Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Jude: Redemption

Jude released Redemption in the US through CD Baby earlier this month. Relative to his prior albums, it’s a mix of sounds from earlier years that provides Jude with another fresh start.

The album shows the release of tracks that Jude had exercised in his live shows for years now, but chose not to release on Sarah. Those tracks include: “All I Want to Do,” “Love, Love, Love,” “Run to My Room,” “End of My Rainbow,” “Your Eyes,” and “Fly Again.”

In regards to his previous release (Sarah), the album has more upbeat tunes and electric guitars, but still attains a much more charming and down to earth feeling then King of Yesterday. Simply put, Redemption is Jude in his finest form.

The Christian Coalition's Views

This is significant. The story proves that what Jim Wallis has been saying is true. The religious right, as shown here by the Christian Coalition has been only focusing on two issues (abortion and gay marriage) and essentially hijacked the real meaning of Christianity from many followers.

The Car

Many people wonder where my love of cars comes from and how it manifests itself in my life today. Well, I think it’s time people realized the wonderful world of automotive marketing. So, let me introduce the 2005 Subaru Impreza WRX Sti.

Well, since I adored karting as a child, I ended up with a love of many kinds of open-wheel racing. Formula 1 has since then become my staple. But through the years, I still wanted more application; racing that showed me more relevance. I then discovered that the same automotive body that governs Formula 1 also governs the World Rally Championship.

Now, while the “WRC” cars are mocked up versions of the vehicles they represent, the P-WRC cars are essentially the cars we buy.

The P-WRC is a support championship to the WRC, open to drivers or teams using near-standard road cars which are mechanically identical to those sold in the dealer showroom, with modifications made only to improve driver safety.

So, naturally I was ecstatic when I made the purchase of my car. As a fan I get to actually drive the vehicle that the pros do. Now, with all that said, I found out that the amount of control that these drivers have is exceptional, which is why I believe cruise control comes standard on these cars. And as I found out, when on public roads (i.e. driving from stage to stage or back to the service park), the drivers also use cruise control which has even been installed in the premier WRC vehicles. Obeying the law is of course the priority.

And as far as I understand it, there is one more difference between my car and the P-WRC cars. They use the Japanese spec Subaru WRX Sti’s. The difference there is that they use a 2.0 liter engine with more boost from the turbo, whereas US-spec Sti’s use a 2.5 liter engine with less boost. (The WRC clearly states that when they homologated the cars, that 2.0 liter was the maximum displacement).

So, essentially, in the end, I’m a horrible victim of marketing. I see my own vehicle as a bona fide race car (even though it’s the Japanese spec car they use in the WRC) because Subaru decided to make the car available to the American market. The caveat here in the US is that I highly doubt the majority of Subaru owners would give two cents about rally cars and their heritage. So, buying an Sti for them wouldn't mean what it means to me exactly. To put it simply, the Japanese marketers didn't exactly get these cars to sell in the US thanks to rallying, but rather to the movie franchise known as The Fast and the Furious.

Speed of Information

Last night I started reading this research paper by Matt Gentzkow and Jesse Shapiro. It’s quite interesting; I’ll give you my take on it tomorrow.

I thought I was ahead of the curve by subscribing to NBER’s mailing list, but as I found out just now, Steven Levitt already knew about the paper. It reminded me of the speed of information in today’s world.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Black-White Achievement Gap

A well-done paper from Eric Hanushek and Steven Rivkin.

Their key difference from previous papers (and therefore, the relevance of this paper) on this topic is summed as such:

We find that specific characteristics of teachers and peers previously found to have significant effects on achievement account for a sizeable portion of the growth in the achievement gap. These findings differ from those of Fryer and Levitt (2004), Murnane, Willett, Bub, and McCartney (2005) and others who do not focus on those variables for which there exist large differences by race and strong evidence that they are important determinants of achievement.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More on Healthcare: C-Sections

In regards to Kevin’s comment, here is the latest news on the matter. Echoing what Kevin said:

The increase comes amid a controversy over whether some women are opting for medically unnecessary C-sections out of convenience and whether some doctors are performing them out of fear of being sued.

And so, the struggle of healthcare costs continues to increase.

Friday, November 17, 2006

More on Healthcare: Angioplasty

This is exactly what Arnold Kling has been discussing for quite some time, and what his book dealt with on various levels.

The discussion is from an interview on the Newshour where Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, the director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute talks about a study recently done that shows that angioplasty performed after 12 hours of a heart attack does not improve a patients condition over standard medical treatment. Of course, before the 12 hour mark, angioplasty does make a significant difference in the patient’s condition. Also, at any point, if a patient is still experiencing chest pains or is not stable even after the 12 hour period, angioplasty is recommended.

The important thing to learn is that part of why we pay too much for healthcare can be attributed to the amount of excess in which we request for the premium procedures or medicines even when they’re not necessary.

Paying for the Name

In the latest installment of Dear Economist, Tim Harford sheds some light about the economics of wine. My conclusion, we're really paying for the name, not the taste.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Formula 1 Technology and its Application

I brought up the topic so much in yesterday's post that it seems only fitting that the FIA and the GPMA (Grand Prix Manufacturers Association) talk about the future of technology in Formula 1, their real world applications, and how the rules might be crafted for that future.

It's a horrifically long read for anyone who was hoping for something short. However, Max Mosley and Burkhard Goschel make many interesting points, and they're in the beginning. Here's that link again.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Real Question in Motor Sports

Well, Kevin Tressler has replied to discuss some of the similarities, and the more important differences in modern motor sports.

Kevin rightly states that the

…primal drive of any motorsport involves harnessing as much of man's modern automotive technology as possible to propel a car of some sort to speeds that would boggle the mind...

However, with respect to your first similarity, the difference here between NASCAR and the NHRA versus many open wheel series (e.g. Formula 1, Champ Car etc.) is that the applications of the technology is so different. That is to say that Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge, and Pontiac have almost nothing to do with technology that’s being put into those cars.

Whereas Toyota F1, BMW Sauber F1, etc. all are actual subsidiaries of their manufacturer parents. Toyota actually uses a Toyota power plant in its Formula 1 operation, and they routinely have conferences with the engineers in Japan who design and work on the engines many people drive daily. In the Mazda Star series (a minor league of American open wheel racing), they actually use the rotary engines that are found in the Mazda RX-8.

Compare that actual use of technology with the complete disconnect of the operations that are done in NASCAR and the NHRA. Do you think that John Force or Dale Earnhardt’s engines have anything to do with Ford or Chevrolet?

In your first point of similarity, you get the motive of wanting to go fast right, but each motor sport does it quite differently, and it’s the lack of actual manufacturer input that makes the NHRA and NASCAR that much more disingenuous.

You’re right again with your second similarity. As with any business, it’s about turning a profit and proliferating the brand. However, as I just stated, the NHRA and NASCAR do so disingenuously. The motto in the 60s and 70s was to win on Sunday and sell on Monday. But in today’s world, there is no reason for me to believe the Ford in the showroom has anything to do with the vehicle that competed in the race.

In contrast, look at the Speed Touring Car Challenge, or better yet the WRC. Not only are the manufacturers directly involved (like Formula 1), but these are actual cars that someone can purchase. Even in the WRC, they contain a “Group N” category that constrains anyone from making any modifications to the cars other than tires and safety equipment.

In terms of entertainment, this is how businesses in motor sport turn the profit. But let me tell you that there’s a reason why the rest of the world refers to NASCAR as “tin-top”, “taxi”, “fish bowl” racing. As much as American’s can’t understand road-course racing, the feeling is mutual from the rest of the world towards NASCAR. The venues are made for spectacular crashes. As I posted quite some time ago, its entertainment value is driven by the same arguments that preside themselves on Judge Judy.

But this is where the NHRA is far superior over the field; complete interaction with the drivers at events is unbeatable. Although, I would say that the other major series have reasons to protect their drivers from what would be a mob of fans or ill-wishers.

To your differences. The differences in format cannot be debated. In terms of performance, the numbers do speak for themselves, but I ask you about the real-world applications. And as I have posted in the past:

Essentially, it’s all about hot rods from the 50s and 60s. Meaning that, present day application is only applicable for people who like to work on their 50s and 60s hot rods.

The WRC cars continue to develop better all wheel drive technology and better chassis developments. Formula 1 has greatly improved our valve spring technology, let alone the advances in the union of computers to our vehicles.

Kevin says:

I assume you all to be intelligent human beings and you could easily research this on your own. I'm more interested in highlighting what I believe are the inherent cultural differences among the various motorsports.

Isn’t the disparity in each region’s use of technology a cultural difference?

I’ve written about women in motor sports before. And there is no argument from me on your take on women in motor sports. The NHRA has far and away been the more equal playing ground for women.

As I wrote above, you’re also right about the marketing of the drivers in the NHRA. They’re much more available to the fans.

In terms of the actual person that the NHRA attracts as a fan, the statistics don’t lie, and I only wish I could find the numbers for Formula 1 in America. And this is where I’ve been trying to lead to all along. What makes the entire world love Formula 1? And conversely, what makes America hate it so? My own thoughts on that question lend towards realizing that the US has always had always shown disdain towards many sports adored by the rest of the world (soccer, tennis, and hockey). But why? What makes Americans so different?

Cohen's Past

So, yesterday I used an article by Richard Cohen to illustrate that op-ed pieces in journalism allow a writer the liberty to speak on topics that might not be spoken upon so liberally by a staff writer.

Well, Glenn Greenwald today writes a post about Cohen and his pro-war op-ed history. However much Glenn uses Cohen as an example of how corrupt political dialogue can be (which he's right about, and Cohen did contribute to that), I think it gives that much more credence as to why Cohen's op-ed yesterday should be read. Cohen, who was so adamant about the war, now writes about how we were lied to. Just like Andrew Sullivan, people have the right to change their minds.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Power of op-ed

This is partly why op-ed writers are much better known to the public.

In the article linked above - which discusses the President’s blatant mistruth on the future of now former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld - Richard Cohen ends by writing:

This is not a matter of vengeance or, God forfend, politics, but of restoring the people's faith in their government. How dare these people lie to you and me and send Americans to die in Iraq for reasons that turned out to be wholly nonexistent? One way to return to the truth is to find the liars. I ask this not for myself but -- and I mean it -- for the troops.

For someone to try and belittle this statement and Cohen’s op-ed in whole, it would take a very sycophantic mindset in favor of President Bush. I say sycophantic because even the President’s excuses – as Cohen illustrates – don’t provide adequate reasoning. In terms of the lie about Rumsfeld, I think it would have been much better if he simply stuck to the reasoning of: I lied about Rumsfeld’s future to ensure that any change in his position would not be seen as a political/campaign ploy. But the president instead lied about the lie.

And the only “reporting” I’ve seen on this is from op-ed columnists. The president spoke a blatant mistruth about the now former Secretary of Defense who has been a key facilitator to the Iraq War, how is that not news?

One reporter I like to make note of is Charlie Savage, whose reports don’t towards opinion very often, is a reporter of note who doesn’t let everything go. As Dan Froomkin (see: “Signing Statement Watch”) many times has mentioned in the past, Savage is one of the few reporters who has continuously followed up on our president’s use of signing statements. He’s not an op-ed writer, yet in terms of the president’s use of signing statements, Savage has been quite thorough in his reporting.

There is one caveat in promoting op-ed writing, and that caveat is to admit the obvious fact that many of these writers are not objective, per se (although much of that is in the eye of the beholder), and as I had realized that, I was forced to understand that it was important to read op-eds from other writers with whom I did/do not agree.

Also, as you'll note from Greg Mankiw specifically, he most often has no problem picking out other economists or politicians with whom he does not agree, and discussing the relevant topic. That is truly part of what makes an author relevant and fun to read.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Similarities and Differences in Racing

For all the debate (that even I participate in) on the differences in motor sports, it is actually quite revealing to ponder on the similarities.

To engross the similarities in one term, I would call it the “bureaucracy.” What forms all types of motor sports in bureaucracy is that these organizations operate (as well they should) as businesses. These organizational structures allow for intricate back stories that provide the real motives to many of the decisions that are done in full knowledge and behind the scenes.

As my friend Kevin mentioned in spreading this rumor on the NHRA:

…everyone knows that the minute the awards banquet ends, the crazy rumors start to fly…And surely, there's no truth to the rumor that Alan Johnson is leaving DSR (MK: Don Schumacher Racing) to wrench on Scott Kalitta's Celica FC (MK: Funny Car) next year, right?

What’s important to note here is the back-story that actually exists for Allan Johnson and his crew chief aspirations in Funny Car. Johnson is nothing if not a legendary figure as a crew chief in the Top Fuel category. But his exploits in the Funny Car have been nothing of note, except for his mere participation. Three facts need to be known. First, crew chief Alan Johnson’s Funny Car deeds are rarely ever spoken of. Second, those Funny Car efforts have amounted into very little success. And third, they’ve all been for Toyota‘s effort to gain market share in this “I hate anything that’s not American” demographic. (By the way, did I mention that Toyota had its global master plan

Alan Johnson and former active Funny Car driver, Jerry Toliver, have been key figures in trying to match Toyota to somebody’s Funny Car team.

This is no doubt (while possibly not as complicated) very similar to the stories that are played out all the time in Formula 1 with many car makers debating and talking to different teams in order to see if there is a viable chance that they can enter the Formula 1 series as engine manufacturers. Most recently, Nissan has been discussing its probabilities of entering Formula 1 and what it would take for success. Their talks have been facilitated by the fact that Nissan is in alliance with Renault (current manufacturer champion in Formula 1).

I want to ask Kevin, if he’s so smart: what are the real differences in various forms of motor sports? (Other than the fact that in drag racing you don’t turn; Formula 1 uses primarily road courses; and NASCAR uses oval racing). And I am more than willing to name some of the differences myself. So, Kevin, are you willing to participate in this discussion?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Myth of the Rational Voter

Well, other than the fact that today is Election Day, I’m writing this post about Bryan Caplan’s to be released book, Myth of the Rational Voter. Caplan provides a preview here.

Even Robert Samuelson has written about how we vote. Samuelson, Caplan and many other economists believe that if there are fewer voters, it is not necessarily a bad outcome. Once again, this may simply be roll off , which reflects that many potential voters don't vote because they are aware of their own lack of knowledge on many issues and/or candidates.

I recommend reading any one of the three links I’ve provided. They’ll make you think about researching to make a tough decision on who to vote for, or you’ll feel fine that by not voting you are making an honest choice as well.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Gravel Girls

This calendar is another great cause. It’s to help support the Wales Air Ambulance that many rally drivers and co-drivers depend on in Wales.

And about the gravel girls: I am glad to see so many women participating in rallying as I just wrote about the topic of women in racing earlier.

Single Fans of Formula One

First, let me state that as much as I like to cite other writes and/or bloggers who have actual credibility -- as opposed to my crazy man with a keyboard credentials -- there are times (like now) where I like to write solely based on my crazy (truthfully put, incoherent) opinions. As this article from Grand Prix.com talks about, when you put the shoe on the other foot (or however that saying goes) things don’t necessarily work out better.

In order try and garner a different demographic, the promoters of this past year’s Australian Grand Prix tried to provide incentive to their female population. Unfortunately, it seems as though their incentive scheme worked about as well as it would trying to provide the average American male a more enticing reason to go to the ballet. (Other than full-on nudity, I’m not sure if you could find any other way to make guys to go to the ballet. And by the way, the men would still have to be clothed.)

Similar interests – not just interests, but hobbies – I think probably make a huge contribution to a good relationship. Now, I’m not saying this because I have sure-fire proof or personal knowledge, but rather, everyone I know has told me this.

So, I wonder if the problem lies within there being a shortage of female Formula 1 fans and a shortage of male ballet fans. I would very much love to say yes, but I’m half-way on this. I think deep down, media and culture driven gender roles inhibit what could possibly be someone’s natural tendencies to like certain sports and activities.

As much as I want to believe that there are more Danica Patrick’s and Katherine Legge’s out there, I don’t think anyone is holding their breath. Although, in terms of media and culture driven gender roles, maybe Formula 1 itself is part of the problem. No one will deny that it’s a boy’s club (even Bernie Ecclestone has issues with women in the sport). As long as there’s no impediment, if women are good enough, there’s no reason why any female shouldn’t be picked up by an F1 team. If Bernie changes his tune, then obviously the sexist tone won’t make women as fearful to take a drive in F1.

But, there are a few other things working against F1. First, pride. Pride is such a factor in Formula One that the organization would probably do a lot to shy away from women drivers because F1 would hate to be seen as doing something for purely promotional concerns (although many conspiracy theorists would argue to the counter saying that the FIA has secretly helped Ferrari in the past for media reasons). Also, almost every other form of motor sport is male-dominated, and the pool of women to choose from is quite small.

Nevertheless, I still want to thank the promoters at the Australian Grand Prix who put in the effort to create a sort of social singles scene, even if it did fail and it was only done to promote ticket sales. But who knows, maybe if one-day females have their own incentives to watch Formula One racing when women start competing in it.


My apologies to anyone who reads this blog for the lack of updates. The last week of mine has been one of the busiest. Our firm had its fiscal year end, so everyone worked together putting in their respective maximum effort.

This week I’ll try to touch on many things that have been reported and/or blogged from last week. Firstly, I’ll try and comment on a “singles” program that was done for Formula 1 this past season.

Also, while it might be late, I’ll try to comment on what every economist has been talking about for the last week on this election season…irrational voters. I’ll be re-hashing a lot of posts made by
Bryan Caplan at econlog. Caplan has posted many times that his book will be coming out sometime in the near to short term future on the “Myth of the Rational Voter.”

Lastly, I’ll be going over a
paper from Eric Hanushek and Steven Rivkin entitled “School Quality and the Black and White Achievement Gap.”