Thursday, February 28, 2008

Is McCain Eligible to Run for President?

The NY Times has an article that discusses whether or not John McCain is eligible for the presidency since he was born outside of the United States (albeit at a U.S. military installation at the Panama Canal).

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bill Buckley

is dead.

Kudos to McCain

The whole let's mention Hussein every time we say Barack Obama or the Obama/Osama smear or the Obama is a closet Muslim thing is pretty odious. It is also really, really stupid. Like I have stated before, I am not much of a McCain fan but I think he does deserve some credit for denouncing this tactic.

Adding to Anti

Anti has a great comment in response to Archduke F.F.’s post on the MN gas tax:

“Yeah I like nice roads and what not but why I really support it is because it is a start to getting people to realize the true cost of our transit system. Our current transit system is one of the largest perverse subsidies that government provides. Now a perverse subsidy is one that does both environmental and economical harm, therefore not providing a negative net result.I would make the argument that this tax needs to go much further, but I am realistic enough to understand that green taxes will only work on a national level. Our current economic system rewards those who can decrease their personal costs at the expense of increasing societal externality costs. If we are ever going to achieve an economy that enhances our standard of living, provides economic growth, and does so through sustainable means we are going to have to implement taxes that causes people and business to experience the actual costs of their activities. And by doing so we will fuel industrial innovation and creativity, because nothing makes people and companies more creative than when they are trying to figure out ways to save money.”

I think part of the problem with our transportation system and the method of financing it is borne of cultural expectations or maybe an entitlement mentality surrounding our car culture. The D.C. metropolitan area is a good example of this. People constantly discuss the need to widen I-66 (a major highway that goes from the far reaches of the Virginia exurbs to D.C.). Whereas the discussion of rail (whether it be heavy rail, underground, or light rail) is framed within the language of a subsidy, almost as if it were some sort of fashionable amenity like a new ballpark. National budgeting reflects this sentiment as well. The federal gas tax which goes to funding our public infrastructure is apportioned overwhelmingly to highway infrastructure. Amtrak gets a meager $1-2 billion and is expected to recoup the rest of its operating expenses in ticket revenues (nevermind any capital investment and the sheer impracticality of this propositon due to mandated routes that have virtually no ridership and the absurd subsidies of air transportation which compete with rail on short and medium haul routes). Any federal funding that is earmarked for light rail or metro expansion is derided as pork, whereas the highway funding itself is viewed as sacrosanct. This view perpetuates itself as people organize their lives to a considerable degree around their transportation wants and needs.

Hillary Clinton & Experience

“Hillary keeps going on and on about her experience as first lady making her qualified to be president. Being married to someone doesn’t make you experienced enough to do their job. I’ve been married to my wife for ten years and if she was up here right now y’all wouldn’t laugh once.”

-Chris Rock

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sheer Brilliance

See Michael Kinsley's send-up in Slate of the NYT's attempt to refute criticism of its instantly infamous McCain article. It's pure hyperbole, but brilliant nonetheless.Link

This Made Me Laugh

From Commenter ptk in response to a Marginal Revolution post:
"the real crime is that the unions have seduced their employees into believing they have jobs for life as long as they continue to pay their union dues and to eat cheetos on the couch at home.

when they should rather be spending their time educating themselves in productive technologies and skills in the community college system in order to move up the food chain.

and without the expansion of trade (and credit), these people would still be watching the superbowl on a 24-in. CRT TV in a trailor home with a $5 Big Mac rather than feasting on $7 Dominoes pizza, $1 Big Macs, $3 buckets of KFC, or $1 Burrito Supremes while being blinded by a 52-in HD plasma flat screen from the seat of their Lazy-Boy deluxe in the living room of their sub-prime castle."

MN Gas Tax Increase

Marty Seifert is a jackass for complaining about this.

Minnesota will increase the gas tax by 8.5 cents until current bonds are paid for, then drop back to 5 cents after that. After the bridge collapse last year--Yes, Repubs, it was a "design flaw," but one that could have been caught with better maintenance procedures--and having driven on all the crappy roads in a state that has harsh winters that tend to wreck pavement pretty quickly, I'd be willing to pay 20 bucks a month to make sure that things are safer and better maintained. I don't feel that that would be undue stress.


How much will the increase actually cost me? Well, I get 30 miles to the gallon on my car and I drive about 12000 miles per year. Crunching those numbers, it'll cost me...34 dollars.

If I were getting 20 miles/gallon, it'd cost me 51. Wow. What a huge tax increase. Anyone who complains about this is an idiot. Deciding not to go out to a nice dinner one time per year will relieve you of the undue stress of this massive increase. Or, perhaps, spending one week on vacation out of state, so that you won't have to buy any gas. Don't complain about 51 dollars for safer, better roads.

The Hillary Clinton Forum Banned Me

Yesterday I thought it would be fun to post something on The Hillary Clinton online forum to see what the response would be (I had some time to kill at work), so I posted a link to my blog post from yesterday and titled my forum posting “When will Hillary face reality and drop out?”

Apparently the forum is not a fan of dissent (or reality for that matter) because when I went to log in to the forum this morning to check out the response I received this message:

You have been banned for the following reason: No reason was specified.
Date the ban will be lifted: Never

PeP Links

No theme

Noam Scheiber has an article on the cotorie of economists advising Obama (an encouraging article to somebody from the right like me).

The NY Times has a story on how remittances to Mexico have leveled off.

Jakob Hacker has a column in the LA Times pleading with Clinton and Obama to stop their pissing match over whether there should be a mandate. He also makes the case that Universal Health Care along the lines of either plan will amount to a free lunch. Color me skeptical. I am in favor of Universal Health Care but there is very little in either plan that does anything about cost control. Both plans are essentially expanding the current system to people who are uncovered. Obama's main health advisor, Jonathon Cutler- probably the preeminent health economist, basically thinks we should be willing to spend 20% GDP on health care. What I didn't realize about Obama's plan is that it features federal re-insurance which I think is a very productive idea. If you coupled that with a phase out of the tax exemption of health care I think you could really do something about enhancing the portability of health care, increasing access, while decreasing unit prices.

Where Life almost imitates Art. Boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko, IBF tilte holder, moves one step closer to a unified title by beating Sultan Ibragimov, WBO title holder. Sort of like Rocky IV except if Ivan Drago had fought his twin brother.

Random, there is an entire site dedicated to tips on waking up early. I may actually peruse this as my work day starts between 6:30-7:00.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Hal Varian

The Freakanomics Blog has an interesting reader Q&A session with Hal Varian, Chief Economist of Google.

Superdelegates

Geraldine Ferraro gives the backstory on the Superdelegates and her role in creating the Superdelegates. After this historical explanation she delves into why it is important today- without superdelegates Hillary Clinton would have no shot at this point at beating Obama. Ferraro has endorsed Clinton.

When Will Hillary Give It Up?

I tend not to agree much with Robert Novak, but I must say that his editorial in the Washington Post today is right on.

Eugene Robinson also has a great op-ed piece where he looks at how preposterous it would be if the situation was reversed and Obama lost 10 states in a row and still maintained that he was a viable candidate and vowed to stay in the race.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Here Comes Nader

You knew this was going to happen soon enough, Ralph Nader announced today that he will be running as a third party candidate in the presidential election this November.

Friday, February 22, 2008

McCain and the New York Times

I think Ezra Klein sums it up pretty well:

"If the New York Times has evidence that John McCain conducted an affair with a lobbyist, then they should come out and say so. To try and imply it primarily by reporting the concerns of members of McCain's staff and halfhearted denials from his allies is confusing for the reader and bad for the paper. They don't get to create plausible deniability by hiding the charges in a much longer exploration of McCain's reputation for honesty and his history with lobbyists and special interests -- the substance of the story is whether McCain had an affair with a lobbyist, and whether he then advocated for her clients improperly. Those two things either happened or they didn't, and the paper should just tell us which it is."

It wouldn't suprise me in the least if McCain had an affair but the Times has not documented that. The NY Times has trotted out a piece more becoming of the Enquirer than of the Paper of Record.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

One Last Point About The Democratic Debate and the Crappiness of the Media

One word describes it all: earmarks. The moderators tried to do the whole gotcha thing with earmarks and then tried to get the candidates to contrast their position on earmarks with Sen. McCain. Earmarks represent such a minuscule portion of federal outlays (like $18 billion out of $3 trillion). If you want to make fiscal responsibility a central discussion of the presidential campaign, earmarks are a piss poor way to do so. You need to talk about Health Care (private and public), Iraq, the Defense Budget, and Social Security.

Notes on McCain

I have always found McCain vexing. I was 18 when he mounted his insurgent campaign in 2000 which inspired my interest in politics. I cast my first ever vote for him in the Virginia GOP primary. I was drawn and still am drawn to his story of courage and honor while serving in Vietnam (though, at the time I wasn't aware that he ditched his wife once he got back to the states for someone hotter, younger, and richer). On some very important issues where he has departed with Republicans, I believe his positions have been admirable and correct: notably the Bush tax cut, Torture (especially torture), global warming, and the Gang of 14. In other areas I think he is positively daft (campaign finance), too clever by half (immigration), terrifying (the fact that he has been advocating Iraq style invasions under his policy proposal of "Rogue Regime Rollback" since 1998). I believe his health care proposals are the best of either party if only too modest in their scale. At the same time I am put off at how disingenuous he is for a straight talker, disdainful of our first amendment rights, and seemingly chomping at the bitt to start the wrong fight.

Dem Debate

I have only been watching the debate for 5 minutes but Obama is killing it. Going into Texas and Ohio Clinton needs to be wiping the floor with Obama and the opposite is occurring. Stick a fork in her, she is done.

Note: My usual caveat- my predictions are utterly worthless. If I were a pollster I would rank right there with Zogby and the Strib in terms of worthlessness.

Update: Pet peeve, Clinton and Obama are getting into a great back and forth on health care mandates. They are working the crap out of this issue and I think it is fabulous. The moderators keep breaking in and try move on to the next topic. They should just shut up and get out of the way.

Brad DeLong on Cuba

Brad DeLong has reposted a brilliant if depressing post in the wake of Fidel stepping down:

"The hideously depressing thing is that Cuba under Battista--Cuba in 1957--was a developed country. Cuba in 1957 had lower infant mortality than France, Belgium, West Germany, Israel, Japan, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Cuba in 1957 had doctors and nurses: as many doctors and nurses per capita as the Netherlands, and more than Britain or Finland. Cuba in 1957 had as many vehicles per capita as Uruguay, Italy, or Portugal. Cuba in 1957 had 45 TVs per 1000 people--fifth highest in the world. Cuba today has fewer telephones per capita than it had TVs in 1957.

You take a look at the standard Human Development Indicator variables--GDP per capita, infant mortality, education--and you try to throw together an HDI for Cuba in the late 1950s, and you come out in the range of Japan, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Israel. Today? Today the UN puts Cuba's HDI in the range of Lithuania, Trinidad, and Mexico. (And Carmelo Mesa-Lago thinks the UN's calculations are seriously flawed: that Cuba's right HDI peers today are places like China, Tunisia, Iran, and South Africa.)

Thus I don't understand lefties who talk about the achievements of the Cuban Revolution: "...to have better health care, housing, education, and general social relations than virtually all other comparably developed countries." Yes, Cuba today has a GDP per capita level roughly that of--is "comparably developed"--Bolivia or Honduras or Zimbabwe, but given where Cuba was in 1957 we ought to be talking about how it is as developed as Italy or Spain."

Did McCain Violate McCain-Feingold?

How delicious would that be?

How Many Wealthy Californians Does It Take To Save A Tanking Clinton Campaign?

I don’t think this is going to help Hillary Clinton, but it is being reported that a group of 100 wealthy Clinton supporters have come together to each donate $100,000 to fund advertisements in Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania that basically mimic Clinton’s campaign rhetoric towards Obama.

This first ad that is going to begin airing in a day or two has already been released on YouTube.

A Green Tax System

An idea presented by Paul Hawken about transitioning to green fees as opposed to income, payroll and corporate taxes.

"If we were to incrementally replace over a twenty-year period all government revenues ($1.25 trillion), including the deficit amount of the budget that is not collected ($264 billion), through the use of fees on products and processes, we would be adding 5 percent of the total, or $76 billion a year (thereafter adjusted annually for inflation and budget increases). The annual fees and taxes on virgin resources, emissions, fuels, products, wastes, rights, and services would equal about 1.2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. At the same time, the same $76 billion per year, also adjusted annually for inflation, would be lopped off present income and payroll taxes, both individual and corporate. At the end of the period, most government revenues would be derived from green taxes, virtually none from income, payroll, or corporate taxes. Of course, people may still wish to levy a surcharge on high income individuals and companies. But we would nonetheless have consistently and steadily shifted the tax burden from income and entrepreneurial activity to those activities we wish to discourage, thereby transforming the economy. The resulting changes in the marketplace this would cause would be dramatic. Every purchase would become more constructive and less destructive. Equally important, the innate instinct to save money would reward both the customer and the environment.

The whole key to redesigning the economy is to shift incrementally most if not all the taxes presently derived from “goods” to “bads,” from income and payroll taxes to taxes on pollution, environmental degradation, and nonrenewable energy consumption. Because green taxes are incorporated into the price a company or customer pays for a resource, product, or service, they create powerful incentives to revise and constantly improve methods of production, distribution, and consumption, as well as a means to reconsider our wants and needs. The purpose of a green tax is to give people and companies positive incentives to avoid them."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Democrats and Unions

Liberal commentators frequently cite declining union memberships as a contributing factor, even driving factor, in stagnating wages (i tend to think it is the rapid increase of per-capita health care costs and skills based technological changes, but anyways). Thus, if we could just return the country to that golden period immediately following WWII and ramp up union membership we would see median wages skyrocket again. The premise of a union's ability to bargain for better wages is that it can tax the return to capital. As capital has become increasingly mobile it simply doesn't have that same leverage it once did.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Presidents' Day

I am not a fan. We have had some presidents who were great, others that were flawed, some that were horrible, and some that were just mediocre (which, actually, I have no problem with- mediocre is better than tragically bad any day). I like MLK day, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving Day (I love Thanksgiving). I just don't see the point. For most people President's day is more like- Free Paid Annual Leave Day, or the Last 3-Day Weekend without taking Paid Leave For a Long Ass While Day.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Disgusting & Pathetic

I was reading an article tonight from the Guardian and I ran across this quote:
“McCain, in contrast, has been a divisive figure within the Republican party because of his opposition to torture at Guantánamo, his advocacy for new immigration laws and campaign finance reform, and his wavering stand on tax cuts. He has had trouble winning over social conservatives.”
Does anyone else find it completely disgusting and downright pathetic that due to McCain’s “opposition to torture at Guantánamo” he is considered to be “a divisive figure within the Republican party”?

How the hell in 2008 is the idea that the U.S. should be torturing people even a conceivable thought?

Governement Regulation & Business

Last night in class we had a rather rigorous debate concerning the role of government regulations on businesses. Here is the question that I am left with:

Which arose first, the regulations or the violation of societal standards that called them forth?

Clinton's Rate Freeze

I really don't understand the obsession with keeping people in a house that they plain can't afford and never could, regardless of whether they went into it with eyes wide open or were swindled. For the latter, if you want to do something and we really should, staff up DOJ's fraud division. But I tend to think that for most the issue of foreclosure was simply a matter of people trying to make money quick or buying more house than they could afford at the time but were banking on rising home prices.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Clemens and Congress

I think the congressional hearings on steroid abuse is utterly frivolous and nothing more than a bunch of attention whores indulging themselves. However, I do, if ever so slightly, take issue with the notion that Congress has no place in the steroid investigations. Congress has granted monopoly rights to several of the professional sports leagues, including the MLB. I don't think this business of the congressional hearings is a particularly compelling use of our congressional representative's time, but arguably, when somebody abuses their monopoly privileges, those very anticompetitive privileges that Congress has bestowed, Congress has some reason (shamefully thin in this instance) to address the issue. It appears to be pretty clear that Clemens has used performance enhancing drugs and that his principle accuser is a complete lowlife. In fact it looks like MacNamee is a rapist to boot.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Health Care Reform Then and Now

Here is a Time magazine article about universal health care proposals during the Nixon Administration. The similarities are really interesting.

hat tip: voxbaby

McCain Video

Some of you may have seen the song and video that was put together by will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas that was inspired by Barack Obama's "Yes We Can" speech (which by the way you can download the full mp3 version by right clicking and saving this link).

Well there is a similar video about John McCain that I thought was hilarious.

Steven Spielberg Pulls Out of Beijing Olympics

In a press release issued yesterday, Steven Spielberg formally ended his involvement as an artistic consultant for the 2008 Summer Olympics in China. He cited the ongoing genocide in Darfur and China's complicity as the reasons to forego this unique opportunity. Spielberg wrote: "I find that my conscience cannot allow me to continue with business as usual. At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies, but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sucks To Be Black In Alabama...Unless You're Hillary Clinton

So on Super Tuesday in Alabama Barack Obama received 56% of the vote compared to Clinton’s 42% thanks to a large turnout by black voters who voted 80% for Obama. Here is the shitty part, due to the fact that delegates are handed out by congressional districts, and congressional districts in Alabama have been historically drawn to marginalize the black vote (i.e. the district line runs through black areas so that half vote in one district and the other half vote in a separate district), thanks to all of this Hillary Clinton has received 25 delegates compared to Obama’s 26 delegates, even though Obama carried the state by 14%...shitty indeed.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

PeP Douchebag of the Week...

Goes to David Schuster for accusing the Clintons of pimping out Chelsea.

Friday, February 08, 2008

College Educated v. High School Educated Primary

David Brooks has a great column on the striking difference in educational attainment amongst Hillary and Obama supporters. But my favorite part was this little blurb on the super delegates:

"But it’ll still be tied after all that. The superdelegates will pick the nominee — the party honchos, the deal-makers, the donors, the machine. Swinging those people takes a level of cynicism even Dr. Retail can’t pretend to understand. That’s Tammany Hall. That’s the court at Versailles under Louis XIV."

The Hippity To The Hoppity

Recently a former roommate and excellent friend of mine (who will remain nameless) moved out to the lovely town of Winston-Salem, North Carolina to work at an advertising firm.

This newly transplanted southern belle has just dropped his first hip hop album entitled Straight Outta Winston under the name of “Strata G”.

I think the album is hilarious and rather well done, but to quote Strata G, “the internets are annnngrrrrry,” as a gawker.com post reflects.

Obama and Minorities

A meme is starting to emerge in the wake of the California primary and I will think it will be in full bloom come Texas about Obama's poor performance amongst Latinos and Asians. We pretty much exclusively discuss racism in terms of White and Black populations but outside of pockets of the South you unlikely to encounter overt racial hostility amongst Whites towards Blacks. This not to say there are no underlying tensions, certainly there are. However, amongst different minority groups my perception is that there is more overt hostility.

Biofuels=Bad

Now that the Iowa Caucauses are over can't we get over the obsession with biofuels? Well, according to this article, not only are they ineffective in comparison to gasoline in generating energy, they cause greater emissions.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ted Haggard...

Is still gay.

McCain's Comeback

There will be a lot of analysis about McCain's comeback along the lines of this article that intimate it hinged on this or that policy stance or this or that campaign tactic. McCain's comeback was the result of a perfect storm, not anything McCain did. Giuliani pursued a brain dead campaign strategy (to concede all of the early states), Thompson was lazy, Romney was Mormon and oozed crass opportunism, and Huckabee's appeal was too narrowly sectarian (though, I think ultimately Huckabee's rhetoric is the first iteration of a revitalized and relevant Republican party, if not his policy suggestions). McCain was able to dominate the moderates and pick off enough upscale and downscale conservatives to win because the Conservative base was not enthusiastic about a single candidate nor could it decide which candidate it hated the least. I have a love/hate relationship for McCain and will find it very difficult to vote for him for President. If Hillary gets the nomination I will vote for him, if Obama wins the nomination then all bets are off.

Xtra's Random Prediction, Anti's Take

I couldn't agree more that if the Democratic Presidential nomination comes down to which way the super delegates vote that this is going to end up being a complete mess.

As it stands now (as of 10am today) Obama is leading Clinton in popularly selected pledged delegates 603 to 590, but Clinton is leading in super delegates 193 to Obama’s 106, giving Clinton a total delegate lead of 783 to 709.

If this trend continues and Obama ends up receiving a majority of the popularly selected delegates but Clinton ends up receiving the nomination due to her courting of super delegates I could see a number of people in the Democratic Party screaming afoul, and for good reason.

Related Link: Random Prediction

Stupid Trade

The Suns apparently are set to trade Shawn Marion for Shaquille O'Neal. This seems like a stupid trade to me. Shaq is 35 and is in the midst of his worst season and it is he only going further downhill from hereon out. I think the Suns are hoping that they can rest him for the season and get one last hurrah from the big man in the post season and win the title. Entirely plausible, however, they probably could have swung a similar trade for KG earlier in the year and been set to make a run of several years instead of just this season.

Tax Reform

One of the things that bemuse me, and I am borrowing liberally from Justin Fox of the Curious Captalist, is why we don't try to replicate the 1986 tax reform. The 1986 tax reform flattened the tax system significantly, thus pleasing conservatives (created two income brackets 28% and 14%), and treated all income the same (capital gains 28% just as income) and got rid of slews of tax breaks. The net result was a revenue positive tax reform that lowered tax rates, all parties were pleased. I don't know if this would be the best policy but it seems preferable to most other options that have been presented.

PeP Daily Links

The Bush Budget Edition (a real sad sack of shit):

Andrew Samwick of VoxBaby has a wrapup of the budget commentary. Also here.

Brad DeLong has a typically insightful post, notice this portion:
"The headline deficit number ought to be $738 billion--we have a $331 billion Social Security surplus for 2009, and an honest and honorable administration would be using that surplus to pay down the government debt in order to get ready for the challenges that our aging population will pose for the federal budget over the next two generations. The headline number shouldn't be 2.7% of GDP; it should be 4.8% of GDP."

This unfortunately has always been the case and the press is none the wiser. Every year the press reports the General Fund Deficit number instead of the Unified Deficit, and every year politicians raid the Social Security trust fund, put bonds in its place that will have to be redeemed by an increase in income taxes or payroll taxes, thus you will be paying twice for the same benefits. But wait, social security doesn't need to be fixed.

Stan Collender's blog is seemingly dedicated to the budget these days so just go over there.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Random Prediction

If the Democratic nomination comes down to super delegates: 1) it will be a bloody mess, and 2) Hillary Clinton will win the nomination. The Clintons excel at bare knuckle politics and have an institutional advantage.

There IS Justice, for a moment

The Patriots lost and Redskins Art Monk and Darrell Green were elected into the Football Hall of Fame.