Thursday, November 27, 2008

Nate Silver on Obama as a Leftist in Centrist Clothing

Nate Silver is still writing quality analysis over at 538. A few days back he weighed in on whether Obama will govern from the center-left or far-left.

Silver examines every policy proposed on Obama's website, and rates them on a one-dimensional left-right scale. I think his analysis is misleading, foreign policy clearly needs to be evaluated on a pragmatist/ideological scale, and maybe other policies should be as well. An economic liberal/paternal scale would be helpful as well, though Silver notes that some of Obama's policies flirt with libertarian paternalism, so that might break down too.

It's unsurprising that everyone has such a hard time categorizing Obama, since our two-sided political labels are completely inadequate to capture any modern policy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What should we do with Interest Rates during a Credit Crunch?

Some observations:

1) The widespread unavailability of credit is like a shortage of capital.
2) Resources are more efficiently allocated during a shortage by higher prices. (Economists show this by pointing to a complicated diagram, like the one below.)
3) Lowering interest rates lowers the price of money.
4) Everyone's lowering interest rates in response to the credit crisis.

I assume I'm missing something?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Aaron Barnhart Quote of the Week's hoping the justices can find the spinal werewithal to end the idiocy known as FCC v. Pacifica.

In case you've forgotten, FCC v. Pacifica is the case that ruled you can't say words like "shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, or tits" on the radio.

The only place you can say "shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits" is on the internet.

I'm not sure why anyone would want to say words like "shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits" on the internet, but we absolutely can, because we are not on the radio, and that's a good thing to keep in mind.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Do you know how I know that Bill Maher is a prick?

He makes Howard Dean look gracious. I saw him on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno tonight. Harry Reid has nicer things to say about John McCain and the Republican Party. He is the type of person that made me reticent about voting for Barack Obama.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Who is Peter Schiff?

Peter Schiff was the economic advisor for Ron Paul. He criticizes the U.S. for our low savings rate and the lack of "real value" creation (raw production).

In these clips from the past few years, people (like Ben Stein) scoff as Schiff predicts a coming downturn in housing and in the financial sector.

You probably get the idea with that one, but you can always search YouTube for Peter Schiff for more fun.

UPDATE: I have no idea whether he's really bright or just lucky, I moderated the tone of the post to be more agnostic.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Secretary Clinton

This would probably confirm that the decision to keep Hillary off the ballot was purely tactical, and that any conflict between Clinton and Obama was a bluff.

Of course, Richardson is certain Bill hates him for backing Obama, so who knows.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Auto Industry Bailout

Megan McArdle of The Atlantic makes compelling points against the Auto Industry bailout.

Some background...
The bailout plan gave tremendous power to the Secretary of the Treasury. Consider "Sec. 8.":

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.
Paulson ran with that authority as he attempts to shift the focus of the funds.

Perhaps ironically, Paulson now objects to Obama's (and Barney Frank's) plan to funnel some of the money towards the auto industry.

I wonder if Paulson would have demanded $700 billion if he realized that he wouldn't be able to retain control over it very long, despite the strong language to the contrary in the bill.

In fact, this is why some tend to object to setting large piles of money in the government's hands. It's anybody's guess as to who will manage to spend it first.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lifesharers and the Organ Donation Gap

Because of the profound organ donation gap, if you need an organ sometime in your life, chances are 9 to 1 you won't get it.

Lifesharers is a nonprofit which aims to reduce the gap between donors and those in need.

Members of LifeSharers promise to donate their organs upon their death, giving preference to other LifeSharers members first.

Anyone can join for free online, it takes moments. I recommend you and your loved ones sign up here.

Other suggestions states can employ to reduce the gap:
1) Presume consent for organ donation upon death, move from opt-in organ donation to opt-out, which increases cadaveric donation rates by 25-30% (Abadie and Gay, The Impact of Presumed Consent Legislation on Cadaveric Organ Donation [PDF])
2) Implement the Spanish model of organ procurement, which aggressively recruits older donors leading to the highest cadaveric organ donation rates in the world, and compensates hospitals for their work in organ procurement, leading to one of the best organ matching systems in the world. (Id.)
3) Implement the Iranian model, provide compensation to living donors, which leads to the highest live donor rates in the world, and is the only model that has completely eliminated the donor gap.

Hat Tip: Freakonomics, via Freakonomics.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Advice for Obama

The Freakonomics blog recently asked for advice for Obama. I doubt it will get much attention in the hundreds of comments there, but here is what I would recommend to the President Elect:

Visit your states (even the red ones). Hold a few town hall meetings. Don’t just sign legislation, but occasionally give us a speech explaining why you support the policies you do. Implement e-petitions. Invite the fourth estate (and maybe a blogger or two) to witness your decision making process first hand, so the media can help us to stand beside you as you lead.

Rove initiated this idea of a permanent campaign, by which he meant tightly controlling the messages and images associated with the administration. I trust you’ll leave his specific approach to the dustbin of history.

But the basic idea of a “permanent campaign” isn’t actually that bad an idea, so long as it means always connecting with your fellow citizens. We shouldn’t be a part of the process every four years, but every month of every year. It's up to us to keep up our enthusiasm and participation, but it's up to you to give us a seat at the table.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Schizopedia: Local Derby

Wikipedia articles have a tendency to let the debates from the talk page seep into the articles themselves. I'm posting those I run across during the next few months in an original Theory Bloc series, Schizopedia.

Yet another theory is that the 'derby match' saying arose from when Liverpool played Everton. Their two grounds were separated by Stanley Park, owned by the Earl of Derby. This latter suggestion can be discounted, however.

Friday, November 07, 2008

First Blood?

Rahm "Rahmbo" Emanuel's selection as Barack Obama's chief-of-staff leads one to question how Obama plans to lead a bipartisan America. There are three generally accepted views of how Emanuel might be used.

1. The "F@ck the Republicans!" strategy (check 1/3 to 1/2 the way down).

2. The Enforcer strategy (per Ray LaHood's view of a chief-of-staff)

3. The "call him President Obama" strategy (also known as the intra-Party Enforcer)

Hopefully, number one is not the true nature of the hire, as my vote for President-Elect Obama was couched in the naive belief that he would implement a new style of politics. I could see number one being effective as a counterbalance to number three (or... Rahm Emanuel is a jerk to everyone, not just Democrats that don't fall in line). Number two seems to be the best reason to hire Rahm Emanuel (other than the fact that I thought Biden was supposed to be a sounding board and critical voice in the room), and I am hoping this was one of the key factors in President-Elect Obama's decision.

I am excited to see his choice for other Cabinet positions. Should we have a separate post for odds on those positions or add it into comments for this post?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Live Coverage of Election Night on the Internet

Metafilter has a thread on where to go for live coverage of the election if, like me, you'll have internet but no TV.

A few suggestions in the thread jumped out at me, and US Election Atlas both look good.

FiveThirtyEight would be the go to source for commentary, if they're covering it live (which I expect they might). With hundreds of comments every hour, they are currently the undisputed kings of the electoral blogosphere.

There's a really polished and free live coverage applet out there, CoverItLive. rc3 used it during the debates, and I hope someone puts it to good use as the results pour in. (I suppose Talkinator might do just as well for most purposes, CoverItLive seems a lot like putting a moderated chatbox on your site.)

UPDATE: Google provides live election right here, via their extremely handy embeddable gadget.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Age of Doctors Declines Over Time

Clicking through you can clearly see how the age of Doctors sharply declined from the early 1960s to the 1980s. Doctor age rose again under Thatcher, but has since resumed its steady decline.

(Alternate headline: "Doctors Who Get Younger Over Time")

UPDATE: Doctor Who spoilers in the comments.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The CCF Turns Down Money from Gamers

GenCon, a massive gaming convention, holds an auction every year and donates a portion of the proceeds to charity.

Last year Gary Gygax, co-creator of D&D, passed. In Gygax's honor, GenCon decided to donate the proceeds of the auction to his favorite charity, the Christian Children's Fund.

The CCF declined over $17,000, and the reigning assumption is that they felt the money was "tainted" by its association with the occult.

I struggle to believe that there are people out there who actually believe in something clearly good, like helping starving children, and apparently also believe complete nonsense, like the delusional tracts of Jack Chick.

What kind of God would rather see starving children than catch anyone palling around with hobbyists? What kind of monster would you have to worship before "not taking charity" is the appropriate moral response in this situation?

I hope in the coming days the CCF will come forward to set the record straight.