Thursday, October 30, 2008

Senate Predictions

To the extent that the polls are actually reliable (--are they? one perspective--), I think most of the Senate seats are now predictable, barring any unique developments over the next couple of days.

Alaska - Dem Pick-Up : Having been convicted, Stevens will probably lose to Begich.

Colorado - Dem Pick-Up : Udall favored, though I find it odd that Udall is outperforming Obama, having nakedly changed some of his positions and running as an unconvincing centrist.

Georgia - Rep Keep : Chambliss favored, though he's underperforming McCain. He'll need some extra NRSC money to put him over.

Kentucky - Rep Keep : McConnell favored, see Georgia analysis above.

Louisiana - Dem Keep : Landrieu favored in a deeply split ticket, Prez vs Senate.

Maine - Rep Keep : Collins favored.

Minnesota - Rep Keep : Coleman favored, though the third party could be a monkey wrench. I find it difficult to accept that MN would elect Stewart Smalley, but then again they did elect Jesse Ventura...

Mississippi - Rep Keep : Wicker favored to replace Trent Lott.

Nebraska - Rep Keep : Johanns favored to replace Hagel.

New Hampshire - Dem Pick-up : Shaheen favored, though she is underperforming Obama.

New Jersey - Dem Keep : Lautenberg.

New Mexico - Dem Pick-up : Udall - yes, another Udall (cousins) - replaces retiring Domenici (R).

North Carolina- Dem Pick-up : Hagan favored over Dole, though this one could shake the other way if the polls are off just a little bit, as they very well may be.

EDIT: Dole and the NRSC are hitting Hagan for attending an "atheist fundraiser". Could just do the job.

Oregon - Dem Pick-up : Merkley over Smith, though an outside chance that Smith could pull it out as recent polls have large numbers of undecideds and/or within the MOE.

Virginia - Dem Pick-up : Warner (D) to replace the retiring Warner (R).

If I'm right, that gives us a net pick up of seven seats for the Democrats.

I am least confident in the results in NC and MN.

The current configuration is 51 Dems (49 + Sanders, Lieberman) to 49 Repub, so the predicted balance is to be 58 D to 42 R. Unless seriously shunned by the Democrats for his many sins against the party, Lieberman will continue to vote for Dem leadership.

If I could wave a magic wand and save just one of the Republicans likely to lose, I'd save Sununu. I don't always agree with him, but he's intellectually honest, and probably more conservative than Liz Dole in a lot of ways that are important to me. And besides, Dole's prior NRSC leadership committed the political murder of Steve Laffey in an idiotic attempt to save the turncoat Lincoln Chafee.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Sunday's Meet the Press (transcript) was largely unremarkable, but one thing Chuck Todd said stood out to me (emphasis mine):

MR. TODD: You know, you look at these early voting numbers. Georgia's one of these states, along with North Carolina and Florida, that we're seeing early voting, and because they're states that have to keep track of these statistics, we know exactly how many African-American ballots are being turned in, how many Dem--and it is through the roof. There are--turnout among African-Americans might actually be somewhere between 95 and 100 percent in some of these places, in some of these states. And, in fact, we're seeing this shrinkage of a lead in Georgia for Senator McCain. It's actually got some folks wondering is South Carolina now in single digits? What's going on in Mississippi that this prediction of big African-American turnout that everybody thought might happen, we're seeing play out so far in some of these early voting states. And when you look at Georgia and compare, which is a lean McCain state, compare where McCain is here in Iowa, a lean Obama state, and that just shows you the battlefield here right now, the battleground, where it is shifted--even the lean McCain states are--Obama has a better shot at right now than McCain does in these lean Obama states.

Now, Obama, merely by virtue of being a Democrat is likely to bring down somewhere in the neighborhood of 90% (at least) of the Af-Am turnout, and being Af-Am he's likely to produce somewhat elevated Af-Am turnout. But 95-100% turnout is not a number that occurs naturally in democracies. Those are turnout numbers more in line with third world dictatorships.

How does that happen? Here's one thought - 123% registration with no voter ID provisions.

It amazes me that Chuck Todd could accept those numbers at face value.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I, like many others, think McCain has been way too soft on Obama. Certainly not with respect to the percentage of negative ads, but in the content. Now, if you're going to go negative, you should punch hard. But I fear that this third party ad (supposedly airing in PA and elsewhere) does not punch in the right place. It's a hard punch on the shoulder, when we really need a punch to the gut.

(Via Politico)

[However, if you're going to "go there", you need to do something to counter the response that Obama has already given to the Rev. Wright issue, that he wasn't in church when some of those things were said. You could even go to the audio book recording of Dreams From My Father, recorded in Obama's own voice, quoting Wright's "white folks' greed runs a world in need" bit, thereby demonstrating that he knew that Wright wasn't mainstream.]

People are tired of hearing about Wright, and opinions on that matter are already formed. Instead, show the American people what government will be like next year under unified Democratic control. What about an ad with some of the more inane ramblings of Pelosi, Reid, Barney Frank? And maybe even throw in some Biden, and some John Kerry if you're feeling saucy.

Just string a bunch of them together - it shouldn't be hard to locate some choice clips - and then ask, "Is this who you want leading Washington?"

The Nature of the Debate

A conservative who doesn't like Thomas Sowell is like a kid who doesn't like pizza.

Here, Peter Robinson begins an interview with Sowell about his re-published book, A Conflict of Visions. (Subsequent interview segments will appear at the main page for Uncommon Knowledge.)

The constrained view versus the unconstrained view. The American Revolution versus the French Revolution. Plato versus Aristotle. Good stuff, and I'm looking forward to the remainder of the interview.

Adding my own spin on Plato versus Aristotle, Aristotle was much more grounded in reality and empiricism...

Plato (particularly in the Republic) tried to create a system imbued with justice from pure theory, then attempted to make it practicable by inserting such unpalatable elements as eugenics and propaganda. (Sound familiar?)

Aristotle (particularly in the Politics) cataloged the empirical examples of political systems, observed which ones worked best, and formulated an incrementally better system.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Care required in new regulation

Some UCLA economists have quantified what many conservatives and libertarians have thought for quite a while, that several of FDR's New Deal policies prolonged the Depression. (Via Don Luskin)

Prolonged by as much as seven years.

While I think it's extremely unlikely that an Obama, Pelosi, and Reid would enact anything as damaging as FDR did, some rhetorical similarities are apparent. The mistakes (and a few successes) of the New Deal should provide food for thought as we determine the exact nature of our future regulatory regime.

Quoting extensively, but please go read the original...
"President Roosevelt believed that excessive competition was responsible for the Depression by reducing prices and wages, and by extension reducing employment and demand for goods and services," said Cole, also a UCLA professor of economics. "So he came up with a recovery package that would be unimaginable today, allowing businesses in every industry to collude without the threat of antitrust prosecution and workers to demand salaries about 25 percent above where they ought to have been, given market forces. The economy was poised for a beautiful recovery, but that recovery was stalled by these misguided policies."

In the three years following the implementation of Roosevelt's policies, wages in 11 key industries averaged 25 percent higher than they otherwise would have done, the economists calculate. But unemployment was also 25 percent higher than it should have been, given gains in productivity.

Meanwhile, prices across 19 industries averaged 23 percent above where they should have been, given the state of the economy. With goods and services that much harder for consumers to afford, demand stalled and the gross national product floundered at 27 percent below where it otherwise might have been.

"High wages and high prices in an economic slump run contrary to everything we know about market forces in economic downturns," Ohanian said. "As we've seen in the past several years, salaries and prices fall when unemployment is high. By artificially inflating both, the New Deal policies short-circuited the market's self-correcting forces."

First, it should be pointed out that FDR's plan was thought to be pro-business as well as pro-labor. Republicans too now fall into the intellectual trap that by creating favorable conditions for a few businesses that one is helping business and the economy generally. Consequently, Democrats can claim to be centrist, pro-business folk for engaging in corporate welfare tactics. I'm reminded of the late George Carlin when he said "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out."

We probably won't get another Smoot-Hawley, but we have seen a lot of static about NAFTA, and some ridiculously asinine opposition to the Colombia Free Trade agreement. We are starting to see irresponsibly pro-union legislation in the form of the so-called "Employee Free Choice Act". And we are seeing increased support for increasing the minimum wage and pegging it to inflation.

(Aside: What happens when we get deflation? Can the minimum wage go down then?)

We're told this is no time for "ideology" - meaning of course, free-market ideology. (No such prohibition on socialist ideology is to be found.) But it is a time when one should marry theory with empiricism. And empirically, several policy proposals out there in the aether are known losers.

Let's learn from our mistakes, and exercise care in our attempts to right the economy.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Greenspan's Flaw

Greenspan may be blamed for having too loose monetary policy, in particular choosing to target interest rates rather than money supply. And if this flaw is accepted as such, it would be large enough in its own right to tarnish the Fed Chairmanship of the man once called "Maestro".

But the much vaunted "ideological" flaw was the assumption of near perfect and/or complete information among financial institutions.

Financial institutions did quite a bit to compensate for this... insurance, credit rating agencies, put options, credit default swaps, securitization, etc. But it wasn't enough to compensate for fraud at the credit rating agencies, fraud at the mortgage origination level, and an asset class bubble inflated in large part by government policy, and certainly not enough to compensate for such things at ridiculously low levels of capital requirement as per the SEC's 2004 ruling.

And as bad as the mortgage situation is, over-leverage was bound to create a problem somewhere. It should come as no surprise that over-leverage found its way into a manipulated market, but were it not for that, some other asset would have become inflated. But then we're back -at least in part- to questions of monetary policy, Mr. Greenspan.

These assumptions, however flawed, were not about the basic nature of the game structure... the incentives... the punishments. Criticizing the nature of the game is a bridge too far, and to assume that changing the fundamental structure of the game will lead to better outcomes does not logically follow. Nor does it follow that just because the market participants have imperfect and incomplete information that the government has superior information. Anybody who has watched a House or Senate banking committee hearing (particularly in the last six months) should immediately grasp this concept.

The most useful models tend toward simplicity at the expense of perfect explanation. And in this, Greenspan was basically right, but he confused the idea of a brilliant and useful model with the reality before him.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


(Sigh.) The media is totally in the tank. (Bold mine)

Can any blogger out there answer these questions? I repeat: Has any major television network, any national news magazine, or any major daily newspaper ever mentioned Barack Obama’s membership in, or endorsement by, the New Party, and then gone on to explore and explain what the New Party was, including its ties to ACORN? Isn’t the membership of a major party nominee and currently favored candidate to become president of the United States in a third party a major news story? Is it not the height of press irresponsibility to ignore this fact?

Now some folks might be disturbed by Obama’s New Party membership and/or endorsement, and some may not. But isn’t this something the American people are entitled to know and decide on for themselves?

Well, it should be a story. At least as much a story as Palin's non-membership in the Alaska Independence Party.

Throw me a frickin' bone here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Another CFOB

... Communist Friend of Barack, that is. Michael Klonsky.

And by Communist, I mean traveled to rub elbows with the ChiComs, and criticized China's early 1980's market reform policies... apparently the ChiComs weren't Communist enough. And Communist enough to start the "October League", later the "Communist Party (Marxist Leninist)".

So, uh... Communist.

This time, one Obama helped secure nearly two million dollars for in the form of "small school" workshops. Workshops explicitly designed to inject politics (guess whose politics...) into every subject.

Andrew McCarthy quotes Klonsky The Nation* (emphasis McCarthy's):
[S]uccessful social justice education ensures that teachers strike a balance between debating sociopolitical problems that affect children’s lives and teaching them academic basics on which they will be tested. A science teacher can plant an urban garden, allowing students to learn about plant biology, the imbalance in how fresh produce is distributed and how that affects the health of community residents. An English teacher can explore misogyny or materialism in American culture through the lens of hip-hop lyrics. Or as Rico Gutstein, a professor of mathematics education at the University of Illinois, Chicago, suggests, a math teacher can run probability simulations using real data to understand the dynamics behind income inequality or racial profiling. These are “examples of lessons where you can really learn the math basics,” he says, “but the purpose of learning the math actually becomes an entree into, and a deeper understanding of, the political ramifications of the issue.”
But hey, Sarah Palin is the real extremist. I mean, she eats moose, for heaven's sake! And she talks funny!

* - [edit: As a commenter points out, McCarthy sorta screwed the pooch on this one and is not quoting Klonsky as his article states, but quoting The Nation and apparently Rico Gutstein. Nevertheless, the criticism of the small school workshops remains.]

Welfare Tax Code

The Obama camp has amended their tax plan to include a work requirement in order to counter the claim that it's "welfare". Apparently they were going to do this all along, but ... uh... didn't. (Of course they were!) Also, they're calling McCain hypocritical on the welfare issue because McCain's health plan tax credit doesn't require work.

Two things:

1 - "Welfare" isn't defined by whether somebody has a job. It's defined by the receipt of a benefit for no reason other than arbitrary government policy. That includes a lot of things - subsidized college loans, ethanol mandates and tariffs, corporate research and development grants, and the more traditional "welfare" of food stamps, etc. This whole job requirement thing is a total non sequitur.

2 - The McCain health care credit is indeed welfare by the standard definition. But the status quo is a "regressive" welfare tax credit for the middle and upper classes that is not enjoyed by the lower class. The McCain plan corrects that problem. Also, one does not get the tax credit if one does not purchase health insurance, so whether one works or not is irrelevant.

And in other news, "socialist" is a dog whistle code word for "black". Because the racists hadn't figured out that Obama is black. Marx and Engels were unavailable for comment.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Even the PUMAs Know Socialism When They See It

The folks at Moron Home Base read the PUMA ("Party Unity, My *ss") blogs so I don't have to.

These PUMAs even quote Reagan, much to their own amazement:
“You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.” - Ronald Reagan
They go on:
Unless that Kool-Aid Obama’s serving is much stronger than we could ever imagine, there’s no way Americans want any part of socialism. We saw socialism in action in Europe growing up in the 80s, and it’s not pretty.

Unfortunately, 18-year-old voters were born in 1990 and have no memories of the Cold War. Heck, I'm damn near thirty and my Cold War memories are quite fuzzy. The "youth vote" has no idea what sort of fire they're playing with, and the aging hippies should know better by now.

(New blog label: "socialism")

Sunday, October 19, 2008

MTP: The Powell Endorsement

First, I'd like to point out that media perceptions of Powell's sagacity are highly selective.

In fact, Powell reiterated his defense of the administration's basic decision to go to war in Iraq, and Powell again stated that his "unhappiness is that we didn't do it right".

But it's important to examine the reasoning Powell displayed on Meet the Press when he endorsed Obama. It's been a fairly open secret that Powell is not anything close to resembling a "movement conservative", and he holds numerous positions at odds with the majority of the party. Those differences were on full display today.

The popular perception of the Powell endorsement is that a military figure's endorsement is an endorsement first and foremost of Obama as Commander-in-Chief. But instead, it is apparent from Powell's statements that he was more concerned with non-military issues, and it seemed to me that Powell was mostly working backwards from his social policy views to find the Obama-Biden ticket acceptable from a military policy perspective.

Listening to Powell's descriptions about our planned withdrawal from Iraq, one would think that we're on autopilot to victory - that the die has been cast and neither Obama nor McCain is likely to do much to change it. Perhaps so, but that doesn't make Obama any more qualified to be Commander-in-Chief in any future conflicts, and the general dismissal of this issue undermines Powell's criticism of Gov. Palin as being "not ready".

It also amazed me that Powell could endorse Sen. Biden as being "ready on day one" when Biden's so-called-experience in foreign affairs has been marred by thirty years of serious policy blunders - not the least of which was a suggestion to send "a check to Iran" in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. (How Biden connected the Shia/Persian theocracy of Iran to the Sunni/Arab core of Al Qaeda has eluded me.)

But it is clear to me that Powell was working backwards from the conclusions he has drawn about social policy. The first subjects Powell mentioned were the economy, education, and international poverty, and he expressed a desire to not have more conservative SCOTUS Justices. If Powell wants a liberal Supreme Court, thinks Obama is the answer to the economy and education, and has a desire for the type of international welfare superstate that Obama favors, it's almost a foregone conclusion that an Obama endorsement was in the cards.

Frankly, it's surprising that he waited this long. How Powell justifies a Christie Whitman-like whining about how he doesn't like the direction the party has taken is beyond me. Powell seems to have no social policy agreement with Republicans whatsoever.

But policy differences aside, I was disappointed when Powell slipped into more ephemeral praise of Obama using language like "intellectual curiosity", "inspiring", "inclusive", "reaching out", and "transformational". His willingness to sprinkle this meaningless bumble into his endorsement indicates that he has bought into the idea that Obama qua Obama will heal the nation's wounds and lead America to greatness with Obama's own personal majesty. Powell has drunk the Kool-Aid.

What malarkey.

(Edit: Yeah, what Goldberg says about those spurious Muslim claims.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Final Notice? Pretty please!

Dear RNC,

Look, I want McCain to win. But you guys tick me off sometimes.

Did you get the memo? This one's a little better, but it's still very abrasive.


"FINAL NOTICE"? Is that a threat or a promise? Please make this my final notice - I could heat my house for the winter if I burned all the fund-raising mail I got in the last six months.

I have never given the RNC money, so I'm a little confused by the "renewal" thing. I mean, there's nothing for me to renew.

I also got a separate piece of mail today that included this bit from "John McCain":
My friend, the last thing we Republicans can afford is to have our hands tied behind our backs due to the fact that their candidate broke his promise to the American people and refused to accept the presidential campaign spending limit - which means they will have no limit as to what they can raise and spend.
[emphasis in original]

Gee, "McCain", what incredible irony. Who tied our hands? McCain-Feingold tied our hands. You boxed yourself in with your own stupid campaign finance bill and it bit you in the hind quarters. Go figure.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Hunt for Red Obama

Is Obama a communist? A socialist?

It should be relatively uncontroversial to say that Obama is at least a democratic socialist, and to the left of the Clintonite/DLC Third Way crowd. The question is how far to the left.

Obama is hard to pigeonhole, as he seems to draw from a number of socalist influences. His philosophy, such as I can ascertain it, is something like a neo-Fabian socialism with strong dirigiste tendencies. But even those labels are at best approximations for the hodge-podge of thinking that influences Obama's policy. To the extent that Obama is incrementalist and non-revolutionary in the Fabian tradition, I think it is as a result of his own reaction to and synthesis of the more radical and revolutionary (even communist) influences in his life, and not so much of a direct influence of Fabian thinkers.

Obama economic policies clearly indicating a sharp shift to the left:
But if Obama were just a sloppy Fabian with a penchant for identity politics and Black Liberation Theology (itself having Marxist influences) I, as a conservative, would be understandably upset, but not nearly as much as I am. I mean, we're all socialists now, right?

What about some of the less savory trends in socialist politics?
(Also, read "The Coming Obama Thugocracy" by Michael Barone.)

The Aesthetic - Somewhat tangential, but no discussion of Obama-the-Red would be complete without it:

Unhinged Supporters - For all the talk of the right becoming unhinged, it seems that Obama supporters are the nuttier ones, even engaging in violence on behalf of The One:

Without getting too far into the weeds of Marxist theory, it is generally understood that a true Communist society would see the dissolution of the state. All communist attempts to date have involved intermediate steps, usually involving a strong socialist state presence. So to try to shoehorn Obama into being a communist is not helpful rhetorically, and is largely irrelevant anyway from a practical perspective.

It's sufficient to say that Obama is a socialist and hasn't been shy about drawing from some of the more left-leaning elements of socialist and Marxist thought.

Bill Clinton he isn't.

Tina Fey is a spoiled brat

Tina Fey has already expressed her desire for the McCain-Palin ticket to lose, and her reluctance to play the part of Palin. Now she's flat out refusing to do so in the event of a Republican victory.

Wow. I mean, that's your job. You get paid to make fun of famous people. Even if you hate her politics, you shouldn't pass up the chance to make fun of her for four years. I'm guessing Chevy Chase wasn't a Ford fan, nor Phil Hartman a Reagan fan...

Is she getting cocky over Obama's lead in the polls? (Funny how Hillary Clinton is coming out of the woodwork now that Obama looks relatively safe.)

Tina Fey, get over yourself.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Cold Civil War

A year after the term was first discovered by the blogosphere, Hyacinth Girl and Mark Steyn revisit the idea of a "cold civil war".

I think the term is a useful one, regardless of whether one believes we are in such a cold civil war or could be entering one. I happen to think that it's a bit heavily connotated for our current environment, but with certain left-leaning Philly columnists predicting a race and class war if Obama should lose, I think "cold civil war" is not as far off as one may think.

I was impressed with this idea a year ago, and this reminder has prompted me to put the Hyacinth Girl blog on my Recommended Reading list, at least on a trial basis.

"Trial basis" because I had to remove a previous linked blog a few weeks ago. Half Sigma was controversial, but usually interesting reading. He has since devolved into a pathetic parody of Andrew Sullivan's recent conspiracy theoretics.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Red Diaper

The Jawas ask an interesting rhetorical question: "Does Barack Obama have any friends who AREN'T Communists?"

Some of those should be small-c communists, and a few non-commie radicals, but still.

Dad, Mom, Frank Marshall Davis, Jeremiah Wright,Michael Phleger, Bill Ayres, Bernadine Dohrn, as well has his connections to ACORN, the New Party (whose endorsement he sought), and the Democratic Socialists of America. (Don't forget wife Michelle's lovely remarks.)

And of course, Alice Palmer, the once Illinois state senator who hand picked Obama as her successor. Palmer's a Big-C Commie, who attended the 27th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and dutifully regurgitated for the People's Daily World that the Soviet economy had reached "basic stability" and that the USSR was "planning to double their production".

This guy seems a little less crazy when you consider that Obama's record contains little else other than these types of associations. There just isn't anything else to flesh out his profile - unless you count Rezko and some of the lovelies in the Chicago machine. It looks like the socialists are indeed taking over the country.

And why are they taking over the country?

This ain't helping. The blue bands represent two standard deviations away from the 20 day price average of the SPYder S&P-500 tracking ETF. The red bands are the third standard deviation off the 20 day price average. We've had a series of 3-StDev moves.

I think, statistically, the world should have ended at least twice by now.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bad Polling

Jim Geraghty over at NR's Campaign Spot blog calls out Newsweek for bad polling.

(poll found here - PDF Warning)

The internals simply don't make sense. Obama is supposed to be winning 18 to 34-year-olds by 10 percent, but at the same time winning 45 to 64-year-olds by 16 percent.


I get it that there are debates about how to weight some of these polls this year, particularly on Party ID, but when you end up with a whole bunch of anomalies like Geraghty points out you're looking at a bad poll. It's not just that it's wrong, it's that it's totally meaningless.

I don't even have to get past the methodology page of the poll to show that it is meaningless.

First up, the Universe:
N = 1.035 registered voters, screened from 1,212 adults, 18+
"Registered voters" is a yellow flag. Not quite a red flag like "adults", but not as good as "Likely voters".

This is the killer though:
Notes: Data are weighted so that sample demographics match Census Current Population Survey parameters for gender, age, education, race, region, and population density.

You do not under any circumstances weight a political poll to Census data. That is the dumbest thing I have ever seen. You can weight to Party ID based either on past turnout or to registered Party ID (or some educated guess in between), or gender, or maybe race, but when you start weighting the crap out of polls to the universe of the total population rather than the voting population you get an extremely flawed result.

Shame on you, Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

I don't take media polls too seriously unless they are done in conjunction with a reputable polling firm, preferably two - one from each party - like the Wall Street Journal does.

Bringing Down LIBOR

I'm not an economist, though I'm going to play one on the intertubes today.

Several people (one such example) have thrown around the idea of the Federal Reserve guaranteeing interbank loans. The basic idea seems reasonable to me. It could slow the bleeding. However, it is unclear how such a program would eventually be unwound, and what happens to the system when the Feds decide to end the program. Would irrational risk aversion cascadingly reassert itself?

If the Fed is going to be in the business of insuring something then they should be paid for their trouble. Perhaps only a quarter percent. If Fed intervention brings down LIBOR by several percent, then 25 basis points seems like an attractive premium for counter-parties to pay.

Perhaps most importantly, this insurance should be optional - if not at first, at least after some time has passed. This would allow the banks to wean themselves off the insurance gradually as they decide that taking on additional risk is worth forgoing the insurance penalty.

The beginning of the end of democracy

Potentially, anyway.

I'm incrementally less sanguine about McCain's chances in Ohio.

They're getting away with it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Vaccine for what, now?

LAT reports that 25% of teen girls were vaccinated against "cervical cancer".

Well, not really. They received Guardisil, a vaccine against several prevalent strains of HPV, which is the primary cause of cervical cancer.

Don't get me wrong, I think an HPV vaccine is a good idea. No insignificant amount of human suffering will be averted because of HPV vaccination, and that's a good idea regardless of the hypothetical effects on human behavior. But if one wants to "go there", even the nearly mythological celibate girl who first has sex on her wedding night can't be certain of her husband's history.

But it's not a vaccine against cancer, it's a vaccine against HPV.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

They said it not us

I'm glad this was in the NY Times, otherwise it would be raaaaciiiist.
“We didn’t really know what we were buying,” said Marc Gott, a former director in Fannie’s loan servicing department. “This system was designed for plain vanilla loans, and we were trying to push chocolate sundaes through the gears.
But it was a quote in the Paper of Record, so it's all good.

Found via Rich Lowry at NRO/Corner.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Electoral Map Update

Using the PredictNovember tool, I've changed some of my electoral map assignments. Current breakdown is Obama 264, McCain 185, Unassigned 89.

PA, NH, NM from Unassigned to Obama

-The right campaign could possibly move PA, but there seems to be no sign that the right sort of campaign will be waged.

KS from Unassigned to McCain - a "duh" move that I didn't do previously due to a lack of info.

FL, NC from McCain to Unassigned
-I think McCain will get these back, but the momentum is unmistakable. Also, Liddy Dole is a very weak statewide candidate in NC.

Remaining Unassigned:
OH - I think there has been some bad polling, and McCain will eventually get OH, Dem voter fraud aside.

VA - Very close race. Potentially some polls badly weighted on Party ID due to the late primary crossover effect.

CO - Leaning Obama, but shouldn't this one have been put away by the Dem Convention?

NV - Also very close. No insight.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Good Idea, Losing Message

The McCain health care tax credit plan is a good one insofar as a plan like this one goes a long way toward correcting the inefficiencies that have crept into the health care system without putting America on an irreversible path to socialized medicine. To the extent that one favors a single-payer plan anyway, well, there's not much here for you. (Sorry, Matt.)

Unfortunately, the merits of the McCain plan are falling on deaf ears and it is a losing political message because there is a substantial truth to the Obama campaign's attacks that the McCain plan taxes one's health insurance. Employer-provided health insurance emerged as an end-run around ancient wage caps because such compensation wasn't counted as "income" under the wage cap, the income tax code, or FICA. McCain's plan will count benefit compensation as income.

This is important for several reasons. Firstly, the current system distorts the income tax and FICA against lower wage earners by allowing better paid wage earners to shield greater amounts of their compensation from taxation. Tax-exempt employer health plans are a theoretically unlimited subsidy to higher compensated individuals while giving nothing for those without such benefits.

Secondly, the current system distorts the market for heath insurance. If an employee is given the choice between a $10,000 health insurance plan versus a $10,000 raise minus 15.3% FICA and minus federal, state, and local income taxes, the $10,000 health plan looks pretty good even if it isn't the right plan for that employee. For many people a lower-premium/high-deductible plan plus a Health Savings Account would be preferrable.

Thirdly, the current system ties heath insurance to a specific employer. Why does it make sense to change health insurance plans when changing jobs? Why should you automatically lose health insurance if you lose your job?

The McCain plan un-incentivises much of this distortion and normalizes a health care benefit across the wage-earning spectrum.

The Obama plan cements the insane connection between health insurance and employment, and it puts government in the business of heath care in a very big way. It mandates how health insurance works and it will eventually squeeze most private insurers out of the market, whereas the McCain plan humbly says, "here's some money, you go figure it out because we'll probably screw it up".

Sadly, Obama is technically right when he says McCain will "tax health insurance", and even people who resist a single-payer system will be moved by that message.

McCain has a good idea that will never happen.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

VP Debate - Back to the Main Event

A bit delayed, sorry, but I found something that summarizes my feelings about Biden very succinctly:

Jonah Goldberg:
What struck me the most about the debate – and it probably helped having quintessential Obamaphiles in the room – was how Biden’s “gravitas” is derived almost entirely from the fact that he can lie with absolute passion and conviction. He just plain made stuff up tonight.

They both goofed some. I think Biden's goofs were more numerous and certainly more severe(-1-, -2-), especially given his grand experience of decades in the Senate. Others have pointed out (correctly, IMO) that had Palin said some of the idiotic things Biden said she might be booted off the ticket.

Like the first Presidential debate, there were no apparent knockout punches thrown, and one's opinion of who won is in the eye of the beholder. Overall, Palin did well enough that I think we can get back to the main event, McCain -vs- Obama, and worry a little less about whether Palin is up to snuff.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Stupid White Person Outed

Dude. Seriously.
A Marianna middle-school teacher has been suspended for 10 days without pay after he wrote a racially charged interpretation of a commonly used phrase in the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama.
It said, "C.H.A.N.G.E. — Come Help A (N-word) Get Elected."

Greg Howard, on behalf of white folks everywhere, your whiteness has been hereby revoked. Your credit rating has been dropped 100 points, and your cab-hailing privileges have been suspended. Please turn in your credentials at the nearest Cracker Barrel or Wal-Mart.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

One Less MTP Host Candidate

Ok, I goofed. Scratch Gwen Ifill off the list of potential Meet the Press hosts.

For the record, I don't think it matters very much about her moderating the VP debate. All of the media is in the tank for Obama, except for Fox, which is in the tank for McCain. At least the public got a flavor of the bias before the debate and can adjust their expectations accordingly.

I thought Tom Brokaw would be a good interim host for MTP, but I'm disappointed. I don't think it's that he isn't trying to be objective, I think it's that he lacks the energy and enthusiasm for nailing an interview like Russert did. Lacking that energy, his bias (which everybody has) peeks through. Questionable assertions go unquestioned. Still, he was probably the best person for the interim gig given the weak bench at NBC.