28 September 2007

Cognitive biases drive voting?

Real surprising, huh. Bryan Caplan of The Myth of the Rational Voter has a worthwhile read on the systematic biases of voters.

I first learned about farm price supports in the produce section of the grocery store. I was in kindergarten. My mother explained that price supports seemed to make fruits and vegetables more expensive but assured me that this conclusion was simplistic. If the supports went away, so many farms would go out of business that prices would soon be higher than ever. I accepted what she told me and felt a lingering sense that price competition is bad for buyer and seller alike.

It's amazing how much bad economics I was taught as a little kid by textbooks and teachers.

Posted by Evan @ 09/28/07 04:41 PM | Comments (0)        


27 September 2007

I guess he's not inviting Ted Kennedy anymore

Statesman reporter Ken Herman writes on what it "might have been like" if he'd gone to an on-the-record movie night at the White House.

Sounds like it would've been a good time.

Posted by Evan @ 09/27/07 03:17 AM | Comments (0)        


That Oklahoma State coach

I'd go play for that Oklahoma State coach in a heartbeat.

Posted by Evan @ 09/27/07 01:45 AM | Comments (1)        


26 September 2007

Wah wah wah

From the "08 is going to suck if you're a Republican" files, check out Professors R Squared.

It's a good time to be a Democrat. Can I switch parties? Heh. Winning is more fun than losing.

Posted by Evan @ 09/26/07 05:14 PM | Comments (0)        


Back to the future with Barack Obama

Barack Obama unveiled his Social Security solution today. It's a class warfare tax increase, aka the return of Walter Mondale. Why am I not surprised?

Proposals of this sort lead to more poverty in the long run. That's sad, whether out of ignorance or expedience.

Posted by Evan @ 09/26/07 01:02 AM | Comments (0)        


24 September 2007

Bill White (D-NJ)

One of the most intriguing things to me will be how Texas Democrats will choose to deal with the unsavory lack of good government in Bill White's administration when he runs for governor. Anglo liberals do often pride themselves as being goo goos, after all. [No aspersions cast with those words, by the way.]

Let's review the actions of just the last year:

First, there was the time White extorted money from the center for mentally disadvantaged. Yikes. Yikes. Yikes.

Then he failed to get full value for selling a city street to a developer.

And most recently, White pushed through an extension for an exclusive right to food concessions at terminal C of IAH. No competitive bidding, no sunshine, nothing. You might not be surprised to learn that the holder of the concession has given money to Mayor White and councilmembers.

Man. I don't like it when Houston reminds me of New Jersey.

Posted by Evan @ 09/24/07 06:20 AM | Comments (2)        


Make this man POTUS!

Apparently, the leader of France gets America better than most of the people running for president:

"I want to tell the American people that the French people are their friends," he said. "We are not simply allies. We are friends. I am proud of being a friend of the Americans. You know, I am saying this to The New York Times, but I have said it to the French, which takes a little more courage and is a little more difficult. I have never concealed my admiration for American dynamism, for the fluidity of American society, for its ability to raise people of different identities to the very highest levels."

Sarkozy defended his decision to summer in America, and not somewhere in France, saying, "I don't see why I should have given up going to the United States because a small part of the French elite professes an anti-Americanism that in no way corresponds to what the French people think — in no way at all."

He listed all the things that appealed to him during his two-week vacation: the countryside, the shopping malls, the restaurants, swimming in the lake, jogging in the woods while his 10-year-old son rode his bike alongside him. "I loved the kindness and simplicity of the people," Sarkozy said.

Posted by Evan @ 09/24/07 12:32 AM | Comments (0)        


23 September 2007

Gee, great

As if the Republicans didn't have enough to deal with this cycle, the House leaders are fighting with each other:

The struggle over the NRCC's direction is less about a rivalry between [House Minority Leader John] Boehner and [NRCC Chair Tom] Cole, who meet daily, than it was a unified decision by members of the elected leadership to force some operational changes at the campaign committee.

If I recall correctly, he's not raising enough money, but that may not be his fault. Nonetheless, I trust Cole to run the campaign much more than I trust the others.

Posted by Evan @ 09/23/07 08:27 PM | Comments (1)        


Recreant expedience

Marc Ambinder links approvingly to this Matt Yglesias post arguing that the Moveon ad wasn't that big a deal:

I completely agree with the dread DC Establishment that calling General Petraeus "General Betrayus" was dumb. That said, I'm staggered by the amount of emphasis that people inside this town are placing on this. One virtue of having moved to the Beltway is that I can tell you, the reader, a thing or to about the mood here and that while you might think the reverse is true, the truth of the matter is that the left-of-center establishment is being restrained in terms of expressing its absolutely fury at MoveOn over this. People seem to really think that this was not merely a misstep, but a huge blunder of world-historical proportions.

As best I can tell, it's all basically bull**** [censoring mine to avoid Google safesearch restrictions --Evan]. The whole fracas of Petraeus, Crocker, MoveOn, etc. has had, to a good first approximation, no impact whatsoever on anything of any significance. Bush continues to be stubborn. Republicans continue to back Bush. The war continues to go poorly and continues to be unpopular. There was nothing else that ever could have happened. A bunch of editors and politicians talked themselves into believing that this September showdown was crucially significant, but they were all wrong and their theory never made any sense.

My feeling is that Yglesias is wrong. It seems to me that Democrats were slowly chipping away at the votes necessary to sustain the war. There are plenty of Republican senators and congressman who are nervous about facing the electorate in 2008...and for good reason. If Democrats had just kept holding votes, they would've probably ended the war, because there were quite a few votes that were getting increasingly tentative as the election draws nearer. If you think senators like Norm Coleman aren't hearing the "Norm Coleman votes with President Bush 97% of the time" ads in his head....you're crazy.

What the Moveon ad did was give Republicans a reason to believe that perhaps they wouldn't be as politically hurt by their votes as they had expected (whether they are right or not is another question). This is why the media thinks that Republicans were guilty of faux outrage, which isn't so. Yes, the Republicans were acting in self-interest in making it an issue. Republicans were looking to rally around something that they could take to the American people.

When a liberal interest group charges an Army general with betrayal of his country (or appears to do so), that's a big deal. When the Democrats running for president -- the de facto leaders of the Democratic party -- refuse to condemn the ad for fear of angering that liberal interest group, that's a big deal. It's quite dangerous to send a message to our current military and the children who might be our military in the future that you can serve honorably and be condemned for your actions in uniform.

The Moveon ad crossed the line. Yes, the rest of the ad wasn't as bad as the headline, but it was the headline that sent the message. The Democrats running for president all missed their chance for a "Sister Souljah" moment by choosing political expedience over standing up for the men and women in uniform. A pity for them, and for America.

Posted by Evan @ 09/23/07 08:04 PM | Comments (0)        


Hook 'em, Perry

Thought experiment: how would Texas politics be different if Perry went to UT instead of being an Aggie?

Posted by Evan @ 09/23/07 07:36 PM | Comments (1)        


Ratcliffe, Chron:

San Antonio lawyer Mikal Watts on Thursday lent his Democratic U.S. Senate campaign another $3.69 million — bringing to $7.5 million the total amount of personal money Watts has put into his run.

After he gave and loaned his campaign a combined $3.8 million in June, Watts announced that he was willing to put another $6.8 million of his own money into the effort to unseat incumbent John Cornyn.

Lawyer from the Valley self-funds campaign in attempt to unseat Republican incumbent. I think I've seen that headline before. Watts only has about $70 million to go before he'll match Tony Sanchez.

Posted by Evan @ 09/23/07 06:38 PM | Comments (0)        


If Nick Lampson's consultants had written this Michelle Mittelstadt Chron article, they probably wouldn't have thought the editors would let them get away with it:

Texas members of Congress parsed the testimony of Gen. David Petraeus on Monday for the facts they wanted: Republicans focused on successes of the military buildup, Democrats on the Iraqi government's failure to achieve political reforms crucial to stability.

The closely watched testimony by Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker appeared to do little, if anything, to shift the positions of the state's two GOP senators and the five Republican and four Democratic House members from the Houston area.

In an arena where the legislative battle lines have been drawn mostly along partisan boundaries — Democrats pressing for troop withdrawal deadlines and benchmarks, Republicans against them — only one of the Texans appeared to fit in neither camp.

Rep. Nick Lampson, a Stafford Democrat, is working with both parties to find common ground.

"There are those who advocate an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. And there are those who want to send in more troops and continue with an open-ended commitment," Lampson said in a prepared statement. "Somewhere in the middle exists a practical and realistic solution that honors the commitment and sacrifice of our troops. That is type of solution I will support and work towards."

Posted by Evan @ 09/23/07 06:33 PM | Comments (0)        


Disingenuously yours

Houston Chronicle editorial:

In 2001, when President Bush took office, the national debt stood at a little less than $5.75 trillion. About the time of Cornyn's [speech against tax and spend] earlier this month, the debt passed $9 trillion, an increase of $3.25 trillion, or 56 percent.
One might note that 1 trillion of that deficit growth is due to inflation. Since the Chron appears to be criticizing Cornyn for cherry-picking facts, perhaps they should not cherry-pick facts themselves.

The conservative Heritage Foundation, decrying the debt, provided a handy illustration to help Americans grasp the enormity of how much we owe. The $9 trillion — $78,683 for every household — would buy: a quarter of the nation's 125 million houses; three new cars for every household; or one latte for every American every day for 21 years.

I love how the only time the Chron quotes a conservative thinktank is when it can be used to attack Republicans. But they are right, the debt is huge, and now consumes almost 10% of our federal budget -- more than half of what we spend on defense (17%)!

As Cornyn noted in his press release, Congress, at Bush's request, in 2001 and 2003 cut taxes significantly. Those tax cuts — in the same years the United States was attacked by al-Qaida and invaded unrelated Iraq — coincided with the steep climb of the national debt, the result of a policy of borrow and spend.

Economists peg the tax cuts at about 25% of the deficit growth. Why then, does the Chron choose to focus on tax cuts?

"Borrow and spend." I think I've heard that phrase before. Oh yeah, it's a Democratic talking point.

If Cornyn worries about spending, he need look no further than the senior U.S. senator from Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison. Nearly every day, Hutchison's office announces grants and other funds she has secured for this state and the Houston area: for research at the University of Houston and Rice University; for improved regional security; for police training; for mass transit in Houston and Galveston; for training minority leaders in math, science and military technology, at the expense of the Air Force, etc.

If Cornyn worries about spending, Kay Bailey's pork barrel is probably the last thing he should worry about, given what a tiny percentage pork barrel spending is of the federal budget. However, the spending that is worth worrying about is all social spending; the Chron editorial board tends to favor that.

This was a very confused and disjointed editorial (even moreso than the parts I quoted). It only seems to make sense to me if the Chron wanted to obliquely attack Cornyn and Bush.

Posted by Evan @ 09/23/07 06:29 PM | Comments (0)        


Only 60? EE doesn't draw so well for funders, I guess.

Shelby Hodge, Chron:

The ladies who lunch, on break from their jobs, addressed a serious issue — presidential politics — at Polo's last week when 60 women turned out to hear Elizabeth Edwards speak on the presidential campaign.

During the fundraiser for her husband, John Edwards, the candidate's wife signed copies of the updated edition of her book Saving Graces and talked about the campaign. Guests included State Rep. Ellen Cohen, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Alison Bell, Beth Sanders Moore, Sheridan Williams, Dancie Ware, Kristi Schiller, Ileana Treviρo, Kristen Nix and Melissa Eiland.

I'm guessing Mrs. Strayhorn isn't planning a run as a Republican any time soon. Heh.

Posted by Evan @ 09/23/07 05:47 PM | Comments (0)        


Gardner Selby talks to Fred Thompson consultant Rich Galen while Fred was in town visiting Dell:

We can't tell yet. We're doing fine in the polls. Given early polls, you'd rather be first or second rather than seventh or eighth.

Given that, Newt Gingrich has a great theory about how people vote and why people respond to polls different than they do when they actually go and vote. People vote the way men buy cars. If you think or I think I need a new car, I might drive a Jaguar or a Hummer or a Maserati if I can find one, whatever.

And if you ask me after I drove it, did you like that car? "Oh yeah, that was a great car." (A pollster's conclusion:) "Galen likes Hummers." ...

And that's what happens when people are asked by a pollster if the election were held today, (who would you support)? If I was going to buy a car today — yeah. But I'm not buying a car today, so I can say whatever I want.

But when the day comes that I do buy the car and I have to actually write the check, I drive out with a Windstar because that's the right car for the family.

So Howard Dean was leading, was the (Democratic) nominee presumptive in December 2003, and four weeks later he came in third.

Galen doesn't mention -- and the Statesman doesn't provide the context -- that he is a Newt Gingrich confidante.

Anyway, while there's something to Newt's theory, I'd say that the reasons Dean didn't win the Donk nomination have more to do with the law of diminishing returns and Iowa. That is, the way Dean campaigned, it was easy to get to a certain level of support, but very difficult to get to 50+1. Combine that with Iowa being a Dean-unfriendly state and Dean's post-Iowa meltdown, and those have more explanatory power than Newt's hypothesis.

Posted by Evan @ 09/23/07 05:13 PM | Comments (0)        


21 September 2007

The Telegraph article linked on Drudge:

President Bush may like to be seen as a swaggering tough guy with a penchant for manly outdoor pursuits, but in a new book one of his closest allies has said he is afraid of horses.

Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico, derided his political friend as a "windshield cowboy" – a cowboy who prefers to drive – and "the cockiest guy I have ever met in my life".

Bush has called himself a "windshield cowboy" at least once, according to published media reports during his presidency.

So it's a dumb lead, but it's interesting that the UK center-right Telegraph has reporters who feel comfortable with that lead.

Posted by Evan @ 09/21/07 05:16 PM | Comments (0)        


06 September 2007

Making himself look silly


Former Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman says he plans to run for the Democratic Party nomination for governor in 2010.

Friedman tried in 2006 to become the first independent to win the Texas governorship since Sam Houston.

"I consider myself a Democrat in the mold of JFK, (former Texas Gov.) Ann Richards and (journalist) Molly Ivins," Friedman told The Fort Worth Star-Telegram in a phone interview from his animal-rescue ranch in Kerrville.

I think we already found that Friedman doesn't have the discipline necessary to be a successful political candidate. Plus, he keeps making defining statements about himself that conflict (I can't imagine Richards or Ivins ever running as an independent). And I guess he now doesn't mind those Democratic bloggers that he obliquely called Satan in 2006's debate?

How many people run for office as a Republican, an independent, and a Democrat? Winston Churchill, he is not.

Posted by Evan @ 09/06/07 09:35 PM | Comments (2)        


I like gold.

In noting below that Megan McArdle had a great sentence, I should've noted that the entire post is worth saving. The gold standard is not some halcyonic panacea.

Why some libertarians hew to the gold standard mystifies me. Hi Ron Paul.

Posted by Evan @ 09/06/07 03:15 AM | Comments (0)        


Best sentence I've read all day. Megan McArdle:

Deflation can result in what's known as a liquidity trap, a concept pioneered by liberal economist John Maynard Keynes and best elucidated by liberal economist Paul Krugman back before he left economics writing to focus on his hatred of George W. Bush.

I've been fascinated with the notion that Krugman might win a Nobel because of his trade models. They're so facile. Clearly the place to be as an economist a few decades ago was trade. Apparently no one had done anything on it since Ricardo.

[I should note that I own one of Krugman's texts, which is surprisingly good.]

Posted by Evan @ 09/06/07 03:10 AM | Comments (0)        


How to be Successful, by Michael Jordan and Lyndon Baines Johnson

Michael Jordan on being driven:

Use every little slight to drive you.


If you do everything, you win.

Sounds easy.

Posted by Evan @ 09/06/07 12:38 AM | Comments (0)        


01 September 2007

The Guv moved out of the Mansion, so in the meantime he's off to Mexico City: Quoth the AP, as run by the HouChron:

Perry was in Mexico City on a trade mission intended to strengthen Texas and Mexico's economic ties through trade, investment and energy initiatives, especially renewable energy.

"I don't think this is that difficult of an issue if Congress would have the maturity to sit down and really discuss it and cut out all of the mean rhetoric and really talk about what is a solution to this issue," Perry told a news conference.

Regarding immigration reform, Perry highlighted the importance of developing a foolproof biometric identification system to track individuals and to ensure that they pay taxes and "live within our laws."

He suggested offering renewable, 24-month visas for those who follow such requirements and "incarceration and/or deportation" for those who do not.

He added that, under such a system, he would support a "free flow of individuals between these two countries who want to work and want to be an asset to our country and to Mexico."

He noted that a possible area of expansion for Texan businesses in Mexico is renewable energy, a subject he said he hoped to discuss during his meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon later Tuesday.

"The fact is that Mexico and Texas are going to need every source of energy that we can appropriately get our hands around, if you will, and to develop over the course of the next few decades," Perry said.

Perry said Texas is the leading producer of wind-generated energy in the United States and expects the field to grow by $13 billion in the next four years.

Perry launched into the discourse on renewable energy in response to a question that pointed out Mexico's constitutional ban on private investment in its petroleum resources.

Discourses on policy nuances? That doesn't sound like the media caricature of Perry.

Posted by Evan @ 09/01/07 07:39 PM | Comments (0)        


Nick Lampson: In the Teamsters' pocket

Mittelstadt/Moreno, Chron:

The Teamsters Union and three public-interest groups asked a federal court Wednesday to block the Bush administration from opening U.S. roadways to Mexican trucks as early as this weekend.

The request to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco for an emergency injunction marks the latest effort in a 13-year battle by the Teamsters to stymie cross-border trucking provisions ratified under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

But Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Stafford, and others in Congress said they remain concerned.

"I would hope that President Bush would reconsider what he's doing," said Lampson, who serves on the House Transportation Committee.

Sounds to me like the sort of thinly veiled stereotyping that liberals like him were supposed to get upset about. I know than Slick Nick Lampson wants to keep his liberal interest groups happy, but perhaps doing so on the back of Mexican truckers is not the best way.

What three "public interest" groups joined the union? Sierra Club, Public Citizen and the Environmental Law Foundation. All hardcore left-wing organizations, but all given the friendly moniker of "public interest." But I'm sure that Ms. Mittelstadt and Ms. Moreno would have been equally accomodating if the groups had been right-leaning.

Posted by Evan @ 09/01/07 07:36 PM | Comments (0)        


Hutchison: Don't toll freeways

Hutchison, joining objections of bipartisan lawmakers in Austin and Washington, said she will "vigorously" block the Texas Department of Transportation from ever levying tolls on federal highways.

"I intend to immediately introduce as free-standing legislation my amendment that the Senate passed in 2005 to specifically prohibit states from tolling existing interstate highways," the Republican said in a prepared statement.

Earlier this year, Texas transportation officials sent a letter to Congress seeking a change in federal law to let states "buy back" interstate highways and levy tolls on them.

Such a tolling plan, under a state law passed in 2005, would require a vote of county commissioners and local voters.

I've got an even better idea for Senator Hutchison. Currently Texas gets 87 cents back for every dollar we send to DC. That's billions of dollars each year. How about doing something about that?

I'd fully support filibustering every bill in the Senate until Texas gets something closer to a fair deal (especially considering that the sales tax deducation isn't permanent yet, if I recall correctly). If we were getting a fair deal, we probably wouldn't have to choose between difficult answers to the problem.

Posted by Evan @ 09/01/07 07:25 PM | Comments (0)        


Governor's mansion closed

Jay Root:

the Republican governor and his family soon will have to move out of the historic building to accommodate a team of workers and architects embarking on a $10 million renovation project.

"The house will essentially be stripped down," said Perry spokesman Robert Black. "They have problems with plumbing right now to where the upstairs toilets overflow once every two weeks at this point."

Gaps around the original window frames, made of longleaf pine that in some areas has begun to rot, are contributing to a mind-boggling loss of energy from an overworked air-conditioning unit. The house is leaking some 4,000 cubic feet of air each minute, about 10 times what building managers would expect in a modern home of equal size.

The project is expected to take about 18 months to complete.

It's almost surprising that Texas let the governor keep the Mansion when Reconstruction ended.

Posted by Evan @ 09/01/07 07:14 PM | Comments (0)        


Want to make money?

Tradesports says Fred Thompson has less than a 22% chance to be the GOP nominee.

That's a great value. He's definitely over 22%.

Update: I had assumed that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act [the one Bill Frist attached in the middle of the night to the Safe Ports Act to burnish his presidential hopes] makes the Tradesports information markets illegal, but a friend claims this is not the case.

Posted by Evan @ 09/01/07 06:40 PM | Comments (0)        


Longshot wins straw poll

The results are in from today's Texas GOP straw poll:

Duncan Hunter: 534
Fred Thompson: 266
Ron Paul: 217
Mike Huckabee: 83
Rudy Giuliani: 78
Mitt Romney: 61
Ray McKinney: 28
John Cox: 10
John McCain: 8
Sam Brownback: 6
Tom Tancredo: 6
Hugh Cort: 3

These results indicate why the straw poll was never a good idea. Duncan Hunter? Longshot is probably a little too kind for the former Pat Buchanan supporter.

Yeah, I could've gone and voted. But why?

Posted by Evan @ 09/01/07 06:24 PM | Comments (3)        



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