Monday, September 26, 2011

Cain defeats Perry

Cain has defeated Perry. Byron York explains that it was Cain's oratory that "sealed the deal."

Thank heavens! We were this close to nominating another swaggering Texan governor. Instead we are going to elect a black guy that can make a really good speech. Oh wait....

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Deep Questions about Rationality

All the time I was in Afghanistan I never used a seat belt nor did I ever see anyone else use a seat belt. Now the driving conditions in Afghanistan and the habits of Afghan drivers make one's chances of getting in a wreck several times higher than one's chance in the US. And yet just as I would never think of not wearing a seat belt in the US I never once seriously considered wearing one in Afghanistan.

Now I don't know why this is the case. There are two possible answers presented by theory. One is that we make decisions based not the absolute level of risk but on the proportional level of risk. The risk of driving around in Afghanistan, indeed of being in Afghanistan at all, is perceived as so high that the marginal increase in risk from not wearing a seat belt is simply not large enough to justify a behavioral response such as wearing seat belts.

The other hypothesis that I can think of is a social norm explanation. No one wears a seat belt in Afghanistan because no one wears a seat belt in Afghanistan. You just want to do what everyone else is doing.

Ideas? Any economists want to weigh in? Sociologists? Humans?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rachel Maddow

Watching Rachel Maddow right now. She is reporting on the problem people getting killed by giant snakes. People are getting killed by snakes. She reports that the problem is people importing exotic snakes. The people that get killed by snakes are the people that have the job of capturing the escaped exotic snakes. But why do we capture the snakes? Why not kill the snakes. Capturing a snake is difficult. Killing a snake is quite simple. It is a poisonous snake. A snake that can kill people. Kill it. People before snakes!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mere Civilization

One of the foundations of civilized relations among nations is the sanctity of embassies. When Genghis Khan's diplomatic representatives were killed and mutilated by a minor central asian Khanate it led to the Mongol Horde's conquest of the world. It was offensive to the morals of Genghis Khan. Now the pro-democracy crowd has over-run the Israeli Embassy in Cairo. So much for civilization. Of course when they do it it is only evidence of the weight of their grievances against Israel as an utterly unembarrassed Egyptian professor explains:
"This action shows the state of anger and frustration the young Egyptian revolutionaries feel against Israel especially after the recent Israeli attacks on the Egyptian borders that led to the killing of Egyptian soldiers," Egyptian political analyst Nabil Abdel Fattah said.
There will be no consequences. The anger of those that our intelligentsia judged to be part of the aggrieved class excuses anything. The most basic rules of civilization do not apply to these people.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Thoughts on Obama's speech in real time--with the help of some beer!

Strange things about the Obama speech.

The president talks about getting things done that both parties should agree to but he has not told anyone what he wants to do. "You should pass this bill right away!' --err, I mean as soon as I write it. I suppose it makes sense. The president announces he will announce a major new jobs policy to meet the unemployment emergency--err, just as soon as I get back from vacation and demands that Congress then pass this urgent and utterly unobjectionable piece of legislation as soon as he writes it. Makes perfect sense. If the crisis answering policy can wait till after his vacation why should his denunciations of the Congress for not passing his bill have to wait on the bill actually being written?

Why do we need to focus on repairing bridges when we just borrowed 800 billion for infrastructure spending and "shovel ready projects"? Ok, that was small minded. There was only about $100 billion for infrastructure in the last $800 billion stimulus.

The implicit assumption behind every argument--no, explicit--was that the only reason anyone could possibly have is to oppose this was partisan self-interest.

Rachel Maddau is the real kicker. She says that Obama is being nice by saying to Republicans saying, "You are better than this." That you know that the policies you advocate are not really good and the policies of mine that you oppose are not really bad. You are not really bad people but you just succumbing to the temptation of denouncing everything I propose for partisan gain, but I forgive you.

The strange thing is that Rachel thinks this is a way of reaching out. She really doesn't know how condescending she sounds. She really doesn't imagine that anyone could have principled reasons for not favoring these proposals.

She contrasts the President to Harry Truman who just says that Republicans are bastards who don't care about the poor. Speaking as one of those Republicans I would much prefer just being called a bastard than Obama condescension. My God, there is no intellectual reason to oppose Obama's proposals? No one actually disagrees with him, there are just some people that have let their own political self-interest but get in the way of what they know is right. The condescension is so thick it is disgusting.

It is noteworthy and laudable that the President said we would have to have some "adjustments" in Medicare and Medicaid--i.e., cuts. That does take some courage and is a real contribution to the debate.