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.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

More 3/4 coverage

Four good articles on what's to come:
  • Why Obama lost 3 primaries yesterday
  • How John McCain really is the luckiest man in politics
  • How Florida and Michigan got into this mess to start with
  • Why Florida and Michigan will likely revote

3/4 Roundup

1) John McCain is the Republican nominee. Somehow, with almost no credit the entire Republican electorate, the Republican party has managed to nominate the most electable candidate. An interesting aside: when the West Wing writers were asked if they modeled moderate Republican candidate Arnie Vinick after McCain (since they modeled Matt Santos on Barack Obama), their response was "No, we just tried to create the most electable Republican.")

2) The Democratic race continues. PA Gov. Ed Rendell is the happiest man in the party right now, as his state will get almost 6 weeks of uninterrupted attention. Anyone home in Philly for Passover and up for campaign on the 3rd day (which happens to be the primary)?

3) Despite the worries that the continued Democratic race will tear the party apart and make the eventual nominee easy to beat in November, every other Democratic presidential primary save 2004 has gone on long beyond early March. has an excellent catalogue of Democratic primaries past.

4) Mike Huckabee is still the most dynamic, likable politician out there today, despite some of his political views. As he pointed out himself last night, it's incredible that he got this far in the presidential race with a full-time-staff under 40 people. Huckabee is only in his early 50s, so America should expect to see him around again.

5) The Fix's Chris Cillizza has an excellent run down of other winners and losers yesterday. Perhaps the most interesting loser: Howard Dean. Poor Dean not only didn't get to be his party's nominee, but now has to clean up the Michigan/Florida/Superdelegates mess in a way that will produce a nominee whom the party is happy with. Good luck Howard.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Primary Predictions: 3/4

Vermont - Obama

Rhode Island - Clinton

Ohio - Clinton

Texas - Obama (popular vote; delegates is anybody's guess)

Not even civil marriage

This blog has previously argued that federal and state governments should separate religious marriage (which should be left to religious communities) and the benefits of civil marriage.

Today's L.A. Times takes this one step further, arguing that Americans should be able to designated whomever they want for benefits otherwise associated with marriage, such as inheritance, hospital visitation, survivor benefits, custody etc. The idea is that since the state has no business determining whether two married people are actually romantically intwined, why should it even bother to associate marriage benefits with marriage? Why can't Americans simply explicitly dictate which benefits they would like with which people?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

How the government squashes local farmers

Excellent piece in today's New York Times about just how screwed up this country's farm system is.

Bob Reich on NAFTA

Bob Reich explains how even the most liberal economists are still in favor of free trade, given appropriate measures at home to take care of those most hurt by it.