I'm real hesitant to blog this...

Because, I hate to raise expectations.

But, I keep reading this kind of sentiment (From PPP):
It's just another data point showing that Democratic troubles this year are not the result of them losing the center, but of conservative voters being more motivated to turn out.

And (From Charlie Cook):
Although no single district can be an accurate microcosm of a larger set of competitive districts, Pennsylvania's 12th District seemed to be a good example of a certain type. It is blue-collar with a mix of small towns, cities and rural areas. The Republican candidate was competent, well-funded and had a good story. Obama's job approval ratings in the district were below the national average. It might not have been a gimme, but it was a race the Republicans should have won. Not only did they lose, though, they lost by 8 points, just shy of the traditional 10-point yardstick of a landslide.

What happened? ....The Republican analysis seems to imply GOP victory is dependent upon Democratic vote depression, and for them to win, Democratic voters must be lethargic and not show up.

And (From Ed Kilgore at 538.com):
Moreover, a more stridently ideological posture by Republicans could arguably play into the hands of Democrats who are frantically trying to make the next two election cycles revolve around a "two futures" choice between two very different agendas rather than a referendum on Democratic governance. 

And (From Adam Abramowitz at The Democratic Strategist):
Evidence from U.S. Senate elections since 2000 provides strong support for the median voter theory of U.S. elections. This evidence shows that conservatism had a significant negative effect on the electoral performance of Republican incumbents. Based on these results, efforts by the Tea Party movement and other conservative activist to purge moderate incumbents and pressure Republican candidates into taking more consistently conservative positions are likely to have a detrimental impact on the GOP's performance in future elections.

I'd really like to see the GOP punished for their tea party nonsense.  Based on these readings, the mid-terms may hinge on how far to the right the GOP has moved.  If Democratic voters do turnout, then there will be a chance to turn back the red tide. You can't know what will happen in this next round of national elections, but maybe the GOP really has taken their rhetoric a step too far.

Oil Map

Excellent interaction chart at the NYT (link) on the Oil spilled into the gulf.

(Hat Tip: The Big Picture)

Like I'm not pysched about this...

My commute's reading list just got longer with Bloomberg's top fifty business books (link).  Sweet!

(Hat Tip: The Big Picture)

"Wall Street CEOs Are Nuts"

James Kwak has a great take the relationship between the administration and Wall Street (link).  But I like this passage on the CEOs the best:

Wall Street CEOs like to think they are the adults, the big men in the room, the ones who know how the world works. Well, you know what? They screwed up their own banks, the financial system, and the economy like a bunch of two-year-olds. Every single major bank would have failed in late 2008 without massive government intervention — because of wounds that were entirely self-inflicted. (Citigroup: holding onto hundreds of billions of dollars of its own toxic waste. Bank of America: paying $50 billion for an investment bank that would have failed within three days. Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs: levering up without a stable source of funding. Etc.) The financial crisis should have put to rest for a generation the idea that the big boys on Wall Street know what they’re doing and the politicians in Washington are a bunch of amateurs. Yet somehow the bankers came out of it with the same unshakable belief in their own perfection that they had in 2005. The only plausible explanation is some kind of powerful personality disorder.

Enjoyable stuff.  The link is worthy of a quick read -- plus the comments below are fun too.

Nate is fixated on Rasmussen. Good for him.

A few posts ago (link), I mentioned the 'house effect' on Rasmussen polls and even linked to Daily Kos' take (link) that its all part of a right-wing conspiracy (For the record, I don't buy it).  Since then there have been several blog posts by Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com on Rasmussen and why their results are so odd.  Here's part of his latest (link) on the Wisconsin Senate Race:

But if we indeed take this result literally, it is pretty ridiculous. Johnson is good on the stump and has started to generate a lot of buzz among the conservative and tea-party intelligentsia. He has some upside potential -- and may well defeat Feingold in the end. But common sense would dictate the number of Wisconsinites (even "likely voters") who know who Ron Johnson is right now is closer to 6.8 percent than 68.

I've had a lot of criticisms for Rasmussen Reports over the past couple of weeks. Many of the problems their polls exhibit are common to other pollsters throughout the industry, if they seem to be a bit exacerbated in Rasmussen's case.

But the fact is that Rasmussen is the 500-pound gorilla in the room. They drive a lot of traffic and narrative. They account for something like 30 percent of all horse-race polls that have been released thus far this election cycle.

I love that Nate is drilling in on the pollsters and making them accountable for not only their accuracy, but also their methodology.  Polls very often make headlines and can be used to nudge people towards stronger views than they might have had without the headline.  Pollsters may even want to influence our opinions.  So, taking 'em down a notch is very worthwhile.  Their results should be called into question, especially when they don't make sense.  

Go Nate!


No internet for three days.  Whoa!

I have to admit, I don't feel like I missed anything.  I will say that the cable news in hotel rooms gives you a sense that you know what is going on.  I like the blogs much better, but spin is everywhere regardless.  The great things about the blogs is that they are far more likely to be interesting.  Plus, clicking the channel is much less promising than clicking the mouse.

My usual posting schedule should resume.  I'll be trying for at least one thoughtful post a day.  Also, I finished the Black Swan on the plane so my 'Quick Thoughts' on that will be available on my reading sub-blog before the weekend.

Away from internet until Thursday...

So, no posts for a little while.

This is just not right


Sarah Palin's Speaking Demands

A draft contract containing details about Sarah Palin's speaking fee and requirements was obtained by California State University, Stanislaus, students who claim they found the document in a Dumpster.  Here are some of her demands:
  • Hotel room must have a "moose couture" styling to it
  • Most recent copy of all newspapers
  • Children's caretaker must be of Korean ethnicity or higher
  • 50-gallon aquarium containing a minimum of eight piranhas that haven't been fed in a week and a bucket of ducks
  • If the name of the speaking venue exceeds four syllables, then it must be temporarily changed to "Thompson Hall"
  • Book of word searches and package of string cheese for Todd
  • Extra red clothing just in case something happens to her other red clothing
  • Audio engineer must ensure speakers are capturing full cuntiness of voice
  • Dressing-room lighting fixtures must be equipped with non-efficient bulbs
  • Palin must have "five (5) black pillar candles of 13" in length and 3" in circumference, one (1) stone altar of Baphomet, one (1) obsidian dagger, and one (1) baby delivered to her dressing area no less than two hours prior to her speech"

Unemployment Still Bad

But here's a cool chart from Calculated Risk that puts our woes into historical perspective (OK, very recent history. 1976) :

Looking for a job?  Would you consider moving to North Dakota?

American Homeowner Preservation

This is a great idea (link).

American Homeowner Preservation negotiates with lenders to approve short sales for underwater homeowners. If a lender approves, the home is sold to an investor who provides the selling family a five-year lease at affordable rates, along with a recorded option to repurchase. The lease and option prices are all predetermined at the outset and are a derivative of the investor's acquisition price.

AHP passes on the majority of the benefits of the short sale discount to the family, thereby creating the incentive for the family to stay, pay and repurchase. We offer the homes to all investors, who are typically private parties looking for higher returns than they can get at the bank and many of whom are equally attracted to the direct positive impact they are having on American families.

Hat Tip: Felix Salmon (link)

Note: He's Up By 25 Points

Rand Paul, the GOP primary winner put his foot in mouth yesterday (link) and its unclear to me if it will matter at all.  However, if it does, then Ezra Klein knows why (link):

What's gotten Paul in trouble, however, is that he's so skeptical of government power that he's not even comfortable with the public sector telling private businesses that they can't discriminate based on race. That, I fear, does have public policy implications.

For instance: Can the federal government set the private sector's minimum wage? Can it tell private businesses not to hire illegal immigrants? Can it tell oil companies what safety systems to build into an offshore drilling platform? Can it tell toy companies to test for lead? Can it tell liquor stores not to sell to minors? These are the sort of questions that Paul needs to be asked now, because the issue is not "area politician believes kooky but harmless thing." It's "area politician espouses extremist philosophy on issue he will be voting on constantly."

Interestingly, Rasmussen has him up over Conway (D) in the polls by 25 (link).

As a side note, Rasmussen is a very reputable polling company that has a strong 'house effect'.  Their polls have leaned more towards the GOP during this cycle than all the other pollsters.  This doesn't mean that their polls are wrong, but has more to do with how they are modeling for likely voters.  For more on this, here is Nate Silver (link).  And for those who like a good conspiracy, here is Daily Kos on the Rasmussen house effect (link).

It's The _____s Fault

Personally, I blame myself.  I woke up one morning and took a good look in the mirror.  Anyway, if you want to blame somebody else, have fun with this chart.

Hat Tip: The Big Picture

Beware The Easy Story Line

When you start hearing the same story line again and again and again from the media, it's good to be skeptical.  Here's Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly (link):

But it's the nuances and details that poke some important holes in the "anti-incumbent" narrative. Specter didn't struggle because he's a sitting senator; he lost because he ran in a Democratic primary after serving as a Republican for 30 years -- a Republican who backed Bush, Cheney, Santorum, McCain, and Palin. Lincoln's career isn't in jeopardy because she's already in office; she's in trouble because Democratic voters aren't pleased with her voting record and aren't convinced she can win in November.

Even among Republicans, the major shake-ups -- in Kentucky, in Florida, in Utah -- have very little to do with incumbency and a great deal to do with ideology.

The media's rush to oversimplify things is consistent with how major outlets cover developments like these. It's just what they do. But it also leads to unhelpful reporting that doesn't fully capture the larger dynamic.

To be clear, this doesn't mean anti-incumbency isn't going to be a factor this fall.  What it does mean is that the press often picks the facts (or lack of facts) to fit a pre-existing, easy to understand, narrative.  And mainstream reporting seems to have done that again with their headline analysis of yesterday's outcomes.

Hat Tip:  Eric Wagner - Thanks for sending the link along!

Consumer Prices Fall, "Unexpectedly"

I'm expecting Krugman to comment on this as soon as he has finished his grading.  He's been talking about the risk of deflation being far more likely than the risk of inflation in the mid/short run.  Plus, he's also been railing against the 'fear inflation' crowd.  So, I have to believe that this news will make his blog.

May 19 (Bloomberg) -- The cost of living in the U.S. unexpectedly dropped in April for the first time in more than a year, reinforcing forecasts that the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates near zero for much of 2010.

The 0.1 percent fall in the consumer price index was the first decrease since March 2009, figures from the Labor Department showed today in Washington. Excluding food and fuel, the so-called core rate was unchanged, capping the smallest 12- month gain in four decades.

As a side note, I don't think this he will see this as good news either.  It points to high joblessness acting as a dampening pressure on the overall economy.

UPDATE: Just to toot my own horn, I posted this (above) around 1:00 PM ET.  Krugman posted this at 1:51 PM ET.  Nailed it.

The Difference

Kevin Drum has a great blog post that really captures what a lot of us who are now considered left (And 20 years ago would have been considered 'center') really find offensive about the GOP.  It's only one example, but suffice it to say that I get annoyed each time I see a disingenuous equivalency argument made.

It's bad enough that prominent conservative pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Liz Cheney, and Sean Hannity have flirted with the birthers. But what's worse is that birtherism seems to be a perfectly acceptable belief among actual Republican leaders. Sarah Palin thinks it's a question well worth asking. Roy Blunt isn't sure Obama is a citizen. Dick Shelby thinks it's curious that we haven't seen Obama's birth certificate. Michele Bachman recently showed up at a tea party event and palled around with birther queen Orly Taitz. My congressman, John Campbell, said that Obama was a citizen "as far as I know" and then, with a wink and a nod, cosponsored a bill requiring presidential candidates to submit a birth certificate. The bill currently has 13 Republican cosponsors.

This is just a huge difference. With the ambiguous exception of McKinney, who's not exactly a big wheel in Democratic politics, there's just no one of any stature on the liberal/Democratic side of the aisle who buys into trutherism. If Paul Krugman and E.J. Dionne and Rachel Maddow took it up, that would be one thing. If Dick Durbin and John Conyers and George Miller and Jerry Nadler were truthers, that would be another. But they aren't. They don't flirt with it, they don't make jokes about it, and they don't pander to their lefty base by delivering clever applause lines about it. But where the birthers are concerned, Republican politicians and significant conservative thought leaders do. That's the difference.

'Tea Party Candidate'

I heard that the 'Tea Party Candidate' won in Kentucky.  I have mixed thoughts on this kind of headline.
  1. Isn't 'Tea Party Candidate' just a reference that means a member of the GOP who panders to the worst elements of the base by using irrational and populist slogans?
  2. This is likely good for the democrats.  It means that the crazies are running the show in the opposition party.  It also means that the opposition is putting up candidates that have the lowest chance of appealing to, so-called, independent voters.
  3. On the other hand, its probably bad for the country.  I've yet to read a policy position from the 'Tea Party' that could stand up to questioning.  The fact that this group attracts a strong enough following to win primaries, is awful.  Why can't we have a sane opposition?  I have a hard time believing that the democrats will hold onto power for long enough for the GOP to become rational.  When the extremists start winning seats we may see some truly bad government policy.
If you are following the political races, here's one the only link (538.com) you need to click for the significance of yesterday's outcomes.

Projected Returns > Actual Returns

I'm really enjoying this graph.

Basically, be wary of analyst projections.  They seem to be off by a factor of two.
Hat Tip: Paul Kedrosky

Facebook = Openbook

Here's another example of how open Facebook is.  It's called Openbook and it's a Facebook profile search engine.  You can run searches on anything: "Rectal exam", "Copy and Paste", "I hate my job", etc...  Give it a try, here's the link.

That's pretty cool, right?  The more I think about Facebook as an issue the more I realize that all users need to understand that it's public.  The site owners want to make you think that you have control over your privacy, but because they can (and do) change their privacy standards all the time, you actually have no control.

So if you're going to use Facebook, just assume that any information you put out there will be picked apart by anyone who wants to pick it apart (Marketing Organizations, Russian Hackers, Spammers, Nosy People, Your Boss, Potential Clients, Potential Employers).  Assume that regardless of your privacy settings, you are fully public.  Then behave appropriately.  Remember any perceived control you believe you have over your privacy is false and potentially to your detriment.

(Hat Tip: Kevin Drum)

A Few Notes/Responses

I just figured out that I had comments on the blog (Forgive my slowness in publishing comments).  They are all published.  Now that I understand a little more regarding the blogging tool I'm using, I'll look to publish them much faster then this last stretch.

Regarding the suggestion for "What's Wiebe Wearing"...  interesting.  My co-worker loved the idea but refusing to bring the camera in for the photos.  I'll work on him.  For now I'm afraid that this idea is going in the file.

Regarding the starbucks tasting like burnt rubber...  I'm sipping a cup right now.  I detect no rubber flavoring.  I do detect a grounded, earthy aroma – even a capricious spirit. As I knew it was an adventurous coffee, I was prepared for unusually concentrated spicy and herbal notes. Mmm.... Delicious!

Regarding Diaspora.  I have a feeling that the network effect that Facebook has are going to carry the day.  I'm already thinking about the people I've disconnected with by deleting my account.  I just don't see ordinary users jumping; much as I'd like to see Facebook punished.

Coming soon:  I finished Outliers and its fantastic.  I expect my "Quick Thoughts" to be up on the sub-blog sometime this evening.

Thanks for comments!  I really appreciate your eyeballs as I play cut and paste in my spare time.  This week will be a little light on my posts due to a project at work (Damn Job), but I'll shoot for at least one post a day.

Low Post Week

I don't see this being a high post week.  My apologies in advance.

Here's The Logic Of That Little Tidbit

The other day, I posted that 28% of Republicans thought the oil spill in the gulf made them more likely to support offshore drilling.  Huh? What?

Well, Nate Silver come through with the logic:

At the same time, if you do give people an "illogical" response, sometimes they're going to pick it! This question was immediately preceded by one about support for offshore drilling overall. It may be that some of the respondents had an instinct to dig in their heels and wanted to appear consistent, using the question to reaffirm the support for offshore drilling that they'd already expressed. That is, saying that the spill makes you more likely to support offshore drilling may not literally be true but instead may mean something more along the lines of "you're damned right I support offshore drilling!".

It may also be that some people were confused by the question, or were not paying much attention to it. A lot of people might have taken PPP's call while ironing their clothes, or watching TV, or getting their kids ready for soccer practice. They might have been zoning out, and heard blah-blah-blah-blah oil spill blah-blah-blah-blah more, and thought it was the choice used to express that they had become more concerned -- not more supportive -- of offshore drilling. There is arguably some evidence of this in that the percentage of people selecting this response feel a bit off and do not always track underlying opinions about offshore drilling. For instance, 17 percent of liberals picked the "more likely" response, even though only 33 percent of them supported offshore drilling to begin with, and 29 percent of African-Americans did, even though just 44 percent of them support offshore drilling.

It Isn't Easy Being Green - But It Makes It Easier To Cheat

Just fell upon a (new to me) blog that looks promising: Ulterior Motives.

Here's a part of a fun post about how being Green can make you cheat more, but seeing Green can you make you cheat less.   Wild.

A second study made a similar observation using an experiment in which people had the opportunity to cheat. In this study, participants had the chance to play a game in which they could cheat to get more points. In addition, at the end of the game, participants were asked to pay themselves in accordance with the number of correct answers they got in the game. Participants who saw green products cheated less than those who saw conventional products. In contrast, participants who bought green products actually cheated more than those who saw conventional products.

What Should Government Do Anyway - Continued

Nice add-on to my earlier post from Krugman's blog:

Thinking about BP and the Gulf: in this old interview, Milton Friedman says that there’s no need for product safety regulation, because corporations know that if they do harm they’ll be sued.

Interviewer: So tort law takes care of a lot of this ..
Friedman: Absolutely, absolutely.

Meanwhile, in the real world:

In the wake of last month’s catastrophic Gulf Coast oil spill, Sen. Lisa Murkowski blocked a bill that would have raised the maximum liability for oil companies after a spill from a paltry $75 million to $10 billion. The Republican lawmaker said the bill, introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), would have unfairly hurt smaller oil companies by raising the costs of oil production. The legislation is “not where we need to be right now” she said.

And don’t say that we just need better politicians. If libertarianism requires incorruptible politicians to work, it’s not serious.

Starbucks vs Dunkin' Donuts vs Mountain Dew

I've generally felt for awhile that Starbucks is a much better coffee experience.  I'm not talking about the taste, the atmosphere, or the service.  I'm talking about the caffeine content.  And I just found out that it's clearly true; Starbucks does make for a better coffee experience. 

A 16 oz Starbucks has 330 milligrams of caffeine.  Dunkin' Donuts?  Half that at 143.  And for those out there drinking the dew, you're stuck down around 55.  (Source)

Mmm.  I know where I'm going for my next cup.

What Should Government Do Anyway

(Link - A friend actually posted the real link on Facebook when it came out last month. But it was posted on Krugman's blog just after that)

I'm Pissed Off. And I'm Going To Complain About It.

Michael Kinsey has a fun column today on the Tea Party.  He basically says they are a bunch of incoherent whiners.

“I like what they’re saying. It’s common sense,” a random man-in-the-crowd told a Los Angeles Times reporter at a big Tea Party rally. Then he added, “They’ve got to focus on issues like keeping jobs here and lowering the cost of prescription drugs.” These, of course, are projects that can be conducted only by Big Government. If the Tea Party Patriots ever developed a coherent platform or agenda, they would lose half their supporters.

Principled libertarianism is an interesting and even tempting idea. If we wanted to, we could radically reduce the scope of government—defend the country, give poor people enough money to live decently, and leave it at that. But this isn’t the TPP vision. The TPP vision is that you can keep your Medicare benefits and balance the budget by ending congressional earmarks, and perhaps the National Endowment for the Arts.

(Hat Tip: Andrew Sullivan)
Needless to say, I don't think Michael will be attending any Tea Party rallies in the near future.

The Blame Shifting Campaign

(Hat Tip: Ezra Klein)
(One Source)

It Worse Than That, He's Dead Jim

Here's Matt Yglesias on how much worse the oil spill is than we've been told to-date (link) while getting to the bottom of how this could have happened:

Two important pieces of news on the Gulf oil disaster today. One is that it seems both BP and the government have likely been underestimating the extent of the disaster, with oil being spilled at a pace of approximately two Exxon Valdezes per week. Here’s some video of oil pouring out of a damaged well that BP has been suppressing for weeks.

We also have a major scoop from the New York Times about how the pro-drilling leadership of the Minerals Management Service “gave permission to BP and dozens of other oil companies to drill in the Gulf of Mexico without first getting required permits from another agency that assesses threats to endangered species” and “also routinely overruled its staff biologists and engineers who raised concerns about the safety and the environmental impact of certain drilling proposals in the gulf and in Alaska, according to a half-dozen current and former agency scientists.”

And here's a cool t-shirt.

Krugman Calls BS

He does it all the time.  His latest BS call is on all the analogies being made between the US and Greece. (Here's a link to Krugman's column).  Once he explains the reasons why the analogy is false, he goes on to show why they are being made:

And bear in mind, also, that taxes have lagged behind spending partly thanks to a deliberate political strategy, that of “starve the beast”: conservatives have deliberately deprived the government of revenue in an attempt to force the spending cuts they now insist are necessary.
So here’s the reality: America’s fiscal outlook over the next few years isn’t bad. We do have a serious long-run budget problem, which will have to be resolved with a combination of health care reform and other measures, probably including a moderate rise in taxes. But we should ignore those who pretend to be concerned with fiscal responsibility, but whose real goal is to dismantle the welfare state — and are trying to use crises elsewhere to frighten us into giving them what they want.

Here's a little more on that "starve the beast" thing from Bruce Bartlet.

Maybe Next Year

I wouldn't get your hopes up on a climate bill coming out of DC this year.  I know that Kerry/Lieberman unveiled their bill yesterday and there has been much reporting on what it would do.  But I think Ezra Klein makes the key point in this post.

Meanwhile, John Kerry and Joe Lieberman brought out their "American Power Act," but it's being greeted with a sort of respectful sympathy, not calls for action. Notice that the president is in Buffalo, New York to talk jobs, not climate.

(Emphasis is his).

Maybe Obama Isn't Like Carter Afterall

You should click on this link, just to see the other covers of Obama on The Weekly Standard.  Here's the key quote from Jonathan Chait:

Now that Obama has won his biggest legislative priority and is closing in on at least one other important win, the tone is change. The hapless patsy has become the snarling bully. The lack of Republican support for Obama's agenda, once a credit to Republican tough-mindedness, is now blamed upon Obama's stubbornness. Here is a recent cover of Obama--the nefarious, but powerful, overseer:

The Standard is a reliable reflection of Republican propaganda tropes. The shift in tone from gloating at Obama's weakness to complaining at the unfairness of his strength is the clearest signal Obama seems to be escaping the worst fate -- to be a Jimmy Carter or a Bill Clinton circa 1994 or 1995.

"It's Your Piece of S--- Now"

Stewart goes where the press dare not go...

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Sometimes Playing The Outside Game Is All You Need For The Win

Here's part of a nice post from Nate Silver at 538.com (An absolute must-read site; especially as we get closer to the mid-terms).

In addition, obviously, there is significant anti-incumbent sentiment within the country which seems to cross all political boundaries. While Mollohan lost to a challenge from his right -- not incredibly shocking in a state where just 34 percent of the Democratic primary electorate describes itself as liberal -- incumbents of all kinds are having problems:
-- Republican Senator Bob Bennett was eliminated at Utah's nominating convention last week by Tea Party-supported candidates.

-- Also in Utah, Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson was forced into a primary after delegates gave 45 percent of their votes to Claudia Wright, a retired schoolteacher who ran sharply to his left.

-- Arlen Specter appears more likely than not to lose to Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania next week. Sestak has made a point of running to Specter's left, although polling indicates ambiguous patterns of preferences according to voter ideology. (In Rasmussen's cross-tabs [gated], Sestak leads 56-39 among liberal primary voters but also 51-38 among conservatives; Specter leads 46-37 among self-described moderates.)

-- Recent polling shows Democratic challengers closing on incumbent Senators Richard Burr in North Carolina and Chuck Grassley in Iowa.

-- John McCain, having released this strange ad, seems to be nervous about his position in Arizona, where J.D. Hayworth is challenging him and has been close in some polls.
We scarcely need to mention, of course, how many Democratic incumbents are liable to lose their general election bids.

I don't look forward to the possibility of a 'Tea Party' controlled House.  But, they are definitely playing the 'outside game'.

Rock, Paper, Scissors (Lizard, Spock)

(Link to more)

Spin This

Hat Tip

Untrustworthy Scumbags

The owners of Facebook are building a huge, searchable, database of all the important aspects of their user population. And they’re not shy about finding new ways to exploit it. Plus, it’s a bait and switch. “Here’s a great way to connect with family and friends that YOU can control. I mean WE can control. And we change the rules about WE and YOU any time it suits us. Have fun!”. And the beauty of the bait and switch is that it gets the user base comfortable with sharing information with each other. Why not, it’s fun to share. But then Facebook can change the default on that privately shared information from private to public as soon as it finds a market for the data. Then sell the information to highest bidder. And so long as they make the effort to hide previously private information difficult, but possible, they can still sell most of the data.  Enough of it to make some bucks on their (Not yours) valuable data.

I’m beginning to think the “private to public - bait and switch” IS their business model.

Frankly, they do create value for the users. I haven’t found a tool that works as well as theirs.  The network effect is amazing. You put a profile on and within a few months, you’ll reconnect with dozens of people you never thought you’d ever have contact with again.  It’s pretty amazing.

It’s too bad the owners are untrustworthy scumbags.

The Problem Is That You're Reading USA Today

Yesterday, I thought I found a brilliant factoid here.  Then I read this from Kevin Drum:

Not quite. According to the BEA, personal income in 2009 totalled $12 trillion and personal current taxes totalled $1.1 trillion. Sure enough, that's 9.2%. But, ahem, there's also $967 billion in "contributions for government social insurance." That's taxes to you and me. So that's $2.1 trillion in taxes, or about 17% of personal income.

But according to the OMB, federal tax receipts in 2009 totalled $2.1 trillion. And according to the Census Bureau, state and local tax receipts in 2009 totalled $1.2 trillion. That's $3.3 trillion, not $2.1 trillion. Do we really have $1.2 trillion in taxes not being paid by individuals? State and federal corporate taxes only amounted to about $200 billion. Are they not counting the employer portion of payroll taxes?

In any case, our total tax bite, which is eventually paid by individuals no matter what channel it goes through, was $3.3 trillion in 2009. That's 27.5% of personal income, not 9.2%. Caveat emptor.

Umm.  27.5% is much higher than 9.2%.  And frankly, what was I thinking that the number could even be 9.2%?  I mean payroll taxes alone are close to 14% (Split between employer and employee).  9.2% on its face should have looked wrong to me.  My bad.

Not So Happy Owning in Nevada

Check out the chart below:

That's 70% of homeowners have negative equity.  Let me repeat that number.  70%.
(Hat tip:  Marginal Revolution)

"It's playtime in the world of imagination"

Plus a nicely timed "Oh... so no-one knows what the f--- they're doing"

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Anybody Get the Logic of this Little Tidbit

From the analysis of a poll by PPP:

28% of Republicans said the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico made them more likely to support drilling off the coast

What?  I'll assume they were joking.

Tell Me Again What the Problem Is


Federal, state and local taxes — including income, property, sales and other taxes — consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That rate is far below the historic average of 12% for the last half-century. The overall tax burden hit bottom in December at 8.8.% of income before rising slightly in the first three months of 2010.

UPDATE:  This information has been challenged pretty well by Kevin Drum.  9.2% just looks wrong. See this.

Midterm Tea Leaves (or: The People Are Pissed Off)

Here's Charlie Cook's take (link):

When one party has control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, a midterm election is pretty much a referendum on that party. The electorate's anti-everything mood is likely to manifest itself only one way in November -- that is, against Democrats. Between now and then, however, a different dynamic could be in play. Republicans in particular should watch upcoming primaries apprehensively to see whether their party is nominating candidates with the potential to attract broad-based support and take full advantage of the anti-Democratic tide, or if it is opting for candidates who might be too extreme even in what should be a great year for the GOP.

But have no doubt: The anger is real. The only question is precisely how it will be channeled.

I've been reading this kind of thing all year and will probably continue to read it.  Here's the part I don't entirely get:

Meanwhile... In The Real World

Arnie is faced with a problem that no one-liner can solve.

The state budget crisis has been quiet for the past few months but will return to center stage this week as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger prepares to belt out some bad news.

The governor is scheduled to release an updated budget plan Friday that will probably include even deeper cuts than those he proposed in January, when he called for reductions in health and human services, prisons, education and state worker pay, among other areas.


Noted in the article, it's a $20 billion deficit, there's no way to raise taxes as it requires a 2/3 majority vote in the legislature to pass any budget (seriously, this is a bad structure), state revenues are expected to be lower than originally projected, federal help has been smaller than anticipated.  Oh, and apparently most of the options to close the deficit were used last year.  Anticipated cuts will be 'harsh'.  Wow.

Did I mention that the recession is supposed to be over? Hooray recovery!

Arnie Was Always Good with the One-Liners

Here are a couple quotes from the CA governor's commencement speech at Emory:

“I was also going to give a graduation speech in Arizona this weekend. But with my accent, I was afraid they would try to deport me.”

“Finally, the Kennedys will think I’m a success. And Maria can finally bring me home to meet her family.”

Hat Tip

What's a Trillion Dollars Worth Anyway?

Been lots of posting on the move by the ECB last night.  Looks like the euro went up against the dollar on the initial news and then fell back later in the day (hat tip - Krugman).

I think Felix Salmon captures why here:

Europe Growth Forecast Chart

Nice interactive chart for seeing the growth forecast in europe.  The 'PIGS' look like you'd expect them to (bad).  I was a little surprised by France's high unemployment rate.  Here's the link to the chart (where you can actually play with it).

Hat tip: Barry Ritholtz

Big Content Win

This is pretty technical, but one easy way to understand it is that it means my brother-in-law is right: Selectable output control is going to go away.  Big content is actively looking for ways to close the 'analog' hole.  And based on this piece in Arc Technica, the hole just got smaller:

After almost two years of deliberation, the Federal Communications Commission has granted Hollywood and cable companies permission to shut down analog streams to HDTV equipped home theaters. The geek term for this is "selectable output control" (SOC)—until now forbidden by the FCC. The Motion Picture Association of America requested a waiver on the SOC ban in May of 2008, arguing that without it, Hollywood studios could not securely offer consumers pre-DVD released movies on television.

So, here's the deal:

A Tipping Point?

Just another person cancelling their Facebook account.  Or is it?
(It probably is - but, I'd love to be at the beginning of this particular wave)

Here is James Kwak at the Baseline Scenario (link):

In short, there has been a massive, one-directional shift in how much of your information is visible by default either to everyone on Facebook, or to everyone on the Internet. Now, the usual defense of Facebook is that this is only by default; you can control information access via your privacy settings, which have gotten more fine-grained over time.

But this argument doesn’t fly for me. First of all, there is the problem that many people don’t realize they have this control and don’t use it. Second, finding and using those privacy settings is not trivial. But for years, I figured that I was savvy and careful enough to protect myself adequately. I’m not that paranoid about personal information on the Internet to begin with–there are various versions of my biography already floating around–and besides, I worked in the software industry for eight years (some of that time helping to design and configure software, not just market and sell it), so I should be able to figure this stuff out.

Want To Increase Voter Turnout?

Apparently, it's as easy as asking the right question:

A new study shows that phone calls to encourage people to vote can be made more effective by a simple strategy - that is, by asking the would-be voter to spell out what time they plan to vote, where they will be coming from prior to voting and what they will have been doing beforehand.



Wired Calls For A New Facebook


This spring Facebook took that even further. All the items you list as things you like must become public and linked to public profile pages. If you don’t want them linked and made public, then you don’t get them — though Facebook nicely hangs onto them in its database in order to let advertisers target you.

This includes your music preferences, employment information, reading preferences, schools, etc. All the things that make up your profile. They all must be public — and linked to public pages for each of those bits of info — or you don’t get them at all. That’s hardly a choice, and the whole system is maddeningly complex.

Simultaneously, the company began shipping your profile information off pre-emptively to Yelp, Pandora and Microsoft — so that if you show up there while already logged into Facebook, the sites can “personalize” your experience when you show up. You can try to opt out after the fact, but you’ll need a master’s in Facebook bureaucracy to stop it permanently.

Another Facebook Post

Really just a link.

And a quote:

Facebook is a great service. I have a profile, and so does nearly everyone I know under the age of 60.

However, Facebook hasn't always managed its users' data well. In the beginning, it restricted the visibility of a user's personal information to just their friends and their "network" (college or school). Over the past couple of years, the default privacy settings for a Facebook user's personal information have become more and more permissive. They've also changed how your personal information is classified several times, sometimes in a manner that has been confusing for their users. This has largely been part of Facebook's effort to correlate, publish, and monetize their social graph: a massive database of entities and links that covers everything from where you live to the movies you like and the people you trust.

Updates to Where's Wiebe

Between helping with the kids, I had a pretty fun Saturday updating the blog.  Here's what's new:
  1. I played around with the blog template and got a color scheme that I think I like.  
  2. Added "Sources" which is really the blogs I frequent the most.  It's also what give me 'the inspiration' for most of my posts.  I'll probably add a few more things like this when I get around to it.
  3. Made two 'sub-blogs' that link right into the main "Where's Wiebe' Blog.  The first is a video game blog.  I figure that as I play games, I'll post my thoughts on them here.  Over the past few years, this has been one of my primary source of entertainment.  I don't know that will always be true (I've taken breaks from video games that have lasted for years), but I suspect that it probably will.  Why not capture my thoughts in the moment.  Here's a link to the blog: What's Wiebe Playing.  There's also one in the top right hand side of the page.
  4. The second 'sub-blog' is a book blog.  I've moved from watching TV on the train during my commute to reading books.  I'm surprised that it's keeping my interest because it's been a while since I regularly read books.  My interest right now tends towards behavioral economics, but I'll move from that I suspect.  This is just a place to capture my thoughts as I finish the books.  I did some back filling today with my most recent reads.  Here's a link to the blog: What's Wiebe Reading.  There's also one in the top right hand side of the page.
Not sure where I'll go next with this blog, but I think that's it for the weekend.

Kevin Drum on Facebook

Is Facebook Evil?

The more I read about Facebook, the more I really don't like Facebook. I'm way behind the curve on this stuff, but the other day I read a post about privacy settings and realized just how little I know about it. I've always been pretty sparse with my Facebook account, so I'm not really worried about my darkest secrets becoming public or anything, but after reading this and then following the links I went in and changed a whole bunch of settings that had made my preferences available to third parties at Facebook's whim. I had no idea these settings even existed. Then today I read this. "There is something seriously wrong with their business ethics," says Thomas Baekdal, "when they even contemplate publishing content that was previously marked private."

Great Maddow Segment From About a Month Ago

Love the quote: "The unmooring of politics from fact".

Immigration Opinion

Here's something that would really work badly, but is supported by a plurality of the public according to a Economist/YouGov Poll:

...nearly half (48%) of the public thinks states should be permitted to set their own immigration policies...

How is that supposed to work? Arizona passes an incredibly tough immigration law. Then, lo and behold, Massachusetts passes amenesty and grants citizenship to existing illegals (say, under certain conditions). And then the new citizen takes a vacation to Arizona, where they get put in jail and deported.

Really, it doesn't make any sense.

It's a Hoax


Key quote:

"We are deeply disturbed by the recent escalation of political assaults on scientists in general and on climate scientists in particular. All citizens should understand some basic scientific facts. There is always some uncertainty associated with scientific conclusions; science never absolutely proves anything. When someone says that society should wait until scientists are absolutely certain before taking any action, it is the same as saying society should never take action."

My Favorite Employment Chart

And the job news is positive. I'm still not expecting a robust recovery, but the trend looks much better than it did for the past couple years.




Judson Phillips

I'm not a fan of the tea-party.  Fair to say that they aren't fans of me.  Here's my favorite quote from a recent Washington Post interview.

Maryland: I am sorry but your answer of "I think the political class is afraid of the Tea Party movement. After all, we get people out as volunteers and get them to the polls. For them, it cannot be the same as usual in D.C. A lot of them are going to be unemployed after the first of the year and that does scare them" is really offensive. This us vs. them mentality is really repulsive to me. I am a hard-working middle class American and I don't agree with anything you are saying, and I have a right not agree with you. But you splitting the citizenry into classes of "elites/political class/Washington insiders/liberals" vs "real Americans" is just plain wrong! and that's the problem with your movement.
Liberals are just as American as you are and you and your movement has no right to question people's patriotism or Americanness just because they disagree with you. 

Judson Phillips: Yes we do. You folks in the left do far worse. Patriotism is not something that cannot be measured. It can be. And you folks on the left, as a general rule are not patriotic. You do not love this country. You are embarrassed by us.

I guess I'm not the only one....


Pressure is on Facebook


I'm happy to vote with my feet.  I mean how self-serving is this quote from Facebook's CEO:

When we got started in my dorm room at Harvard, the questions a lot of people asked was "Why would I want to put any information on the Internet at all?" People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people, and that social norm is just something that has evolved over time. We view it as our role in the system to constantly be innovating and updating what our system is to reflect what the current social norms are.

Right.  It's changing social norms.  Not a land grab.  Right.

Greece and the Euro-zone

Good stuff from Krugman.

Note that his usual critic, Mankiw, seems to think he has some good points.

Where's Wiebe

After the past couple weeks of watching Facebook do more and more 'site monetization', I decided that I was done with it. It's a touch decision because I've really enjoyed reconnecting with people I've had a hard time keeping in touch with. I also loved posting links and charts and pictures and every now and again, a thought or two.

This blog is going to be my way to try to keep the posting part of Facebook going. I expect my posts to be brief and probably a little more partisan that what I allowed myself to post on Facebook. Good for me! I have my doubts about having any kind of following, but who knows. If you're reading this, Welcome! I'd love your comments and thoughts. If you have something you want me to see, post a link in the comments. Think I'm full of it or taking my points too far - well, you're probably right, so tell me!

Anyway, I'd like to think I won't miss Facebook. I'll do this experiment, at least until the end of the summer. And we'll see how well it works.