Friday, April 18, 2008

Local Endorsement

After months of wading through the national campaigns of various presidential candidates, most of whom are now in the great category of "former presidential candidate," I have focused my attention locally, for governor of Delaware, Jack Markell, a Democrat.

Consider that Delaware's Libertarian party is paltry relative to Libertarians nationally. As well, many local libertarian parties find a lack in support due to the fact that state and local governments have the ability and right to operate in a different manner; which is why you hear many libertarians on the national scale saying things like, "that is a matter best left at the state level." Even then, a proper libertarian would not be able to ignore Jack Markell. From a candidate, I ask not for complete laissez -faire policy, but rather an honest approach to governance. You want health care for all? Fine, tell me how much it will cost, and how we plan to pay for it.

As State Treasurer in Delaware, Jack Markell has a keen sense of the possibilities of various programs, including a proposal for statewide health care. At some point, an honest discussion needs to be had regarding what the priorities of the average citizen are, and what we are willing to pay to make these priorities happen.

When Jack Markell endorsed Barack Obama, it became clear that Markell was a candidate who got it. In the times that I have met with Jack Markell, he has proven himself able and willing to speak on certain issues, and in certain places, where normally, any other politician would skirt around.

In a country where only half of those who can vote, do vote, it is obvious that the apathy towards politics has led to an inactive citizenship. Almost naturally, political apathy has been taken advantage of by many. Instead of policy arguments, or any forward thinking in speeches, we have seen fear mongering and scare tactics.

Improving Delaware at multiple levels is part of an idea of government that requires active citizenship. An active citizenship paradigm thinks not of the average citizen as an obstacle to be obfuscated, but rather as a peer and neighbor to work and be involved with. And only when there is someone willing to be honest about issues on their own merit, will such a paradigm exist. That someone is Jack Markell.


Here is the latest Delaware Gubernatorial debate (on education) where I have taken the liberty to upload each part to YouTube.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

While the NHRA Tweaks...

For those not aware, in the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association), it's not as easy as it seems to set the record for fastest speed, or time to travel a 1/4 mile. By the way, the record is currently held at 4.428 seconds by Top Fuel driver, Tony Schumacher, whose feat was accomplished in 2006.

Now, while your first thoughts are to discuss the sheer physics in the accomplishment of traveling down the 1/4 mile drag strip in under 5 seconds, that is not what I'm referring to exactly. In fact, most nitro fuel teams at events today accomplish that task often enough.

The challenge however comes from a rule that says the record must be accomplished not just by running a record breaking time, but by also having within that same weekend, run another time that weekend within 1 percent of the record setting run. I will gladly ask the question as to why this record setting rule exists.

The only reason I can come up for in terms of having to provide a "back up" run is to protect from some sort of fluke. However, I simply don't see a reason as to why the NHRA and its participants are so scared of a fluke. Even when chances are that the fluke will be run by a big name competitor (i.e. John Force, Tony Schumacher) anyway.

And that's really the only reason.

Maybe the rule is simply there because it's been there for so long. I know of no other sport that has a rule such as this. Do Olympic athletes have to have a track run in the same weekend that is 1% of their record breaking run?

Now if the NHRA says that it wants it there because it's what makes their motorsport different, then fine. It is their sport, and they can make rules for no reason whatsoever if they wish. But, they need to give me a reason other than the "fluke."

What of the "fluke" run though? What makes it a fluke? Well, the NHRA has four qualifying rounds. Rounds 1&2 are usually done Friday night, when conditions are generally better than the rest of the event weekend. So, there's a great chance of record breaking runs in a Friday night. If the NHRA doesn't want those Friday night numbers to apply, then maybe they should not run Friday night qualifying. Or, maybe they should tell people that Friday night qualifying numbers don't count for records.

Ultimately though, the idea of doing away with this rule would be there really for the sake of the fans, whom don't have calculators with them at all times to calculate 1%. I would bet $10 that good percentage of NHRA fans don't even know about the 1% back up rule.

The NHRA has proven with that it is willing to change. There is no need to look further than the recent change in the points system. They are also continuously tweaking the bike class in order to keep them competitive. "Wow, it looks like your brand of bike is really starting to gain some serious speed. Here's some lead weight to keep you on the ground. What's that? It's not fair? It will slow you down? Not my problem."

It is obvious that they do this to keep the fans interested, so, one more way to keep the fans interested is to take out one more layer of unnecessary rule-bureaucracy, like the 1% back up rule.

Monday, April 07, 2008

MBAs on Policy; Economists on Dating

If I had a nickel for every time a psychologist has written a column falsely pigeonholing economists with other MBA and business graduates, I would be rich. Let alone, the money I would make from having a nickel every time these two disciplines got something wrong about each other.

In this post from Psychology Today, this is what was written regarding economists:

Only economists would be so blind.
I think that's a bit of an overshoot. From the abundant literature that we are seeing from economists today (e.g. Freakonomics, Undercover Economist, The Logic of Life) an economist would not make the error . A mid level manager, or another business discipline would make the error described below.

So, what was the error? Well, let us proceed to the part where I, and most other economists, excel beyond your typical business graduate. By the way, before you start writing your hate mail to me, let me first state that an economist would not do a litany of other things as well as other business graduates. I'm sure those graduates have plenty of examples, so go ahead and fill the comment box if you so please.

The error came in a policy implemented for customer service sake at a supermarket. Essentially, the cashiers were supposed to start making eye contact with the customers while thanking them for shopping at that particular supermarket. However:
However, the policy backfired when the employee was female and the customer was male. When the female employee gazed deeply into his eyes, smiled, and thanked him by his name, the male customer “naturally” assumed that she was attracted to him, and started harassing her by following her around on and off work. In other words, many of the male customers turned into Beavis and Butt-head. Eventually, five female employees had to file a Federal sex discrimination charge against Safeway to force it to stop this policy, which the supermarket chain did when it reached an out-of-court settlement.

So, where am I being proven right? My so called "pessimism" on the ease of dating and asking complete strangers out for a date. What a crock. As much as I hate to admit it, New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman goes through the same thing with his op-eds. Krugman had been warning of asset overpricing in housing (real estate) for a while, but people merely scoffed at him as "pessimistic" when he was just stating observations on facts. Just as mortgage companies would scoff at people who wanted a fixed rate mortgage and reply, "Get an adjustable rate mortgage. It looks scary now, but you could always just refinance this loan later. The value of your home will only go up."

Just as people and friends scoffed at me when I would speak to them on the game theory possibilities of dating. Unfortunately, no one would listen when I would explain to them how having a relationship was like making a personal contract with someone. Nor would they listen when I explained that the market for finding people out there is not as easy as it sounds. People everywhere are looking for things specifically, whether it be no relationship at all, or a relationship with the most stringent qualifications ever made. It's these intricacies that make online dating sites, such as eHarmony, so popular. Essentially, the website is supposed to sort through all those variables for you.

When I posted about those stringent qualifications before, I was lambasted for being so self-deprecating. While the humor was self-deprecating, that is/was not the issue. The issue is that everyone, in their own personal quests for optimism, simply for the sake of optimism, fails to see the intricacies that make life the adventure that it is. It is those intricacies that make economists able to write entire books on items that we identify and write off as everyday life. And it is those intricacies that make people so selective about whom they will choose to spend the rest of their lives with, let alone one night for a date.

So, there are economic parallels with dating. And it is true, as that men can easily get the wrong signals from women, which would mean that obviously economists have a better knack for thinking about how life works. Maybe that's because economists aren't afraid to delve into other specifics of academia, such as psychology, neurology, and biology.

I mean seriously, what other profession would have the guts to tell you that an engagement ring is simply a non-refundable deposit to be worn on the ring finger? I mean, that is what it is, right? Either that, or we all have some explaining to do about how and where true love is represented.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Black Keys - Attack and Release

The Black Keys released their latest (fifth) studio album entitled, Attack and Release. Their latest creation has been produced by Danger Mouse, and let me be the first to say that his production hand is evident.

While the change in sound is not bad, nor is it an about face as to how Dan Auerbach and Pat Carney create and play music, the production value of Attack and Release shows. Some songs even have bass accompaniment, which if we can remember, only happened once on their prior four releases combined.

However, Dan and Pat still are the Black Keys, and there is nothing that can replace Dan's vocals, guitar, and Pat's drums. When you play this album, there is no doubt that you are listening to The Black Keys.

The real question is if their production collaboration with Danger Mouse will be done again in future releases. If so, or if not, you will still be able to find many tracks to adore on Attack and Release.

Here is the video for a track they seem to be pushing as their single, "Strange Times."