8/31/10 Links

It's the end of August (As we know it) and I feel fine. (R.E.M.) Here's today's links:

Do you believe that "this guy" is awful?  Yes.  Yes, I do.  (Sam Stein)

Another really bad poll for the Democrats.  (FiveThirtyEight)

Who's afraid of the big bad immigrant? (Felix Salmon)

If 'nobody' saw it coming, and it came, then the people who saw it coming are 'nobody'. (Calculated Risk)

No.  Unemployment would not have fallen if unemployment benefits hadn't been extended. (Media Matters)

You know that scene in the horror movie, right before the villian comes back alive for one last unexpected shot at our hero.  We're there. (The Big Picture)

Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessup: You can't handle the truth!
A Few Good Men

We are here...

OK, this is the real estate professional in me.  Awesome chart.  (Hat Tip:  The Big Picture)

8/30/10 Links

Is that an impending sense of doom I'm feeling?  Or, have I been reading too much on fundamentalist ideology in my attempt to understand today's GOP? Probably both.

Do people who have DVRs really watch ads?  When do advertisers give up on TV?  (Tech Crunch)

10,000 hours, right. But not too much competition, OK. (Wired)

You should always vote for the person, except for when the party matters most.  And it always matters most.  (Ezra Klein)

I'd agree, except for the fact that there is no easy stuff when the only thing you ever want to do is cut taxes.  (Ezra Klein)

Representing a fundamental misunderstanding of the liquidity trap (Megan McArdle)

"Dey tuk er jerbs!" (Economist's View) - Quote from Season 8, Episode 6 "Goobacks"

Eating local is not as energy efficient as advertised by local businesses.  File under, "Not surprising".  (Stephen Budiansky - NYT Op-Ed)

Week away links 8-29-10

OK, most of these are from the last day or so.  I don't really feel back yet (Week away with the family), because I haven't logged into the work email address yet.  But hey, Mondays are all about unpleasant experiences.  I'll add lots of work emails to the list.  Until then, here's what caught my eye over the past week (end):

Just buying some books might be worth more than you think (Evidence Based Mummy)

Going green kinda sucks (Scott Adams)

Because, really, if you don't need 'em, you don't need 'em (The Big Picture)

Cheap, "virtual" assistants, living in India, may be able to improve your dating life (Brad Ideas)

Some twitter feeds I need to add (Real Time Economics - WSJ)

Did you know that the third-person plural is a tell? (Farnam Street)

If I didn't agree, I wouldn't be posting this link (Paul Krugman)

Are you prepared for the death of the public sector? (TPM)

When in Rome (The Big Picture)

I'd post the video directly, but it doesn't seem appropriate to the blog.  But... I'll go with... cool.  Very cool.  (The Daily Dish)

That's it on my end.  If you have any fun links, send them my way.

Great graph of historic US interest rates

Hat tip - Barry Ritholtz:
(Click for larger image)

Are we working smarter?

Here's Tyler Cowen on the productivity increases in 2008/2009 (link):

In other words, there was a lot of "productivity growth" precisely when workers were being laid off, and not so much before or after. I interpret the "high productivity innovation" as the decision to lay the workers off, and the selection of workers, not the sudden advent and withdrawal of some new high productivity technology.

Lately, I've been wanting to go to a waterpark...

Then again, maybe I should pass.

8/20/10 Links

I'm taking a break for the next week.  Call it a swimming trip.  Here's a few links to hold you over until I get back.

Obama's doing OK.  Really.  No really.  He is. I swear. (Kevin Drum)

Shockingly, e-dating isn't terribly effective (Mind Hacks)

Hey look, we didn't bankrupt the country with the AHCA (Bruce Bartlett)

Excellent interactive map of the recession and where its hit hardest (AP)

And so, that puts 13 democratic seats in play for the US senate (Cook)

Video Killed The Radio Song - Chart on internet usage (Barry Ritholtz)

Apparently, doing more housework means getting more action (Freakonomics Blog)

"Getting information off the internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant" (Ezra Klein)

Copyright Protection - Who Does It Help?

Great piece by Ezra Klein on the fashion industry and the cost/benefit of extending copyright protections (link).  Here is a quote that captures the nub of the issue:

And companies love copyright. They love it so much they persuaded Congress to pass the Sonny Bono Act, which extended individual copyright protections to the life of the author, plus another 70 years; and corporate copyrights to 120 years from creation, or 95 years from publication, whichever is earlier. That’s an absurdly long time, and it belies the original point of patents: does anyone seriously believe that a 40-year-old with a money-making idea is going to hold back because someone can mimic it 20 years after he dies?

At a certain point, copyrights stop protecting innovation and begin protecting profits. They scare off future inventors who want to take a 60-year-old idea and use it as the foundation to build something new and interesting. That’s the difficulty of copyrights, patents, and other forms of intellectual protection. Too little, and the first innovation won’t happen. Too much, and the second innovation—the one relying on the first—will be stanched.

Which is why we have to be careful when one industry or another demands more copyright protection for itself. “Intellectual property is legalized monopoly,” says James Boyle, a professor at Duke Law School. “And like any monopoly, its tendency is to raise prices and diminish availability. We should have a high burden of proof for whether it’s necessary."

I'm going to add one more concept in here.  Monopolies are really just a way to collect rents.  Effectively, you don't have to do anything of value other than allow the use of your property in order to collect income.  The hard part is protecting that monopoly.  And the way to do that is politically.  You need to get some lawmakers on your side and you're off and running.  Is it any wonder that the copyright protections in this country are absurdly long, far longer than what would be required for to encourage content production?  The politicians running for office have a friend in the content owners who are seeking rents from their monopoly.  Disney is not #70 on the highest all-time 1989-2010 donor list (link) for fun.  They are protecting their rent.  Here's a link with more on rent seeking and its consequences.

If it was up to me, I'd reduce the protection significantly.  Life of author, plus seventy years goes from rent collection, to theft from society.

The Workout

Beginning Weight: 273 lbs

Ending Weight: 213 lbs

Total Weight Loss: 60 lbs

Percentage Weight Loss: 22%

Starting Date: 4/26/2010

Ending Date: 8/20/2010

Weeks: 17

Days: 116

Core Workout: 90 minutes on the cross-trainer in the gym at my office.

Occasional Add-ins: 2 mile loop near my house.  Walking to and from train.  Walking over lunch.  Usage became more consistent over the summer and in final few weeks.  However, weight loss was pretty constant over the entire period.

Diet: I completely refused to do calories counting.  I did try to eat smaller portions (and didn't always succeed).  I went from rarely drinking anything with calories, to very rarely drinking anything with calories.  I became more diligent about eating near weight milestones (20 lbs, 30 lbs, etc...).  Still can't resist a five-guys bacon cheeseburger with BBQ sauce, hot sauce, jalapenos, pickles, lettuce, and tomato.  And I never saw a fried clam that I didn't fall in love with.

Other Notes: Exercise gets pretty boring after about a little bit.  So does TV and music.  I found that by mixing it up between all three, I could keep going.  BTW, morning TV is terrible.  I was working out the gym in my office and often had no control over what I watched.  If I never see the Today show again, it'll be too soon.

8/19/10 Links

Hope a few of these catch your eye.  Kevin Drum seems to be my passing fancy of the day.  Enjoy!

Outrage, across mainstream America - humor (The Daily Mash)

American Airlines, messing with you for profit (Kevin Drum)

1964.  A stereo cost $379.95 and a year's tuition at the University of Michigan cost $140.  Which would you rather have today?  (Jonathan Chait)

Copyright protection exists to encourage the creation of content.  No more, no less.  (The Daily Dish)

Did you know that we are W.E.I.R.D? (Social Science Research Network)

Only half of US citizens understand the first amendment to the constitution (Kevin Drum)

Explain to me the deal with social security and who's trying to weasel their way out if it (Kevin Drum)

Mmm....  Burger (Daily Fork)

Question: Do "Cougars" really exist?  Answer: No.  (Yahoo)

Nice chart showing total trend in consumer debt (Infectious Greed)

8/18/10 Links

Here are today links:

Great set of charts showing damage caused by the financial meltdown (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities) (My post on this earlier today)

Refusing to submit to the U.S. News and World Report rankings results in improved performance (The Atlantic)

The two mosques that already exist near ground zero - 4 and 12 blocks away (NYT) (My post on this earlier today)

That's right, we pretty much disapprove of everybody (PPP)

How not to write news analysis (Jonathan Bernstein)

The problem with the deficit hawk - funny (Economist's View)

How UBS made out with Walmart using satellite technology - cool (CNBC)

You have to be kidding me...

OK, I find the NYC Mosque controversy offensive.  My position was very well stated by Obama on Friday night (I didn't appreciate his walk-back on Saturday morning).  Jon Stewart did a great job of presenting how ridiculous this issue is in one of last week's daily shows (the clip I liked is here).

OK, now the compromise position, which I disagree with, is for the builders of the mosque to back down and move the mosque to some other part of the city.  Somewhere... "less sensitive".  Let;'s pretend that isn't a violation of their basic constitutional rights.  Let's look at how far away we're talking about.  A compromise can't be that bad, right?  As has been well reported, the build site for the planned mosque is two blocks away from ground zero.  So, how far away are other mosques in the city (NYT link)?

Masjid Manhattan, on Warren Street, four blocks from ground zero, was founded in 1970. Masjid al-Farah, formerly on Mercer Street, moved to its present location on West Broadway, about 12 blocks from ground zero, in 1985. Both mosques — essentially one-room operations — routinely turn people away for lack of space. 

So there is an existing mosque that is FOUR blocks away from ground zero.

This controversy is pure political demagoguery appealing to the worst (racist) instincts of people.  Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrinch and all the others involved in this should bow their heads in shame and apologize for being so offensive.  And so unbelievably wrong.

OK, venting over.  Back to financial models.

Fun With Charts

Brad DeLong's twitter feed just brought me to an excellent set of charts showing the last two years of our economic disaster.  Basically, this is chart porn.  If you love economic charts, you need to check this out.

Below are a few samples.  Clink on the link for more.

8/17/10 Links

This is a light link day.  I just didn't have the information grazing need that usually carries me through the day.  That said, here are a few goodies...

Barry Ritholtz on how we should have rescued the financial system (The Big Picture)

Policy positions are largely irrelevant in US elections (Ezra Klein)

Why sometimes it doesn't make sense to buy and hold (Pragmatic Capitalism)

I'm getting old (Beloit College)

8/16/10 Links

Here's what I'm into today.

Palin supporters must be high (PPP)

One of the rare moments I find myself agreeing with an NRO blogger (The Agenda)

How long do you think the jobs recession will last? (Robert Reich)

Having a dog makes you more cooperative (Economist)

How to keep a politically useful story alive (David Weigel)

Can the GOP keep the lid on? (Mark Halperin)

The NYT isn't satisfied with the internet (Media Decoder)

Don't you just love a good burger? (DCist)

No conflict of interest to see here (Think Progress)

Story of a video game virgin (kottke.org)

When the end of world was here, was Bush or Obama president? Seriously. (PewResearchCenter)

Worst news of the day.  Stupid.  (Washington Post)

Jon Stewart's Take On Religious Tolerance

Funny and painful.  You know, the way Stewart is when he's completely right.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Municipal Land-Use Hearing Update
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Link to 1st amendment

Friday Linkage - On Thursday!

My twitter feed went crazy this week so I'm doing this post a day earlier than last week.  I'm considering doing a link post like this every time I have between 10 and 15 links.  Otherwise, the list gets way too long.  (I know, 42 links is too many). 

With that said, Links:

Men, you should wear red

Where Krugman explains how to read a report from the CBO

Crist benefited from the oil spill

A conservative evaluating his position against same-sex marriage

A political blog recommended by Chuck Todd

Mark Thoma on the weakness in last Friday's (8-6-10) job report

Part of the reason the administration didn't push for a larger stimulus package in 2009

It's been hot this year

A thawing glacier

Yuck.  Just yuck.

How many chargers do you have?

Economists call each other names, too

Where Coke says that no reasonable person would think that vitamin water is a healthy beverage

Where Nate Silver agrees with Paul Krugman that Paul Ryan is full of it

How large is the beauty premium for prostitutes?

A poll that asks if the oil spill was a good thing

Obama phones? Bush phones?

Fiscal enemy number one:  Public employees

Great chart showing how incomes dropped in 2009

Convincing secular arguments against same-sex marriage are hard to make

Bell. The purest case of government employee theft from the taxpayers that I have ever read.

Palin's eye-roll (old news, admit-ably)

Video games - from geek to jock

What kind of unemployment do we have, structural, frictional, or cyclical?  Does it matter?

Conservapedia is the best!

Mmm, state fair food (check out the pictures)

The origin of Mexico's drug war

Should government do more or less? What do independent voters think today?

Maybe, Palin pissed off the people of Alaska when she stepped down

When reality becomes unhinged, who will even notice?

The pension crisis is the fault of overly-optimistic economists (So much for the dismal science)

When the trade deficit ends, how much will it suck?

Political considerations in the recently passed $26 billion aid package to states.

How do you spell, shcool?

Being 'concerned' about social security, improves your credibility

Where we learn that the U.S. is bankrupt

Negative TIPS yields.  Whoa.

Car shopping in the internet age

Without this jobs program, unemployment wouldn't be 9.5%, it would be 11.5%

Where Paul Krugman 'solves' the deficit problem

Same-sex couples should be able to marry again next Wednesday

Paul Ryan is entirely clear despite what his critics say

The Non-Recovery

Ezra gets depressed (link):

If states have to cut $120 billion from their budgets, that money -- and the things it does -- will just leave the economy. There will be fewer jobs, higher taxes, less financial aid. None of that is speculative. There's no theory in which it doesn't happen. This is a large economic contraction that we've decided to allow, because we would prefer to allow it than to put down the money -- much less money, incidentally, than it will cost to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich -- necessary to prevent it.

Of everything that's happened since the financial crisis, this is, to me, the most frustrating. It is a decision we, as a polity, are making to prolong our economic pain and slow our economic recovery. It is needless and senseless and largely the result of political, rather than economic, disagreement. And when it happens, we will all look around at one another and lament our slow recovery, and our terrible economy, and our inept political leaders, who have clearly done something wrong, even if we're not sure exactly what.

How Much Would It Hurt To Be Specific?

Just a quicky post linking to something from Yglesias' blog (link).  Here's the key quote:

To which I ask, if “the whole idea is to cut spending,” then why not propose spending cuts? It’s a lot easier to pass a budget than to pass a constitutional amendment. Surely, if a majority Americans are clamoring for “robust spending cuts” as DeMint claims, then the GOP would benefit in the midterms by proposing such cuts. Instead, the GOP either cannot or will not propose anything specific; rather, they continue to push for extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy without any spending offsets. That really should end any serious consideration of what this balanced budget amendment is all about.

But the larger point here is that the Republican Party is refusing to detail an actual agenda in advance of the November elections. There are plenty of things a Speaker Boehner really might do if the GOP were to regain the House majority in the fall. But instead of talking about which of those things they’ll attempt, Republican leaders continue to play to their base with notions of ACA repeal and radical changes to the constitution that require 2/3 majorities and approval of 38 states. The answer of the pundit class seems to be to sort of laugh off this talk of amending the constitution since it “won’t happen” — to which the follow-up should be, what will happen if the GOP takes over Congress? Voters should probably hear the answer before going to the polls.

This fits in very nicely with my complete disdain for the Tea Party/GOP.  When pressed, the answer seems to be, "We'll figure out the spending cuts, so can I have my tax cut now, please?"  The weighty manner in which the government deficit is discussed is a front.  We'd see serious answers otherwise.  Why be specific and risk ideas being discussed, when my political position is improved by transparent pandering and fear-mongering.

As a side point;  I'm with Krugman, Klein, and Silver on how Ryan's blueprint is bogus, with the effect of spending cuts taken credit for but not showing the deficit worsening impact of his tax cuts.  But at least, Ryan is showing the government programs he wants to gut (Primarily Medicare).  A constitutional balanced budget amendment requiring a super-majority to pass a tax is not only fantasy land (And bad economics), it's also completely disingenuous.  But then again, what was I expecting?.

It's Always Darkest When It's Darkest

Just a quick post with the latest in bad news numbers.  Andrew Sullivan has this as his chart of the day (link) and I agree.  So with that is Calculated Risk's percent job-loss report (link):

You can go ahead and puke now.  And feel free to blame whomever you'd like.

Call Me Fanboy. Fanboy Wiebe.

I seriously have a man-crush on Paul Krugman.  His piece today on Paul Ryan is a complete tear-down of the man's ideas.  He uses plenty of facts to back up his argument.  And then he rips the news media for treating him seriously.  Here's Krugman's close (link):

So why have so many in Washington, especially in the news media, been taken in by this flimflam? It’s not just inability to do the math, although that’s part of it. There’s also the unwillingness of self-styled centrists to face up to the realities of the modern Republican Party; they want to pretend, in the teeth of overwhelming evidence, that there are still people in the G.O.P. making sense. And last but not least, there’s deference to power — the G.O.P. is a resurgent political force, so one mustn’t point out that its intellectual heroes have no clothes.

But they don’t.  The Ryan plan is a fraud that makes no useful contribution to the debate over America’s fiscal future.

And you think he's done, right?  But wait... Look at the piece below in italics.

David Brooks is off today.

I can't say that it was Paul's decision to put that at the end.  Maybe it was the NYT just letting us know that Mr. Brooks is off today.  But it is at least INTERESTING that Brooks is exactly the person who would praise Ryan.

Ohh, Mr. Krugman.  You had me at "One depressing aspect of American politics is the susceptibility of the political and media establishment to charlatans."

This Week's Twitter Links

Maybe I can make this into a weekly habit.  Below are this week's links (beginning on August 3rd):

Not the best way to run a race

I may not like Ryan's plan, but at least he's talking

Being the head of the federal reserve doesn't make you correct

Do you like Palin's chances?

I said Brown

"Some miracle"

Not the best time to be a homebuilder

Learning from Jose Canseco

Those damned liberal activist judges!

If anything I do makes me unpopular, shouldn't I just do nothing?

Is scientific research wasteful government spending?

Is Iran reaching out?

Because government spending is wasteful.  By definition. Right.

Limbaugh says stupid things

Evidence?  Who needs evidence when you control the media?

Being for a larger deficit means being against health care policy

Remember those carefree college days?

Lunch Break: Sarah Palin's Facebook Page

One thing you may know about Sarah Palin, is how well she has adapted to the new online media (Facebook, Twitter) in order to speak directly to her supporters.  I've read some criticism of her approach in that it enables her to dodge tough questions that traditional media outlets would ask (Think Katie Couric: "...what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this — to stay informed and to understand the world?").  But, you have to hand it to her as a political figure who 'gets' the new media.

What I didn't have any idea about was the level of screening that goes into her Facebook page.  Check this (link) out from John Dickerson in Slate:

How much work does it take to keep everything so sanitized? To help me find out, my colleague Jeremy Singer-Vine wrote a program to capture comments to Palin's page before the clean-up crew could arrive. (Here's an explanation of how Jeremy's program works.) All these posts were initially public, if only for a few minutes. We looked at the comments to 10 Palin posts over 12 days, capturing the deletions in the 24 hours after the posts were live. In that period, a rough average of 10 percent of total posts were deleted.

10% doesn't seem like a heck of lot to me.  What really impressed me were the kind of comments that were edited.  Below are couple of interesting one from the article:

Polite disagreement. "Sarah, perception is everything! I learned that in the military. All you have to do is disassociate yourself from those Tea Partiers that are indeed racist and the NAACP gones [sic] away," wrote one in response to Palin's post on the NAACP's charge that the Tea Party tolerated racism. "Even they [the NAACP] admit the Tea Party is not a racist organization. Mrs. Palin, I believe you to be an honorable Woman. You believe in your cause. Sometimes for the good of the cause one has to make a stand even to those that support the cause. Remember John Mccain, circa 2008 in which a woman stood up and called Candidate Obama a Muslim. The Honorable John Mccain rebuked her. This could be your moment."


Too much agreement. "Do us a favor Sarah, trap a few Wolves and ship em to D.C., they do eat Rats don't they? Have a great trip Sarah, God Bless." 

The article identifies a few other types of comments that are edited (racial slurs, mean comments, anything about Obama's birth certificate, etc.).  Despite the latest 'family crisis', I still believe that she's running in 2012 for president and has as good a chance of any of the potential GOP candidates of winning their nomination.  Her ability to work the new media should prove handy in that upcoming battle.

Dissecting Lies

The GOP/Tea Party line is that: Obama (A socialist) has, much like a dictator, taken a hold of the federal government and massively increased spending.  I don't think I'm embellishing.  I've heard this repeated by respected members of the GOP, in newspapers, on Fox News, and on right-wing blogs.

Paul Krugman has a fantastic post taking this lie apart (here).

Rather than just cut-and paste the entire blog post, here are a few key charts that really take apart what's going on with government spending.

So, what's going-on here?  Simple.  We have RECORD unemployment.  This isn't a 'government take-over' of the economy.  This isn't a massive spending designed to implement an agenda of socialism.  I know that I'm supposed to balance my thinking with the idea that my side spreads an equal number of falsehoods.  But seriously, the nonsense from the 'ring-wing noise machine' is tedious, loud, and wrong.  Here's to Krugman finding another way to point that out.  Cheers!

Some readings from July

Sometime ambition gets the best of me.  Weekly just fell away huh?  OK...  Here's some housekeeping:

A new toy around the house.  And yes, it's sweet.

Elizabeth Warren, the debate continues (even now)

Tax cuts do not automatically increase revenue

What are conservatives, now?

Making money by giving it away

The latest, greatest, board games

Long term, this is bad

Getting Krugman to stick a pencil in his eye

Improving GOP outlook in the senate

The shutdown won't happen

Where Kevin Drum reads my mind

How do people in the media keep up with the information flow?

"I'm not aware of any agency with the authority, responsibility or a process in place to coordinate all these interagency and commercial activities. The complexity of this system defies description."

What does BS look like?

Erick Erickson is a blowhard

Making decisions on the margin

If you tell lies often enough, you begin to believe them

The tea party pisses people off

The filibuster is here to stay

Sullivan loves Palin

27,000 abandoned wells not checked for leaks

The pain of Palin

Playing pretend with tax charts

How being liar makes you popular

The economics of Romneycare

Does anybody really care about the deficit?

How to shrink government services

Being on both sides of an argument

If the economy determines electoral outcomes, why was 2000 so close?

But... Does crazy win?

Another Facebook debacle

In case you were wondering, Krugman thinks he's right

I don't like FOX "News"

Great pictures from the war in Afghanistan

GDP.  It's worse then we thought

How much does that hurt?

The structure of the conflict matters more than the players

Identifying propaganda (Regarding Bush's tax cuts)

Open source textbooks.  What's not to like?

Spin, spin, spin, spin, spin...

How to piss off monkeys