31 August 2008

Burying Satire At The Crossroads

I cannot believe that Obama supporters are claiming that Trig Palin is Gov. Palin's grandson and that she's covering her teen daughter's pregnancy. This is disgusting, there is absolutely no evidence for it and, worst of all, if it were true it would solidify Gov. Palin's pro-life credentials. The right's not going to like her less; they'll like her more. If this breaks out into the public's notice, I can't imagine that a wave of disgust at this tactic won't propel McCain/Palin's poll numbers higher.

30 August 2008

A Borrowed Thought And A New Thought

This isn't at all original to me, but it is worth noting how tone deaf the Obamaniacs response to Sarah Palin (she doesn't have enough experience) is. Now, I agree that she has only limited experience and I think that, substantively, that's an issue. But the juxtaposition of "don't vote for the experienced [sic] woman, vote for hope and change" with "that woman's not experienced. You can't vote for her" is bound to alienate some women.

The thought that I haven't seen anywhere else has to do with how hard and overtly McCain is going after Hillary voters. Not just nominating Palin, but having Palin pay tribute to Hillary and having her argue, all but explicitly, that a vote for McCain/Palin is a vote for Hillary's crusade to break the glass ceiling. But doesn't that seem dangerous, given that Hillary could go on national television and squash any suggestion that she supports McCain/Palin and tell her supporters, in no uncertain terms, that M/P is bad for women and O/B is good for women. ("O/B for Women" really needs to be a bumper sticker.)

So, the question is: Is John McCain reckless (not, of course, a merely rhetorical question) or does he have some reason to believe that his friend Hillary is not going to make too much of a protest?

29 August 2008

Appropos Of Nothing...

I note my position that the purpose of feminism is to protect white privilege.

28 August 2008

"What's With Married Men And Blogging?"

My son just asked me that question. His hypothesis is that it has to do with our inability to express our opinions IRL.

27 August 2008

Does It Pay To Be Too Cute?

A lot of people have suggested that McCain ought to nominate a woman or a minority or a minority woman as Vice President to counter the excitement of having Obama on the Democratic ticket. My response has been that this is too cute by half; it is too much like picking Alan Keyes to move to Illinois and run for Senate against Obama. Also, while Governors Palin and Jindal might well end up being good Republican presidential/vice presidential nominees in the future, they're too young and inexperienced for this cycle. John McCain's most pressing need in a running mate is someone who can obviously move right into the Oval Office -- Dick Cheney, circa 2000, would be the perfect McCain VP.

I now suspect that McCain would love to put a woman on the ticket, as part of his wooing of Hillary supporters. And I'm starting to think that the right minority man would be ok, too. Colin Powell, for example, remains popular with the nation as a whole, and wouldn't be the turn-off for the Republican base that, for example, Joe Lieberman or even Rudy would be. (I know about all the inside-baseball Plame and went soft on Iraq baggage he carries, but no one cares about that stuff but us wonks.) Iraq works well for Powell because he can say going in was the right thing to do, W screwed up the execution, then W took McCain's advice and it worked.

In any event, I'm not actually suggesting Powell (I don't think Powell would do it, for various reasons). I'm simply saying that a woman or minority VP with gravitas and a reputation for competence could work well for McCain.

MSM To The Rescue?

I've been following the daily polling results at Rasmussen and I've noticed something I find kind of interesting. John McCain is doing very well in the daily tracking polls (now tied with Obama, even including leaners) and the war is doing well (both Iraq and the WoT are at all time highs), even as President Bush remains mired at or near is all-time low approval ratings. I find this counter-intuitive, and it suggests that the country has reached a state of cognitive dissonance when thinking about W.

The next thing that occurs to me is that this might be more bad news for Obama. As Hillary showed last night, the Dems plan is to attack W and assume that everyone sees McCain as McSame. But what if the public has somehow formed the notion that McCain is a maverick who has fought his party and can't simply be lumped together with W as "those Republicans?" That he could almost even be a Democratic VP candidate? And if they did get that idea, where did they get it from?

Two Americas

25 August 2008

Does Anyone Think It A Coincidence...

That this woman appears to be Latina?


Yet another comment that I realized, halfway through, wanted to be a blog post. This comment is from Thought-Mesh:

It's a little more complicated than that. There's no new definition, but there are alternative definitions. The "new" definition your friend mentioned is the definition used by the National Bureau of Economic Research which, it's name notwithstanding, is an entirely private, unofficial organization of economists headquartered in Cambridge, Ma. NBER is interested in dating to the month cycles of expanding and diminishing economic activity in the US economy. NBER has not said that we are in a recession; basically, they never do. They wait for revised numbers to come in and date the cycle retrospectively. Most recently, in 2003 they announced that a brief recession that began in March 2001 had ended in November 2001.

According to NBER, "A recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales." Since NBER does not focus solely on GDP, it is possible that it could announce a recession that did not consist of at least two consecutive quarters of GDP contraction. Although it's website is a little unclear, I don't think that it has ever done so. When it announced the beginning of the 2001 recession, reported GDP had fallen in the first three quarters of 2001. After it announced the November 2001 end of that recession, second quarter 2001 GDP was revised upwards so that now the 2001 recession consists of two nonconsecutive quarters of contraction. NBER didn't change its dates.

So, the NBER definition is not new, but neither is it "official." We're all free to choose the definition we like best. The rule-of-thumb or traditional definition (two consecutive quarters of contraction) works pretty well and is actually contemporaneously useful.

As for President Bush's economic performance, I remain skeptical that the President has much to do, one way or another, with the economic cycle. But if he does, and I can see the heuristic value of holding him responsible, then President Bush has done pretty well. Accepting that there was a 2001 recession (which only someone deep in the throws of BDS could blame on a President who took office two months earlier), then we're in the 83rd month of the Bush expansion. The post-war average is 57 months. If we don't recognize the 2001 recession, either because there weren't two consecutive quarters of falling GDP or because it wasn't a significant decline in economic activity spread throughout the economy, and as I said we're not bound by NBER's determination, then we're at 203 months of expansion, by far the longest in American history.

Which brings us to the real answer to your friend: does she really think that all recessions can be avoided, that the economy can grow continuously without respite and that the President can achieve this? As a general proposition, saying of someone that she thinks that the business cycle has been repealed is not a compliment on her keen grasp of economics. All the sins of the federal government that we get excited about -- earmarks, deficits, wasteful spending, etc. -- are pretty small compared to the size of the economy. The amount of difference a President, or the government as a whole, could realistically make doesn't amount to 2-3% of GDP. I believe in tipping points, but I don't believe that a swing that small can avoid all recessions. It's easier to believe that fixing those "problems," if done through bad tax policy, could easily have a worse effect on the economy by dissuading producers from producing.

What really seems to happen is that companies start an expansion lean and hungry. But as the expansion gets older, living is easy and money is cheap. Inventories grow, payrolls grow and perks grow. Eventually, the dead weight gets to be too much and the economy tanks as companies either go under or shed inventory, employees and benefits as fast as they can. When they're back to lean and hungry, the cycle starts over again. Computers and management education seem to have constrained companies from gaining too much fat during the good times, so we're seeing longer expansions and shallower contractions. The President doesn't have much to do with it one way or another.

24 August 2008

Will The Entire Inauguration Parade Be Able To Walk Across The Potomac?

OJ posts this ode to the left's new Messiah:

I really don't know what would be worse for these people, if Obama wins or if he loses convincingly. If He wins, they'll discover that He's just another politician. If He loses, a different balloon will be popped: the worst thing you can say about an American is that they don't understand America. I suppose the best thing for them is also the most likely: a close loss that they can blame on racism or Karl Rove.

22 August 2008

The One With The Most Money Wins

From Wisconsin, a story about a couple with a "secret formula" for winning the lottery:

Has Couple Found Formula To Win Lottery? Husband, Wife Have Each Claimed $350,000 Check This Week (WNBC, 8/22/08)
A double-lottery-winning couple in Dane County doubled their winnings again.

Verlyn and Judith Adamson of Mount Horeb each claimed a $350,000 jackpot this week for having the winning numbers in the state SuperCash drawing last Saturday.

But they didn't mention at the time that they also held two more of the winning tickets....

Verlyn Adamson, an accountant, said earlier in the week that he's a big fan of math puzzles. He claims he developed a formula for lottery picks, but his winnings have been small until now....

But Steven Post, a mathematics professor at Edgewood College in Madison, said there is no way to devise a strategy for finding the winning numbers...
There may be no way to predict the winning numbers, assuming that the numbers are chosen randomly. There are, however, ways to increase your winnings. The Adamsons illustrate one way: buy several tickets with the same number. If the Adamsons had bought one ticket and one other person also bought a winning ticket, they'd get half the pot. If they buy four winning tickets and one other person also bought a winning ticket, they'd get 80% of the pot.

Another return maximizing strategy is to only pick numbers greater than 31. Those numbers are equally (un)likely to win, but since so many people play birthdays, the chance of multiple winners is lower.

Of course, the best way to make money from the lottery is not to play at all.

17 August 2008

People Might Hate George Bush,

but this is a problem for the Democrats:
Q: What's the most significant -- let me ask it this way: what's the most gut wrenching decision you've ever had to make and how did you process that, come to that decision?

Barack Obama: Well, you know, I think the opposition to the war in Iraq was as tough a decision that I’ve had to make not only because there were political consequences but also because Saddam Hussein was a bad person and there was no doubt that he met America ill, but I was firmly convinced at the time that we did not have strong evidence of weapons of mass destruction and there were a lot of questions that as I spoke to experts kept on coming up, do we know how the Shiites and the Sunnis and the Kurds are going to get along in a post Saddam situation, what's our assessment as to how this will affect the battle against terrorist like al-Qaeda, have we finished the job in Afghanistan so I agonized over that and I think questions of war and peace generally are so profound you know when you meet the troops, they are 19, 20, 21-year old kids and you are putting them into harm's way there is a solemn obligation that you do everything you can to get that decision right. And now as the war went forward, very difficult about how long do you keep funding the war if you strongly believe that it's not America’s national interest at the same time you don't want to have troops who are out there without the equipment they need. So that all those questions surrounding the war have been very difficult for me.

John McCain: it was long ago and far away in a prison camp in north Vietnam. My father was a high ranking admiral. The Vietnamese came and said that I could leave prison early. And we had a code of conduct that said you only leave by order of capture. I also had a dear and beloved friend who was from California by the name Ed Alvarez who had been shot down and captured a couple years before me but I wasn't in good physical shape. In fact I was in rather bad physical shape.

So I said no. Now, in it of full disclosure, I’m very happy I didn't know the war was going to last for another three years or so. But I said no and I’ll never forget sitting in my last answer and the high ranking officer who offered it slammed the door and the interrogator said go back to your cell it's going to be very tough on you now. And it was. But not only the toughest decision I ever made but I’m most happy about that decision than any decision I’ve ever made in my life. I did finally say it took a lot of prayer, it took a lot of prayer.

15 August 2008

No, Not Really

I've been very impressed with how the anti-war movement has moved against Russia's invasion of Georgia, giving Russia exactly the same treatment as they gave the US. The marches, the rallies, the overheated Hitler comparisons; all have been brought to bear against Russia's cynical invasion of a tiny neighbor. One can disagree with treating the invasion of a western-leaning democracy as parallel to our invasion of an unfriendly dictatorship, but at least they haven't proven themselves to be total and complete hypocrites.

People Are Fundamentally Rational

There's been some focus recently (for example, this David Brooks article) about the ways in which people are reliably irrational. This focus is largely based on the Nobel Prize (Economics) winning work of two psychologists, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. This work has led to the development of behavioral finance, which investigates the various ways that individuals differ from the simple homo economicus of basic economics. (Does that mean that economics is junk? No, but why it doesn't is beyond the scope of this post. The short answer is that rationality is a simplifying assumption of economics, but not a fundamental assumption.)

Kahneman and Tversky's work is interesting and accessible. There are worse ways to spend a few hours than reading some of their articles. My favorite K&T experiment is simplicity itself: in front of a group of people, bring in a large spinning wheel with numbers on it. Spin the wheel and get a number. Then ask the audience to estimate the number of, for example, languages spoken in the world (about 7000, but shrinking). Unless you've got a linguist (or a wise-ass blogger) in the audience, the guesses will vary around the number on the wheel, even though the audience knows that that number was chosen randomly.

But saying that people are predictably irrational is not the same as saying that they are irrational. In particular, there is logic embedded in the stable patterns of interaction between people. This is, in fact, part of the answer of traditional economics to behavioral finance: people are, for example, loss averse and thus, in the right condition, risk preferring, but the market is demonstrably not irrational is that particular way. So, that individuals are irrational does not imply that groups or society in general are irrational. In fact, conservatism is, in large measure, the insight that there is a wisdom embedded in the stable interactions of large groups of people that is more reliable than perhaps irrational decisions made by individuals: the system knows more than any single component.

What got me thinking about all this? The miserable blog interface used by the Maui News, which came up, tangentially, at Thought-Mesh. Blogging is less than 10 years old, but already there are embedded expectations and ways of doing things. The standard blog package might seem path-dependent and inefficient, but you deviate from the accepted standard at your peril. People might be irrational, but that doesn't mean that you can simply ignore the way things are done. In fact, it might mean the opposite.

I'm No Feminist...

But isn't nominating Hillary Clinton in Denver, "to honor [her] historic campaign for president" just about the most patronizing thing they could do?

13 August 2008

Get Your Prognostication Here

I realized after I wrote this morning's post that I'm ready to make my official prediction: McCain Wins.

P.S.: Immediately after posting this, I clicked over to Tom Maguire's site and found an ad: "Obama. Finished? Vote here now." This is, of course, terrible news for my prediction.

A Freudian Ball Gown?

Instapundit quotes Newsweek (actually, a Newsweek blog) as follows:
But are there enough rank-and-file Republicans whispering their support at Obama rallies to actually make a difference on Election Day? As I discovered from examination the last 18 months of head-to-head general election polls, the answer seems to be "no." In fact, John McCain's share of the Democratic vote has typically--and surprisingly--been larger than Obama's share of the Republican vote. In other words, it's not that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright scared the Obamacan masses off, as some pundits have theorized--it's that they never existed (in any unprecedented way) to begin with. (Emphasis added)
Think about how far up inside the msm/Democrat cocoon you'd have to be to be surprised that John McCain has cross-over appeal. John McCain's claim to fame is that he doesn't toe the party line and that he works with even the most liberal Democrats; the man's nickname is Maverick, for crying out loud. There was a time when Newsweek knew this.

All this reminds me of 2004. The Democratic Party knew that the Presidency was theirs for the taking. After all, no one who voted for Al Gore would vote for George Bush, that election-stealing, war-mongering idiot. (They literally believed that not one person would switch from Gore to Bush; they said so incessantly.) All they had to do to seal the deal was attract a few Republicans who, they knew from their personal conversations with their friends, were just as disgusted with Bush as they were. Their strategy, then, was to nominate John Kerry, who was a veteran. Republicans love veterans; even Republicans hate Bush; John Kerry strolls to the Presidency in a land-slide. To this day, they believe that the only reason that didn't work was scurrilous lies about Kerry's war record from those unscrupulous Republicans. Thus, the logic for 2008 seems to be: Bush is a Republican; McCain is a Republican; even Republicans hate Bush; Republicans will therefore hate McCain; Obama is charismatic; Republicans love charisma; Obama strolls to the presidency in a landslide. And Obama has no record to be scurrilous about.

During the Cold War, conservatives would discuss whether the Soviets were lying about the United States, or if they actually believed the nonsense they were spouting. The answer was a little of both, but it didn't really matter. When the contradictions between reality (the US was burying the USSR) and the myth (the USSR would bury the US) became too wide to ignore, it didn't matter whether the Soviets knew that their myths were all lies. The msm and the Democratic Party, so far, are showing an impressive ability to ignore reality when it contradicts their cherished myths.

06 August 2008

Now It All Makes Sense

Don't you love that moment when one last piece of information drops into place and now you understand something that had been bugging you? I never quite understood why, early in the campaign, Michelle Obama was sent out to tell wifely stories seemingly undercutting her husband: he's stinky, he snores, he doesn't pick up after himself, etc. Apparently, the campaign does know its man. If your self-important, overly sensitive, humorless candidate can't be sent out to be self-deprecating -- an important trait for American presidential candidates -- you just have to suck it up and send out his wife to do it for him.

05 August 2008

But We Do Know That The High Temperature On 8/5/2108 Will Be 105

More than 100,000 rare gorillas found in Congo(CNN, 8/5/08)
An estimated 125,000 Western lowland gorillas are living in a swamp in equatorial Africa, researchers reported Tuesday, double the number of the endangered primates thought to survive worldwide.

"It's pretty astonishing," Hugo Rainey, one of the researchers who conducted the survey for the U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society, told CNN Tuesday.

The last census on the species, carried out during the 1980s, estimated that there were only 100,000 of the gorillas left worldwide. Since then, the researchers estimated, the numbers had been cut in half.

03 August 2008

The Pieces Fall Into Place

Long time readers of the blog know of my plan to streamline passenger plane loading and unloading. My idea is to mount the seats on a sled, have the passengers seat themselves at their leisure at the gate, and then have the sled rolled onto the plane in one piece. We've come that much closer to the plan with the development of the Boeing DreamLifter cargo aircraft. The tail swings open so that large items (such as sleds full of passengers) can be rolled right on. The next question is, do people want convenience and efficiency, or windows.

Running It Up The Flag Pole

New ideas come from miscommunications.

01 August 2008

I Approve This Message

The conventional wisdom of political advertising is that you don't even mention your opponent's name in your ads, referring instead to, er, "my opponent." The McCain campaign -- running against an opponent whose most valuable asset is his charisma -- not only mentions his name, they quote him and show his campaign events. This is a high risk/high reward strategy that I think can work. I suspect that Obama has a thin skin, isn't used to be made to look ridiculous and won't like it very much. Welcome to the big leagues, Mr. Obama.

Public Service Announcement

To Our Foreign Guests:

I am reminded to make this timely announcement:
This blog, other blogs you read and the mainstream media might give you a skewed impression of how much time the average American spends thinking about the election and how much he or she cares; that is, any or at all.

Same World, Different Reality

Much to my astonishment, it turns out that there are Americans who think it is good for a Presidential candidate to be popular in Germany but bad to annoy Hollywood. Obama didn't have a bad week in the polls despite lavish coverage of 200,000 Germans chanting his name. He had a bad week because of it.