Friday, November 30, 2012

Should the top tax rate be 73 percent?

Dylan Matthews asks Should the top tax rate be 73 percent? This is following up on a paper that was written. I liked it because of this graph:

NewImage

I haven't read the paper but that does sound a bit high to me. On a related note, if you're wondering Do millionaires move to avoid high taxes? it seems the answer is no, not much.

The rise and fall of the U.S. wind industry, in one chart

Brad Plumer, The rise and fall of the U.S. wind industry, in one chart.

"To get a sense of the wind boom over the past two decades — and how Congress and the states have nurtured it — check out this new chart from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. It shows the policies that have led to boom and bust cycles over the years. (PTC stands for production tax credit, which subsidizes new wind generation by 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour):"

NewImage

Fighting Fiscal Phantoms

Paul Krugman, Fighting Fiscal Phantoms.

"For we have our own currency — and almost all of our debt, both private and public, is denominated in dollars. So our government, unlike the Greek government, literally can’t run out of money. After all, it can print the stuff. So there’s almost no risk that America will default on its debt — I’d say no risk at all if it weren’t for the possibility that Republicans would once again try to hold the nation hostage over the debt ceiling.

But if the U.S. government prints money to pay its bills, won’t that lead to inflation? No, not if the economy is still depressed.

Now, it’s true that investors might start to expect higher inflation some years down the road. They might also push down the value of the dollar. Both of these things, however, would actually help rather than hurt the U.S. economy right now: expected inflation would discourage corporations and families from sitting on cash, while a weaker dollar would make our exports more competitive.

Still, haven’t crises like the one envisioned by deficit scolds happened in the past? Actually, no. As far as I can tell, every example supposedly illustrating the dangers of debt involves either a country that, like Greece today, lacked its own currency, or a country that, like Asian economies in the 1990s, had large debts in foreign currencies. Countries with large debts in their own currency, like France after World War I, have sometimes experienced big loss-of-confidence drops in the value of their currency — but nothing like the debt-induced recession we’re being told to fear."

Why rich guys want to raise the retirement age

Ezra Klein on Why rich guys want to raise the retirement age.

"The first point worth making here is that the country’s economy has grown 15-fold since Social Security was passed into law. One of the things the richest society the world has ever known can buy is a decent retirement for people who don’t have jobs they love and who don’t want to work forever.

The second point worth making is that Social Security was overhauled in the ’80s. So the promises the program is carrying out today were made then. And, since the ’80s, the idea that we’ve all gained so many years of life simply isn’t true.

Some of us have gained in life expectancy, of course. As you can see on this graph, since 1977, the life expectancy of male workers retiring at age 65 has risen six years in the top half of the income distribution. But if you’re in the bottom half of the income distribution? Then you’ve only gained 1.3 years."

"If we lifted that cap, if we made all income subject to payroll taxes, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that it would do three times as much to solve Social Security’s shortfall as raising the retirement age to 70. In fact, it would, in one fell swoop, close Social Security’s solvency gap for the next 75 years."

Apple, AIG, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America provided most of 2012's earnings growth.

Apple, AIG, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America provided most of 2012's earnings growth.

"A striking chart from Morgan Stanley's Adam Parker shows that 2012 earnings growth among S&P 500 companies was highly concentrated, with 88 percent of it coming from the top 10 firms. I was even more struck by the inequality within the top 10. Just four companies—Apple, AIG, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America—together provided a majority of overall earnings growth among large-cap companies."

NewImage

I wonder how this compares to previous years? Note that the order of the legend is odd. It matches the order in the bar chart, which follows convention and shows the biggest contributor at the bottom, but that makes the legend be in reverse order.

Surprise! The abortion rate just hit an all-time low.

Surprise! The abortion rate just hit an all-time low. "No research has found a causal relationship yet. What we know is a correlation: At the same time the abortion rate took a big drop, use of more effective contraceptives had recently increased. That seems like it could be one factor explaining why the abortion rate recently dropped, after years of holding steady."

So much for abstinence only education.

Israel's Rocket-Hunting Ace Got His Start Playing Warcraft

Danger Room writes Israel's Rocket-Hunting Ace Got His Start Playing Warcraft "Computer geek, keyboard combatant, soldier, call him what you will, Idan and others like him man the controls of the latest rock star in advanced military technology. ‘There are a lot of flashing blips, signs, symbols, colors and pictures on the screen. You look at your tactical map; see where the threat is coming from. You have to make sure you’re locked onto the right target. There’s a lot of information and there is very little time. It definitely reminds me of Warcraft and other online strategy games,’ Idan says."

The Gerrymander Effect, Take 2

Kevin Drum on The Gerrymander Effect, Take 2 .

"So the 2010 redistricting really was unusually partisan. But the size of the Republican advantage turns out to be about six seats, very similar to what Eric McGhee came up with. The incumbency effect is about double that, for a total built-in Republican advantage of roughly 20 seats. Accounting for uncertainty, the Republican advantage is 10-30 seats, which is right in line with how much they outperformed the popular vote this year.

I'm interested in further research on this subject, but for now we've got two methodologies that produce pretty much the same result. The Republican gerrymander following the 2010 census has given them a permanent tailwind of about six seats, and they'll keep this for the rest of the decade. Combine that with the incumbency effect, and Democrats are unlikely to regain the majority unless they win about 52 percent of the popular vote."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Daily Show on Rice Bullying

Seriously, why can no one other than Jon Stewart think to compare John McCain's and Lindsey Graham's comments on Susan Rice with their comments on Condoleezza Rice?

The GOP’s Medicare confusion

The GOP’s Medicare confusion

"Scour the various outlets for Democratic policy ideas and you’ll find plenty of proposed Medicare cuts. President Obama’s 2013 budget, for instance, includes hundreds of billions in Medicare cuts (see pages 33-37), and caps the program’s long-term growth at GDP+0.5 percent. More recently, the Center for American Progress released a 46-page proposal for cutting Medicare by almost $400 billion."

"That’s left Republicans in a peculiar negotiating position: They know they want “Medicare reform” — indeed, they frequently identify Medicare reform as the key to their support for a deal — but aside from premium support, they don’t quite know what they mean by it, and they’re afraid to find out."

"The likely deal here — which some smart Republicans are talking about — will be a Medicare “down payment” that gets us past the fiscal cliff and then a target for the Medicare savings that negotiators need to reach over the next six months. But there’s no guarantee that the state of the politics or the policy thinking on Medicare will be very different six months from now than it is today. Republican policy types need to start thinking about what they want to do to Medicare, and quick."

Inside the talks: Fiscal framework emerges

Politico reports Inside the talks: Fiscal framework emerges

"But behind the scenes, top officials who have been involved in the talks for many months say the contours of a deal — including the size of tax hikes and spending cuts it will most likely contain — are starting to take shape.

Cut through the fog, and here’s what to expect: Taxes will go up just shy of $1.2 trillion — the middle ground of what President Barack Obama wants and what Republicans say they could stomach. Entitlement programs, mainly Medicare, will be cut by no less than $400 billion — and perhaps a lot more, to get Republicans to swallow those tax hikes. There will be at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts and “war savings.” And any final deal will come not by a group effort but in a private deal between two men: Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). The two men had a 30-minute phone conversation Wednesday night — but the private lines of communications remain very much open."

Inception Infographic

I hadn't seen this before, Infographic of the Day: Inception Contest Winner! "Rick's entry shows each character as a colored line; the layers of dreams are depicted as concentric circles. Characters enter each dream level to the left. When they all start inhabiting one of the character's dreams, that character's color-coded line expands accordingly (to show that everyone is running around in his dream). As characters fall out of each dream sequence, they exit on the right of the chart. The concentric rings depict how time slows down in each layer of dream:"

InceptionArch SlusherSMALL

Randomized Consumerism

Random Shopper is a tumblr that just started. "The chronicles of Darius Kazemi and the bot he wrote that buys him random crap." How odd.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Soft robots and the origins of life

"GEORGE Whitesides, head of the Whitesides Research Group at Harvard University, builds robots that move like octopuses and investigates the chemical beginnings of life"

Jeff Hawkins Develops a Brainy Big Data Company

Jeff Hawkins Develops a Brainy Big Data Company. "Mr. Hawkins, who helped develop the technology in Palm, an early and successful mobile device, is a co-founder of Numenta, a predictive software company. Numenta’s technology is based on Mr. Hawkins’s theories of how the brain works, a subject he has studied and published on intensively. Perhaps most important for the technology industry, the product works off streams of real-time information from sensors, not the trillions of bytes of data that companies are amassing."

I read his book On Intelligence and I often remember one of his examples. You probably without realizing it towel yourself dry using the same pattern every morning. Now I realize it. Just the other day I remembered this and wondered what Hawkins was up to.

Amazing Anamorphic Illusions!

Someone named brusspup made these illusions. The comments in the YouTube page include links to the images you can print out for yourself. I tried the Rubik's one those I can't say it worked great.

How NASA might build its very first warp drive

io9 explains How NASA might build its very first warp drive. "A few months ago, physicist Harold White stunned the aeronautics world when he announced that he and his team at NASA had begun work on the development of a faster-than-light warp drive. His proposed design, an ingenious re-imagining of an Alcubierre Drive, may eventually result in an engine that can transport a spacecraft to the nearest star in a matter of weeks — and all without violating Einstein's law of relativity. We contacted White at NASA and asked him to explain how this real life warp drive could actually work."

Warner Bros Posts Fleischer Superman Cartoons Online

Cartoon Brew reports Warner Bros Posts Fleischer Superman Cartoons Online. He's a fan:

"Warner Bros. owns the original negatives to these films and has restored them to brand new condition. It thrills me no end to be able to watch these version at will, anytime, online. The first nine are not only technically brilliant, but are some of the cleverest little sci-fi concepts ever visualized. A magnetic telescope? An electrical earthquake? Robot jewel thieves? The same kind of ingenuity behind the gags in the Koko the Clown films or Popeye cartoons is at work here.

These are some of the best cartoon shorts ever made – and were not like any Hollywood cartoons before or since. If you’ve never seen them you owe it to yourself to check them out – and if you have, no further urging by me is necessary. Enjoy!"

Here's the first, the others are linked to in the article.

An absolutely incredible raw image of Saturn’s swirling north pole

An absolutely incredible raw image of Saturn’s swirling north pole. There are a few pics in the article, but here's one:

Original copy

Journalism as service: Lessons from Sandy

I agree with a lot of Jeff jarvis' Journalism as service: Lessons from Sandy.

"After Sandy, what journalists provided was mostly articles when what I wanted was specifics that those articles only summarized. Don’t give me stories. Give me lists.

I wanted lists of what streets were closed. I wanted lists of what streets the power company was finally working on. Oh, the utility, JCP&L, gave my town, Bernards Township, lists of streets, but they were bald-faced lies (I know because my street was on that list but their crews weren’t on my street). The town and our local media outlets only passed on these lists as fact without verifying. I wanted journalists to add value to those lists, going out to verify whether there were crews working on those streets. In a word: report.

I wanted media organizations or technology platforms to enable the people who knew the facts — my fellow townspeople — to share what they knew. Someone should have created a wiki that would let anyone in town annotate those lists of streets without power and streets — if any — where power crews were working. Someone should have created a map (Google Maps would do; Ushahidi would be deluxe) that we could have annotated not only with our notes and reports of what we knew but also with pictures. I’d have loved to have seen images of every street blocked by trees, not just for the sake of empathy but also so I could figure out how to get around town … and how likely it was that we’d be getting power back and how likely it would be that buses would be able to get through the streets so schools could re-open."

I'm amazed at how many news articles do such a bad job on geography. If you're putting something on the World Wide Web, include a complete address. Even if you're a local town paper, include your state on the page somewhere (and even the country though language usually makes that apparent). If the article is about some place, include a map. They're not just for the weather.

National Geographic Photo Contest 2012, Part II

In Focus posts the National Geographic Photo Contest 2012, Part II. These are some of the most stunning photos I've ever seen.

"The deadline to enter this year's National Geographic photo contest is coming up -- this Friday, November 30. Back in September, the society started gathering and presenting galleries of submissions, encouraging readers to vote for them as well. Winners will be chosen on or around December 15, 2012. National Geographic was once more kind enough to let me choose some of its entries for 2012 to feature here on In Focus. Gathered below are 50 images from the three categories of People, Places, and Nature, with captions written by the individual photographers. Be sure to also see Part I on In Focus, from September. [50 photos]"

In Silicon Valley, Technology Talent Gap Threatens G.O.P. Campaigns

Nate Silver speculates In Silicon Valley, Technology Talent Gap Threatens G.O.P. Campaigns

"The reason is that Democrats’ strength in the region is hard to separate out from the growth of its core industry — information technology – and the advantage that having access to the most talented individuals working in the field could provide to Democratic campaigns.

Companies like Google and Apple do not have their own precincts on Election Day. However, it is possible to make some inferences about just how overwhelmingly Democratic employees at these companies are based on fund-raising data. (The Federal Election Commission requires that donors to presidential campaigns disclose their employer when they make a campaign contribution.)

Among employees who work for Google, Mr. Obama raised about $720,000 in itemized contributions this year, against only $25,000 for Mr. Romney. That means that Mr. Obama took almost 97 percent of the money between the two major candidates.

Apple employees gave 91 percent of their dollars to Mr. Obama. At eBay, Mr. Obama took 89 percent of the money from employees.

Over all, among the 10 American-based information technology companies on the Fortune’s list of ‘most admired companies,’ Mr. Obama raised 83 percent of the funds between the two major party candidates."

AMC and FiOS Apparentely Fighting Over Money

I was watching The Walking Dead yesterday and saw a crawl on my screen that FiOS might drop AMC. Here's the best article I've seen on it, AMC Networks Warns Verizon Customers: You Might Lose Coverage Soon. They're just arguing over money. Apparently the expiring contract was written before AMC had (so many) good shows so now they want more money. Reasonable, though they've started trying to limit what the creators of those shows can do. FiOS wants to pay a little as it can which is also reasonable.

I pay enough for cable, if they need to drop some of the crappy channels fine but because of bundling that won't happen. I read a good article about this recently but can't find it. There have been many on the topic in the last year. But seriously, if they need to raise my monthly rates a dollar or two I'm ok with that. I don't know what AMC is asking, but FiOS has over 4.5 million TV subscribers so that's a fair amount of change. :)

How Republicans could shut the Senate down, if they wanted to

Brad Plumer on WondBlog explains How Republicans could shut the Senate down, if they wanted to

"As we’ve been noting, Democrats in the Senate are proposing to tweak the chamber’s filibuster rules when the 113th Congress convenes in January. Doing so would make it somewhat more cumbersome for the GOP minority to block legislation. And Democrats argue that they can make these changes with a simple 51-vote majority — the so-called ‘constitutional option.’

In response, some Republicans are threatening to bring the entire chamber to a halt if Democrats go forward with this. ‘I think the backlash will be severe,’ Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told Politico earlier this week. ’It will shut down the Senate,’ warned John Cornyn (R-Tex.)"

They could start demanding their 30 hours of post-cloture debate time which are usually waived or they could start objecting to the many procedural unanimous consent votes and really shut things down. The proposed reforms don't sound so big, but I do think that if you asked the average person, they think to filibuster you need to stand and talk like Jimmy Stewart. Returning the filibuster to that seems like a good thing, and seems like an argument the Democrats could make the people. Another problem with the current system, in addition to their being no cost to the minority, there's no news about it. The public doesn't even know when there's a filibuster going on, or that there's one every day. Now we have reporters writing that a bill failed because it didn't get 60 votes, like that's a normal thing.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Is Siri really Apple’s future?

counternotions has an interesting article, Is Siri really Apple’s future? I haven't used Siri yet, my new iPhone should arrive in a couple of weeks. Everyone I know who's used it, liked it at first, finding it surprisingly useful, and then used it less and less.

Stanley Kubrick's daughter Katharina Kubrick, and grandson Joe. AMA

Stanley Kubrick's daughter Katharina Kubrick, and grandson Joe. AMA : IAmA. I had to look it up but AMA is Ask Me Anything. I've read a few of these on Reddit, though never participated in one live. Obama did one late in the election. Ira Glass will do one at 2pm today. I'm glad to see these are working.

Denny’s, Applebee’s, and the pizza chain are angry about health care costs

Papa John’s raising prices for Obamacare: Denny’s, Applebee’s, and the pizza chain are angry about health care costs. "These guys are being jerks, but they’re helpfully bringing to light what was obscured during the original debate over the health care bill—rich businessmen don’t like it because it raises their taxes. The Republican Party is very sensitive to the views of rich businessmen, and so they didn’t like the health care bill. The debate, unfortunately, got bogged down in a lot of nonsense about death panels and socialism rather than focusing on the brass tacks stuff that matters. Low-income workers—the kind of people likely to be working as servers at Denny’s—really will see huge benefits from the law. And the kind of people who own dozens of chain restaurant franchises really will suffer, at least a bit."

The Modern World on Petraeus

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When We First Met – The Cast of Calvin and Hobbes

When We First Met – The Cast of Calvin and Hobbes | Comics Should Be Good! @ Comic Book Resources "Today, based on a request by Travis Pelkie, we examine the various debuts of the cast of Bill Watterson’s classic comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes!"

I so miss Calvin and Hobbes.

Rockets Over Israel and Gaza

In Focus has some amazing photos of Rockets Over Israel and Gaza "Over the past few weeks, a slowly growing series of rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel, and retaliatory strikes by Israeli forces, has sharply escalated into a crisis. The skies over the Gaza Strip and southern Israel have filled with hundreds of rockets, missiles, and warplanes since Wednesday, bringing varying levels of destruction to the populations below. Tensions are growing as Israel's military has called up thousands of reservists and deployed troops along the border. At the same time, Egypt's new Prime Minister Hisham Kandil made an official visit to Gaza today. Meanwhile rocket attacks continued, setting off air raid sirens as far north as Tel Aviv. [39 photos]"

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DataBlog has Gaza-Israel crisis 2012: every verified incident mapped. "What has happened in Gaza and Israel since the assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed al-Jabari last week? This map shows all the verified incidents reported by news sources and wires across the region since then. Click on a dot to see an event - or download data for yourself. Search an address or share view to get the precise url."

Up with Chris Hayes on Sunday had one of the better conversations I've seen on causes of the outbreak. Hayes was also a guest on the following Melissa Harris-Perry show which also covered it well (though I haven't made it through all of it).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Movie Review: Cloud Atlas

Earlier this year I was really looking forward to the Wachowski's Cloud Atlas. I didn't know the book the film is based on, but particularly this New Yorker article, Beyond the Matrix encouraged me. The early reviews were not good and I kept hearing the word pretentious associated with the film. Still I was curious and saw it, and really liked it.

At two hours and 45 minutes, it's a long film, but I was never bored and was engaged pretty much the whole time. The film tells six stories and while I understand they were nested in the book, in the film they are all told at once and cut between them. The editing is fantastic, I was never confused and most of the time there were logical (and literary) transitions from one story to another.

The six stories have many fundamental differences but even more connections between them. They're set in different times and places: 1849 in the South Pacific, 1936 in the UK, 1973 in San Francisco, 2012 in the UK, 2144 in Neo Seoul and 2321 in Hawaii. The stories cover different genres: the slave trade, musical composition, a journalist investigating corporate corruption, a comedic escape from an old age home, a sci-fi chase with fabricants seeking freedom and a post apocalyptic adventure.

The same actors play roles in each of these stories. The film stars Tom Hanks and Halle Berry but they only have the lead roles in some of them. Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, James D'Arcy, Hugo Grant and Susan Sarandon also play many roles. Hugo Weaving is a villain in each story. Probably the worst element of the film is that the makeup involved in some of these transformations is very distracting. In some I didn't notice at all, when they're buried under cannibal warpaint it's hard to tell who the actor is, but when they've just changed their eyes to be more or less asian, it's pretty bad.

But it's the thematic similarities that I really enjoyed in Cloud Atlas. I don't think it's slavish in requiring every theme to be portrayed in every story, but it is audacious in how much it covers and is willing to put in several stories. There are big chases, mysteries, overbearing corporations interested only in profit, love affairs between people that society says shouldn't be together, reasons to live, reasons to die, environmental issues, and subjugation in a variety of forms. Various motifs are repeated like bridges, keys, books, and the number six. I noticed most of these while watching the film and really enjoyed discussing them after seeing the film. There aren't that many films, particularly big budget ones, that have so much to give. What's more impressive is that it was entertaining. This isn't a ponderous film like The Master or a Terrence Mallick epic.

I assume the book used the opportunity to write the different stories in different literary forms. Some of the stories were told as letters, I'm not sure if all had voiceovers but some did. One difficulty is that the dialects used in some, particularly the post-apocalypse was very difficult to make out at times. I'm glad there weren't distracting subtitles, and I appreciate the effort to make the stories be different in as many ways as possible, but I think they weren't a little far at times.

I'm not rushing out to see it again like I did Inception, but I'll certainly be seeing it a few more times on cable or dvd. I'm also glad I saw it once in a theater. The visuals are gorgeous and I appreciated a lack of distractions while watching it.

Movie Review: Skyfall

I was really looking forward to the latest James Bond film Skyfall. I didn't read any but saw a lot of glowing reviews, saying it was the best Bond film in a long time, maybe even ever. I really liked Casino Royale and thought that Daniel Craig could surpass Sean Connery as the best Bond, but that film was an origin story and he wasn't Bond yet. Maybe the next film. Unfortunately that was Quantum of Solace. I really hated the crazy fast editing from the very beginning. The open car chase had him racing towards traffic stopped at a construction site on a mountain road and then at the last minute he turns into the mountain where miraculous a road now appeared. But worse the script wasn't there and the plot wasn't interesting. I recently learned it was made during the writers strike and they didn't have a finished script so they were making it up as the went. I also learned that while Skyfall was delayed because of MGM's financial problems, they used the nine months to continue to work on the script. A modern Bond film with a good script, that could be perfect.

About five minutes into Skyfall I had a giant smile on my face. I know because I checked my watch. The opening chase was really well done. I've seen a number of chases on the roofs of Istanbul recently but none on motorcycles. I also liked the train sequence. Sam Mendes was a fine action director for Bond. I loved a lot of the first half of the film. MI6 is attacked, M has political problems and that was all played well. I liked Q and the fact the gadgets were more Sean Connery era gear rather than crazy Roger Moore era gear and that they made fun of that bit. I also cheered when the Aston Martin DB5 appeared. Javier Bardem made a good villain Silva, a bit creepy and believably formidable. I also liked the Bond girl Bérénice Marlohe, she's given a good scene in a casino and switches from confident to terrified from just a few subtle changes on her face.

But I also had problems with the film. I thought Silva's plot was convoluted and ludicrous. I liked his backstory, motivation and goal, but anyone so smart would have come up with a much simpler plan. It's the kind of thing where the writers just went from scene to scene adding things without looking at the big picture. I thought his scheme made Goldfinger's plan to make his gold more valuable by nuking Fort Knox with all-female aerial circus seem facile. The plot spends a lot of time harping on if Bond is too old. Daniel Craig might be 44 but just a couple of films and only six years ago was his origin story. I wasn't really ready for that. There's an action scene in the middle of the film between Bond an an assassin named Patrice. As the scene unfolded I wondered why they were killing someone that way and even what the space was. Was that a building under construction? How did Bond hide behind all those walls made only of glass? For a film that supposedly had all this extra time to polish the script, I just didn't see it.

In the end, it was pretty fun. I really did have a big smile on my face for a lot of it. But a couple of days later, I can think of no memorable lines and just a couple of fun images, those motorcycles on the roofs, a scorpion, and some beautiful Scottish countryside. Yet again, at the end of Daniel Craig Bond movie I'm left thinking, maybe in the next one he'll finally be the best Bond.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Colbert and Trevor Potter Explain How to Launder Super PAC Money

"Stephen learns how to give Colbert Super PAC money to himself and thereby hide it forever from all eyes and use it in a way that he wishes."



Just amazing.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Election Wrap-Up

WonkBlog has a ton of links.

Nate Silver's model did really well at predictions. Here's his recap, As Nation and Parties Change, Republicans Are at an Electoral College Disadvantage and Which Polls Fared Best (and Worst) in the 2012 Presidential Race.

Here are a lot of nice Election Maps, for example:

Screen Shot 2012 11 11 at 4 17 54 PM

The Post also has a really good article, The strategy that paved a winning path and I mostly agree with the Post's Lessons from the 2012 Election.

I'm not a fan of Tom Friedman, but I agree with this: "And that is why Obama’s victory is so devastating for the G.O.P. A country with nearly 8 percent unemployment preferred to give the president a second chance rather than Mitt Romney a first one. The Republican Party today needs to have a real heart-to-heart with itself. The G.O.P. has lost two presidential elections in a row because it forced its candidate to run so far to the loony right to get through the primaries, dominated by its ultraconservative base, that he could not get close enough back to the center to carry the national election. It is not enough for Republicans to tell their Democratic colleagues in private — as some do — “I wish I could help you, but our base is crazy.” They need to have their own reformation. The center-right has got to have it out with the far-right, or it is going to be a minority party for a long time."

There was an article before the election that said 15 Senate candidates, all Republicans, opposed allowing abortion in the case of rape. Later that list was shortened to 13 though I'm not sure who other than MacGovern was removed, but his position was debatable. Still here's the list, it turns out 12 of the 15 lost.

Won NE Deb Fischer
Won NV Dean Heller
Won TX Ted Cruz
Lost IN Richard Mourdock
Lost MI Pete Hoekstra
Lost MO Todd Akin
Lost MT Denny Rehberg
Lost ND Rick Berg
Lost NY Wendy Long
Lost OH Josh Mandel
Lost PA Tom Smith
Lost VA George Allen
Lost VT John MacGovern *
Lost WA Michael Baumgartner
Lost WV John Raese

Time goes Inside the Secret World of the Data Crunchers Who Helped Obama Win

"A large portion of the cash raised online came through an intricate, metric-driven e-mail campaign in which dozens of fundraising appeals went out each day. Here again, data collection and analysis were paramount. Many of the e-mails sent to supporters were just tests, with different subject lines, senders and messages. Inside the campaign, there were office pools on which combination would raise the most money, and often the pools got it wrong. Michelle Obama’s e-mails performed best in the spring, and at times, campaign boss Messina performed better than Vice President Joe Biden. In many cases, the top performers raised 10 times as much money for the campaign as the underperformers.

Chicago discovered that people who signed up for the campaign’s Quick Donate program, which allowed repeat giving online or via text message without having to re-enter credit-card information, gave about four times as much as other donors. So the program was expanded and incentivized. By the end of October, Quick Donate had become a big part of the campaign’s messaging to supporters, and first-time donors were offered a free bumper sticker to sign up."

“We ran the election 66,000 times every night,” said a senior official, describing the computer simulations the campaign ran to figure out Obama’s odds of winning each swing state. “And every morning we got the spit-out — here are your chances of winning these states. And that is how we allocated resources.”

On the Romney side, they had Project Orca. John Ekdahl wrote about The Unmitigated Disaster Known As Project ORCA. Breitbart has more, Inside Orca: How The Romney Campaign Suppressed Its Own Vote. As does Dan Farber on CNet, Why Romney's Orca killer app beached on Election Day.

Red State says Campaign Sources: The Romney Campaign was a Consultant Con Job. "According to sources who worked closely with the program, the blame is at the feet of consultants. Specifically Targeted Victory, FLS Connect, and The Stevens and Schriefer Group. While the Romney campaign did work with other consultants, they were apparently not part of the problem. They say that the truth is the consultants essentially used the Romney campaign as a money making scheme, forcing employees to spin false data as truth in order to paint a rosy picture of a successful campaign as a form of job security."

This is why people distrust consultants.

The Republicans kept the House but the reason seems to be Gerrymandering. House Democrats got more votes than House Republicans. Yet Boehner says he’s got a mandate? "It can be a bit difficult to tally up the popular vote in House elections because you have to go ballot by ballot, and many incumbents run unopposed. But The Washington Post’s Dan Keating did the work and found that Democrats got 54,301,095 votes while Republicans got 53,822,442. That’s a close election — 48.8%-48.5% –but it’s still a popular vote win for the Democrats. Those precise numbers might change a bit as the count finalizes, but the tally isn’t likely to flip." Some of the details are here, How redistricting could keep the House red for a decade. Fortunately 2020 is a presidential election so I hope the Dems do better.

Dems Make Major State Gains. "Our pre-election post on the state legislative landscape mentioned as Democratic takeover goals both Houses in Maine and Minnesota; the House in Colorado and Oregon, and the Senate in New York. All were achieved (check out the National Conference of State Legislature’s nifty interactive results map for details). Democrats also appear to have picked up the gigantic New Hampshire House (a major source of so many of those “we won a million net seats!” claims from Republicans in 2010). And moreover, Republicans failed in their own goals of picking up the Colorado, Iowa and Washington Senates, or the New Mexico House (they did pick up one, and possibly two, chambers in Arkansas, and consolidated temporarily-lost control in Wisconsin and Alaska). Out here in California, it appears Democrats have finally achieved the impossible dream of super-majorities in both Houses of the legislature, breaking the veto power of the GOP over any legislation involving taxes."

Marijuana and same-sex marriage win big in ballot measures. "Given the relative stasis in the presidential and Congressional election results, perhaps the most exciting news last night was at the level of state ballot initiatives. They ran the gamut from allowing same-sex marriage to banning same-sex marriage, from raising taxes to banning tax increases, etc. Here’s what won, what lost and by how much."

I have to say, I've never seen the word Schadenfreude as many times as I have this week and I've been enjoying it myself, for example, Karl Rove Defends His $300 Million Disaster. Here are some of my favorite tweets from the night:

@billmaher: Tea Party has now cost the Republicans 5 senate seats. My next donation is going to them.
@WGladstone: Your party doesn't believe in evolution. RT @McCainBlogette Heartbroken. My party has to evolve or it's going to die.
@tomtomorrow: We're NOT a majority rightwing nut job country, motherfuckers.
@BorowitzReport: BREAKING: Man Who Told Half the Nation to Fuck Themselves Somehow Loses Election #election #election2012 #vote2012
@chrislhayes: Looks like Mitt Romney won't win any of his 4 home states :(

A Veterans Day Like None Other Before

A Veterans Day Like None Other Before. "For nearly a century, hundreds of millions of people all over the world have stopped their busy lives to pause for a moment on November 11th to honor the sacrifice of military service. But something will happen this year, tomorrow, which has never happened before. For the first time, the solemn date will be observed without the presence of a living World War I veteran. The last surviving veteran, who served with the Woman's Royal Air Force, died this past February at the age of 110. The last American World War I veteran-- the last 'Doughboy'-- died in 2011. The last World War I veteran to see action in battle, another Briton, died in 2009. "

Friday, November 09, 2012

Will Lincoln Be Spielberg's First Oscar Winning Acting Role?

I'm looking forward to seeing Spielberg's Lincoln. From everything I've heard Daniel Day Lewis is amazing. I even saw a news story today with a historian saying it's probably the most accurate interpretation of Lincoln's real voice we'll ever get.

Lewis seems guaranteed to get an Oscar nomination. If he wins, it will be the first time Spielberg will have directed an Oscar winning performance. He's only had 9 actors nominated for 6 different films and only 3 for leading roles. And he hasn't had any nominated in a decade (though that's only been six films, one of which was animated).

Supporting Actress Melinda Dillon for Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Lead Actress Whoopi Goldberg for The Color Purple (1985)
Supporting Actress Margaret Avery for The Color Purple (1985)
Supporting Actress Oprah Winfrey for The Color Purple (1985)
Lead Actor Liam Neeson for Schindler's List (1993)
Supporting Actor Ralph Fiennes for Schindler's List (1993)
Supporting Actor Anthony Hopkins for Amistad (1997)
Lead Actor Tom Hanks for Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Supporting Actor Christopher Walken for Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Why is Florida So Stupid?

It seems one state is really bad at counting votes. All the other states, even those ravaged by a hurricane, could count their results last night. Florida was even a laughing stock 12 years ago for the same problem and they still haven't fixed it.

And while this is just an issue with one dumb poll worker, it's pretty funny (except for the person voting), Woman Wearing MIT Shirt Banned From Voting In Boca Raton

"A woman attempting to vote in West Boca Raton this morning was initially prohibited from entering the polling place because she was wearing a t-shirt with the letters MIT. BocaNewsNow.com has heard from multiple sources that an election supervisor at the polling place ultimately realized that MIT stands for ‘Massachusetts Institute of Technology’ — a school where students tend to know how to spell — and was not a campaign shirt for the Republican candidate, who spells his name MITT."

Predicting the Election

This graph from the NY Times showing the shift in presidential votes between 2008 and 2012 is I think my favorite graphic:

Screen Shot 2012 11 07 at 5 38 10 PM copy

I think this chart is the most telling by far of what happened:

11 6 2012 majority copy

WonkBlog of course has The 2012 election in charts. I don't think there's anything surprising in them other than that of those people listing health care as the most important issue, 74% were Democrats and only 25% Republicans, that's not a mandate to repeal Obamacare.

xicd got it right again:

Math

Nate Silver hasn't posted a summary yet but he seems to have gotten every state right for the presidential election. I think more importantly he's been right about the election the whole year.

Screen Shot 2012 11 07 at 5 33 27 PM

Paul Glastris wonders about The Mystery of Why Republicans Were So Sure They’d Win. "One of the more interesting questions of this election is how and why so many Republicans, who are certainly just as capable as Democrats at reading polls, chose to ignore the overwhelming statistical evidence that a Romney win was unlikely. I suppose one could say it is not much of a mystery, and that this mass refusal to accept politically inconvenient facts is of a piece with, say, conservative denial of global warming. And maybe that’s all it is. But I suspect that there was something else at play, too.

Alexis Madrigal reminds us that Data Doesn't Belong to the Democrats and that "The 2012 election was a triumph of Democratic data over Republican data."

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Finally, The Election

I voted. And I just really want the candidates to stop emailing me, calling me, and knocking on my door. I'm really sick of the election. I hated all the campaigns. They weren't about issues, they were like reality television. Whoever wins won't have a mandate to do anything and the opportunity to educate the public on issues was wasted. Seriously, what Bill Clinton did at the Democratic convention was really great and not that difficult. I'm really surprised that no other candidate even made the effort. Here are a few things to look at on election night.

The Guardian has a chart showing What time do US states declare election results?.

NewImage

The New York Time posted a nice graphic, Paths to the White House showing which state combinations will allow Obama or Romney to win.

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If you won't be glued to your TV watching but want some place to check into, The Economist says they'll update this graphic throughout the night. The State of the Race.

And it wouldn't' be an election without some controversy. The Washington Monthly gives us Your Voter Suppression Round-Up.

Andrew Cohen correctly complains that No One in America Should Have to Wait 7 Hours to Vote as some have already had to do in Florida.

Wonkblog notes, A quarter of Americans will vote by electronic machine. Is that a problem?

Firefly Tenth Anniversary Special

FYI, if you were a Firefly fan (and you should be) then this weekend you might want to check out the Science Channel. Tenth Anniversary Special ‘Firefly:Browncoats Unite’ Lifts Off on Science Channel This November "Science Channel’s FIREFLY Saturday extravaganza begins at 7AM ET/PT with an all-day marathon of the series.  That evening, at 8PM ET/PT, the final two episodes will be enhanced and presented as FIREFLY: SPECIAL EDITION.  Here, Molina gives fans unique insight into the inner workings of the series by revealing FIREFLY facts and behind-the-scenes info.  Finally, at 10PM ET/PT, The Event Browncoats everywhere have been waiting for - FIREFLY: BROWNCOATS UNITE premieres on Science Channel."

Modernized President: Portraits of Abraham Lincoln, In Color

Modernized President: Portraits of Abraham Lincoln, In Color "TIME commissioned Sanna Dullaway to create a more vibrant document of Lincoln through a series of colorized photographs produced in Photoshop. After removing spots, dust and scratches from archival Lincoln photographs, Dullaway digitally colorizes the files to produce realistic and modern versions of the portraits, which look like they could have been made today."

"Since that first experiment, Dullaway has continued to colorize a wide range of historical figures, including Albert Einstein, Che Guevara and Teddy Roosevelt, each of which has generated viral buzz online. She’s also used the approach on a number of iconic photographs, such as Eddie Adams’ harrowing image of a Vietnam police officer the moment before he’s about to execute a Vietcong prisoner. In each of these renderings, Dullaway’s use of color is subtle and sophisticated—yielding images that maintain the photographic integrity of their originals, while presenting a look at how these photographs may have come out had color photography existed at the time. That nuanced ability to handle color runs in the family; Dullaway’s father is painter."

Quantum Flip-Floppers: Photon Findings Add to Mystery of Wave-Particle Duality

Scientific American writes Quantum Flip-Floppers: Photon Findings Add to Mystery of Wave-Particle Duality

"Now, two research groups have implemented an even more bizarre version of the delayed choice experiment. In two studies in the November 2 issue of Science, a team based in France and a group in England each reported using a quantum switch to toggle the experimental device. Except in this experiment, the switch was not flipped—thus forcing the photon to act like a wave or like a particle—until the physicists had identified the photon in one of the detectors.

By changing the settings on the device, both teams could not only force the experimental photon to behave as a particle or as a wave, but could explore intermediate states as well. 'We can continuously morph the behavior of the test photon from wavelike to particlelike behavior,' says Sébastien Tanzilli, a study co-author and a quantum optical physicist with the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris who is based at the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis. 'Between the two extremes, we have states that come with reduced interference. So we have a superposition of wave and particle.'"

Machine Turns Vote For Obama Into One For Romney

MSNBC reports Machine turns vote for Obama into one for Romney.

"A Pennsylvania electronic voting machine has been taken out of service after being captured on video changing a vote for President Obama into one for Mitt Romney, NBC News has confirmed. Republicans have also said machines have turned Romney votes into Obama ones.

The video was first posted on Youtube by user ‘centralpavoter.’ It shows a voter’s finger repeatedly pressing the button for Obama, but a check mark coming up next to Romney’s name:"

This was posted to YouTube by centralpavote and apparently he commented about it on a reddit thread.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Sandy Prompts N.J. to Extend E-Mail Voting

Matt Blaze has been tweeting about this the past couple of days but Scientific American has an article, Election 2012: Sandy Prompts N.J. to Extend E-Mail Voting

"Storm-ravaged New Jersey could set off a tempest of its own on Election Day if the state lets constituents vote via e-mail and fax, cautioned a group of legal, technology and election experts during a press conference on Monday. These experts are challenging N.J. Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno’s executive order issued late last week that extends Internet-based voting privileges usually reserved for overseas military personnel to residents displaced by Superstorm Sandy.

The central point of contention is that whereas military absentee voters are required by law to mail a paper ballot in addition to voting by e-mail or fax, Guadagno’s directive (pdf) makes no mention of a backup paper trail. What’s more, N.J. hurricane victims who opt to vote via e-mail or fax would be required to sign waiver that removes their anonymity when casting their ballot electronically."

I didn't NJ (or any state) had any form of Email voting so this was interesting and there are lots of things to consider. In case you're interested, this is how astronauts vote.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Why does Mitt Romney want to be president?

Ezra Klein answers Why does Mitt Romney want to be president?

"But after spending the last year talking to Romney advisers and former colleagues, as well as listening to him on the campaign trail, I’ve come to see this description as insufficient. It’s not so much that Romney lacks a core as that his core can’t readily be mapped by traditional political instruments. As a result, he is free to be opportunistic about the kinds of commitments that people with strong political cores tend to value most.

What Romney values most is something most of us don’t think much about: management. A lifetime of data has proven to him that he’s extraordinarily, even uniquely, good at managing and leading organizations, projects and people. It’s those skills, rather than specific policy ideas, that he sees as his unique contribution. That has been the case everywhere else he has worked, and he assumes it will be the case in the White House, too. When we look at Romney’s career and see a coreless opportunist, we’re just looking at the wrong data."

"This is why Romney thinks he should be president. A lifetime of data has proved to him that his management skills constitute a unique and powerful contribution. In Romney’s world, there’s nothing strange about that, which may also explain his willingness to be unusually strategic, even cynical, about the policies he supports."

"Some argue that the president holds the ultimate power to “agenda set,” even if much of that power is derived from Congress’s willingness to let him set its agenda. There’s truth to that, but it obscures the very substantive negotiations between the White House and Congress. "

"The answer, then, to the question “What does Mitt Romney think?” is this: It matters even less what Romney thinks than it matters for most presidents. Romney’s policy preferences are unusually weak, his deal-making instincts are unusually strong and his party will be unusually aggressive in policing his agenda."

"In choosing Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the lead architect of the Republican House’s legislative agenda, as his running mate, Romney signaled his broad acceptance of Norquist’s argument. Whether a Romney administration would corral the votes to pass Ryan’s agenda remains an open question."

"At this point, neither voters nor Romney have sufficient data to know how he would govern. With a Republican Congress, he would govern from the right. With a Democratic Congress, he would move to the center. If he faces a divided Congress, he will look for compromise to get “the best possible thing done.” Without knowing the composition of Congress, we can’t know the kind of president Romney would be. We know he can manage, but we don’t know which company he will be managing."

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Latest Dark Money Tallies

The Sunlight Foundation reports the Latest Dark Money Tallies: $213 million in the general election and counting, 81% on behalf of Republicans; 34 races with $1 million or more.

"Back in July, Senate Republicans successfully blocked the DISCLOSE Act, which would have required all organizations spending $10,000 or more to reveal their donors. Now we understand why. Through Nov.1, at least $213.0 million has been spent in the general election by ‘dark money’ groups to influence the 2012 elections. Of that, $172.4 million (81%) has been spent to help Republican candidates, as compared to $35.7 million (19%) to help Democrats."

"As of our latest calculations, there are now 34 races (12 Senate and 22 House) where dark money groups have dropped at least $1 million. In the Senate, the five races with the most dark money are: Virginia ($19.0 million), Ohio ($13.1 million), and Nevada ($11.7 million), Wisconsin ($10.4 million), and Montana ($7.5 million). Dark money accounts for more than 40% of the outside money in Senate races in New Mexico (71%), Nevada (47%), Massachusetts (44%), Ohio (43%), and Virginia (41%)."

"These totals surely undercount the true amount of money these dark money groups have spent to influence elections, since they only have to disclose their election-oriented spending within 60 days of an election in House and Senate races, and following the national nominating conventions in the presidential race. Yet, when we looked at what Crossroads GPS was doing earlier in the cycle, we found that as of July 5, they had already announced $83 million in ad buys – more than they’ve reported in the disclosure window we are able to cover here."

Is this really how we want our elections to work?

Friday, November 02, 2012

No Tagg Romney isn't Rigging Voter Machines in Ohio

I had tweeted this article from Lee Fang in The Nation, Tagg Team: The Romney Family Recipe for Crony Capitalism.

I heard this NPR story tonight,
Is Romney Son Gunning To Steal Ohio Vote By Rigging Voting Machines?. "Have you heard the story that's swept the liberal blogosphere in recent days about how Mitt Romney's son, Tagg, is going to steal the election for his dad? It's not true, but like all good conspiracy theories, it is based on kernels of truth."

Thursday, November 01, 2012

More Hurricane Sandy Photos

In Focus has Hurricane Sandy: The Aftermath and The Big Picture has Hurricane Sandy: The Superstorm. Both are amazing photo sets and you should go look at them.

One of the things that strikes me about this is that I've been to so many of the places affected by the storm. I of course grew up on Long Island so I've been to NYC many times. I've vacationed at the Jersey shore for over 10 years. I've visited friends in Charleston WV who got tons of snow from Sandy and I've seen the statue in Annapolis shown in the photos. I've been over the bridge shown in the last photo below many times, and there was never a connection to the ocean before.

Bp12 copyBp46 copyBp48 copyS s02 blackout copyS s07 55063531 copyS s17 55085905 copyS s23 14957542 copyS s45 34668706 copy

The Lessons from New York’s Flooded Subways

Time wrote: The Lessons from New York’s Flooded Subways

"New York’s woes are partly a function of the age of the subway system. It’s 108 years old, its tunnels and stations are situated adjacent to or underneath rivers and harbors, and water seepage is unavoidable. Street-level grates that provide light and air to the tunnels and stations act as natural drains during even ordinary rain, making a mess of platforms and often halting service. ‘We have three pump trains, 300 pump rooms and dozens of portable pumps around the system,’ says Seaton. ‘Even on a day when there’s no rain, we pump out 13 million gallons of water.’

Hurricane Sandy, of course, put a lot more strain on the system than an ordinary rainless day. Storm surges in lower Manhattan rose to 14 ft. (4.2 m), blowing the doors off the previous 10 ft. (3 m) record, set by Hurricane Donna in 1960. Much of Manhattan below 40th St. is without power, and even if the juice were still flowing, the subway system would not dare to go online. An unknown number of stations are flooded to the ceiling and all seven under-river tubes linking the boroughs are also inundated — hardly the environment in which you’d want to light up a system whose fabled third rail provides 625 volts of power to the trains. And it’s not just any water that’s swamping the system, it’s salt water. Even after it all evaporates, there’s still residue that would cause short circuits if power were switched on. That means a long, painstaking clean-up.

“Every single piece of equipment — signals, contacts, everything — has to be disassembled, cleaned and dried,” says Seaton. “Then it can be reinstalled.” The subway cars themselves, at least, are stored at high ground."

Did you know that the NFL is a tax-exempt nonprofit?

Did you know that the NFL is a tax-exempt nonprofit? I knew of this but not particular details.

"For example, I did not know that the National Football League, the colossus of professional sports, is classified as a non-profit — a tax-free non-profit, to be more specific. That’s right: The NFL has its own exemption, written into federal law, that makes it exempt from federal corporate taxes."

Endorsing Barack Obama

I prefer the New York Times endorsement but I'm happy with Mayor Bloomberg's endorsement too. I just think he misses that it's not really possible to be a centrist with an opposition that doesn't want to deal.

Daily Show Returns…With Compliments

I really liked this segment last night…

Interactive: Make Mitt Romney’s tax plan add up!

INTERACTIVE: Make Mitt Romney’s tax plan add up!. I only found about $50 billion of deductions to eliminate and I didn't choose any tax raises because he's said he won't.

"But the minute one moves from that vague goal of making the tax code simpler into the knotty questions of what provisions of the tax code ought to be eliminated, the broad consensus breaks down. Should the next president limit the mortgage-interest deduction, and if so, by how much? Should he end the charitable deduction? What about the tax-free status of employer-provided health benefits?

These are the real questions of tax reform, and they’re often hidden by politicians who prefer to talk vaguely of ‘tax breaks and loopholes.’ But if either President Obama or Mitt Romney attempts to ‘broaden the base and lower the rates,’ those questions will be the only ones that matter.

To help make them clearer, we’ve worked with the analysts at Citizens for Tax Justice, and its sister organization the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, to create the Wonkblog Tax Reform Calculator. We in particular thank Matt Gardner at ITEP for running the numbers necessary for the simulation to work. Today’s version allows you to try and pay for Romney’s tax cuts by choosing which deductions and exemptions to eliminate. Tomorrow we’ll release a simulation based on Obama’s specifications and goals."

UPDATE: Today he added one for Obama's policies. Make President Obama’s tax plan add up!. I made it well past the Simpson-Bowles target by adding taxes for carbon, financial institutions, and Clinton era estate taxes. I also raised the Social Security payroll tax cap which to me just makes common sense.