Monday, September 29

Dow 36000

UPDATE: It occurs to me today (as the Dow drops below 10,000) that one way to defend Hassett's book is to say that the title is a typo. What they meant to write was Dow 3,600. Now that would have been prescient.


Worth noting today, when the Dow fell nearly 800 points to 10,365, that one of John McCain's senior economic advisers is Kevin Hassett, co-author of the now infamous Dow 36,000. This book, published in 1999 (and now available used on Amazon for 81 cents), predicted that the Dow would reach 36,000 within a few years.

And he has an explanation for the current crisis - it's all the Democrats fault. In truth, the Dems probably shouldn't have opposed that particular bill in that particular committee but they didn't even have a senate majority in 2005! It is an extraordinary stretch to blame the entire financial crisis on one procedural vote by the minority senators on a Senate committee. (One might point out that the Republicans have controlled the White House and had majorities in both houses for almost all of the last eight years, but that would seem churlish). But this is exactly the kind of semi-magical thinking typical of folks like Hassett. To this day he will not repudiate his pathetic Dow 36,000 book. And this is one of the main economics guys advising McCain. God help us if he's elected.

[And yes I am revisiting my pessimistic election predictions in light of all that's happening but am not quite ready to dare to dream yet]

Friday, September 26

An Eye Is Being Kept

Alaska has a very narrow

maritime border

between a foreign country


and on our other side,

the land--

boundary that we have with—



it's funny that a comment like that was—

kind of made to—


I don't know, you know?


Well, it certainly does because our—

our next door neighbors

are foreign countries.

They're in the state

that I am the executive of.

And they're in Russia--

We have trade missions back and forth.


we do—

it's very important

when you consider

even national security issues

with Russia

as Putin rears his head

and comes into the air space

of the United States of America,


where do they go?

It's Alaska.

It's just right over the border. It is—

from Alaska

that we send those out

to make sure that an eye is being kept

on this very powerful nation,


because they are right there.

They are right next to—

to our state.

Sunday, September 21

Summer Pychebuster

Jonathan Lethem's latest novel disappointed (even with expectations already lowered by all the tepid reviews) but his meditation on the Dark Knight is laser sharp.

Monday, September 15

In Today's Mail

Friday, September 12


Gail Collins is having none of the doomsaying.

And there is reason to believe that Palin is not quite the electoral catnip that the Republicans (and I) seem to think she is. But there's no questions she's helping McCain - mostly by keeping the coverage away from substantive issues. There's a reason Republicans want this: voters who say the issues are the most important factor for them (as opposed to the candidates' personalities) favor Obama about 60-40 (can't find a link right now but trust me - just saw a poll on this). In the face of that kind of data, the last thing the Republicans want is any discussion of substance.

This election is the ultimate test of the strength of the United States' dwindling reality-based community. It is just extraordinary that the Republics are ahead while carrying the twin burdens of a very unpopular incumbent and hard economic times. But they've figured out that the US has a media and political culture in which reality is no barrier to success (to political success that is, the Bush administration is proof that reality remains a barrier to successful management). So it is possible to run a campaign dominated by easily refutable blatant lies. On the rare occasions you get challenged, you just deny that you denied reality. They intuitively know a deep and dark truth: if you put enough effort into spreading falsehoods, people start to believe the lie.

So Gail Collins can make fun of me all she wants. I still think McCain is going to win.

Sadly, the Onion gets it better than the real media

Tuesday, September 9

Audience Surrogate

A few months ago, I said McCain was very good value on the Intrade market at 32.6% for president. If you'd taken my advice you'd have made almost a 50% return as McCain is now trading at over 47%. Unfortunately, these prediction markets are illegal in the US and I couldn't take advantage of this. I still think McCain is great value at 47%. Not to hold for a while and sell - he probably won't trade much higher - but to hold until the election. He'll win.

I'm very pessimistic about Obama's chances now. Palin's entry into the race will only amplify the disturbing racial dynamics of the race. And she's very difficult to attack because so many Americans will take any criticism of her personally. So what if she doesn't believe in evolution or global warming and only got a passport last year and has barely traveled outside the US? I believe that each of these things on its own shows that she is hopelessly unqualified to be the most powerful person on earth. But none of these traits are exceptional: see stats on global warming, evolution, and travel. Only on global warming is she arguably outside the mainstream (but it's not a major issue). Palin has become a kind of audience surrogate in this election - a weird and unprecedented development but one that will help the Republicans (with their damaged brand) enormously.


To make up for this depressing post, here is a link to a free song by Blue(ish). Obscure but excellent:

Go to Bed Business Casual

Wednesday, September 3

To Assault and Perjure

Although I might poke some fun at folks who ride fixies, I'm glad for anyone to ride a bike rather than drive, especially in big cities like NY and SF where it takes some courage to ride in a hostile environment. And in NYC the police are essentially at war with cyclists. Don't believe me? Read on.

First, before you watch the video below, I want you to read how the police officer described this encounter under oath. He said that the cyclist was "weaving in and out of the center lane of traffic, thereby forcing multiple vehicles to stop." He then instructed the cyclist to stop, but the cyclist "drove [his] bicycle directly into [the officer's] body causing [the officer] to fall to the ground and to suffer lacerations."

Ok, that's the police officer's sworn story. Here's what happened:

As the New York times put it, "the availability of cheap digital technology — video cameras, digital cameras, cellphone cameras — has ended a monopoly on the history of public gatherings that was limited to the official narratives, like the sworn documents created by police officers and prosecutors."

Translated from New York Timesese into English, that means some cops have been getting caught perjuring themselves.

While incidents like these do sometimes get caught on tape, imagine how this usually would have gone down. This poor cyclist, the victim of a brutal and completely unprovoked police assault, would be facing serious charges of assaulting a police officer. Any trial would likely be his word against the police. He'd probably plead out and end up with a criminal record.

Monday, September 1

Education Through Ignorance

Conservatives in the U.S. are enamored with the Orwellian and oxymoronic practice of 'abstinence-only' sex education. Research has shown that abstinence-only education has no discernible impact on whether students actually have sex. Its only effect is to make it less likely that teens will use contraceptives when they have sex.

So while Sarah Palin's daughter's pregnancy might be a private issue, Palin's stance on sex education is fair game. I wonder if a debate moderator will have the courage to ask the perfectly fair question:

Do you support abstinence-only education in schools or do you believe students should be given an opportunity to learn about contraception?