is now being liquidated by its creditors.

This is yet another sign of the true trouble that exists in the securitized mortgage market, and the worry that more action needs to be taken to prevent more homeowners from defaulting on their mortgages and driving the market down further.

More Spitzer

The strata of high- and very high-end-prostitution.

One of Spitzer's law school professors on how he followed her advice to become a prosecutor.

New Jersey's former AG on meeting Spitzer early in their tenures.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Provide HPV vaccine and condoms to everyone

A recent study showed that 25% of teenage girls are carrying a sexually transmitted infection.

Do we need more evidence that every girl should be vaccinated for HPV for free? Boys should be vaccinated as well, since they can carry and transmit the virus.

Furthermore, do we need more evidence in this country that high school students need to be provided with free condoms? Most colleges provide them to students. Many high school students are sexually active, and so should be encouraged to be safe.

It's a lot better than 25% of teenage girls carrying an STI.

Ignore college statistics

Grant Calder, Director of College Counseling at Friends' Central School's argues that it's a great time to apply to college, since "The numbers of college applicants are up, but so are the numbers of spaces, programs, scholarships, and opportunities in general for all sorts of students to study and earn an undergraduate degree."

Healthcare Mess

Two interesting pieces on doctor's business incentives.

Spitzer Round Up

Eliot Spitzer just resigned as Governor of New York State.

For more information on the Lt. Gov. David Paterson, who will succeed Spitzer on Monday, see the following profile from 2006.

Also interesting:

Dina Matos McGreevey, former New Jersey first lady and ex-wife of disgraced former NJ Gov. Jim McGreevy's perspective on how politcal wives respond to scandals.

Prostitution experts on the myth that prostitutes are victimless.

How most species are polygamous.

OPEC and Home Prices

Two interesting pieces today on why the U.S. economic outlook is not good:

Robert Samuelson on OPEC.

The WSJ on why the Fed can't fix home prices.

Terror Tour of Israel

Check out the excellent dispatches from an Ultimate Counter-Terrorism Mission on

Another physicist in Congress

In all the excitement about a Democrat wining former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert's Congressional seat, one fact has fallen through the cracks:

The number of congressmen with a Ph.D. in physics has just doubled.

New Jersey's Rush Holt now has company.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hillary Clinton's foreign policy experience grossly exaggerated

Former State Department Policy Planning Office Director Greg Craig has written a thorough piece detailing how most of Hillary Clinton's examples of foreign policy experience in the '90s in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, and China are exaggerated.

Craig says that "
She did not sit in on National Security Council meetings. She did not have a security clearance. She did not attend meetings in the Situation Room. She did not manage any part of the national security bureaucracy, nor did she have her own national security staff. She did not do any heavy-lifting with foreign governments, whether they were friendly or not. She never managed a foreign policy crisis, and there is no evidence to suggest that she participated in the decision-making that occurred in connection with any such crisis. As far as the record shows, Senator Clinton never answered the phone either to make a decision on any pressing national security issue - not at 3 AM or at any other time of day."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Primary Predictions 3/11

Mississippi - Obama

The true Dungeon Master

Dungeon and Dragons creater Gary Gygax died last week.

Adam Rogers remembers him fondly in the New York Times, saying that "We live in Gary Gygax’s world. The most popular books on earth are fantasy novels about wizards and magic swords. The most popular movies are about characters from superhero comic books. The most popular TV shows look like elaborate role-playing games: intricate, hidden-clue-laden science fiction stories connected to impossibly mathematical games that live both online and in the real world."

Joel Stein agrees, adding "We didn't spend our time playing as much as fantasizing about playing in a fantasy world. Which is why "Dungeons & Dragons" is the best game ever invented."

Finally, Erik Sofge isn't so kind, saying that "When you cut through the nostalgia, Dungeons & Dragons isn't a good role-playing game; in fact, it's one of the worst on the market."

More on Spitzer

Newsweek's Howard Fineman on how Spitzer "saw his trajectory flattening out" and how there was "an explosive danger in a man loaded with so much rocket fuel. He could blow up on the launching pad."

Also, the global (il)legality of prostitution, and how Spitzer was beaten at his own game.

Eliot Spit-her

Oh Governor Spitzer, what are you doing? Being caught soliciting a prostitute can have three effects, and you get the worst one:

1. If you're Jerry Springer: Everyone already knows you're sleazy, and so the damage has mostly already been done.

2. If you're Larry Craig: Everyone thought you were a clean, upstanding politician. You've hurt your image considerably.

3. If you're Bobby Kennedy: You've made your career fighting organized crime, taking down mafia bosses, white collar criminals, and prostitution rings.

Congratulation Eliot Spitzer: You get the Bobby Kennedy award, and have single handedly ruined your entire credibility and called into question whatever you were once admired for.

Spitzer may or may not resign, but, a la Jim McGreevy, may never recover from this.

The state of the U.S. Economy

Doom and gloom from Paul Krugman and University of Vermont economist Robert Costanza (who perhaps goes by the stage name of Art Vandalay).

On a lighter note, a hillarious post about consultants and drug-tests.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Primary Predictions: 3/8

Not much time before Shabbat, so this will be quick.

Wyoming: Obama

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Shooting at Jerusalem Yeshiva

Earlier today, one or two terrorists opened fire on students at Yeshiva Mercaz Harav. At least seven students are dead.

This horrible. Every world government, including the leadership of every Arab state and both Palestinian leaderships should condemn this awful attack on unarmed students.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the familes of those murdered, and may G-d grant swift healing to those injured.

The American role in the Palestinian civil war

David Rose has a must-read piece in Vanity Fair about how the United States systematically funded and provoked the recent Palestinian civil war, culminating in Hamas' coup in Gaza.

Rose's conclusion is that:

"It is impossible to say for sure whether the outcome in Gaza would have been any better—for the Palestinian people, for the Israelis, and for America’s allies in Fatah—if the Bush administration had pursued a different policy. One thing, however, seems certain: it could not be any worse."

Yet again, the Bush administration has taken a bad situation and made it worse.