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.