The recent collapse of the carbon trading market in the E.U. has prompted me to put in writing something I’ve been convinced of for some time — that skeptics of man-made catastrophic global warming should just keep quiet. My opinion is that they need to spend less time talking about the economics of carbon taxes and more time studying game theory.
Here’s what I’d tell a vocal denier:
- You’re not going to convince anyone.
- Live in a highly urbanized area? You’ll lose half of your friends.
- Are your friends mostly under 50? (they didn’t live through the strikingly similar — and thoroughly discredited — “limits to growth” movement of the 70′s) You’ll lose half of those too.
- This issue likely won’t be resolved in your lifetime, so you can’t gloat if you turn out to be right.
- Even if you are vindicated in life, it will be like the sages of the cold war — no one will care, and those who were dead wrong will just move the goalposts and claim victory.
- If you’re wrong, you stand the chance of going down in history as the devil.
- Expensive carbon taxes will never happen. Religious Gaia types will be the first to defect when it hits their pocketbooks.
- Expensive carbon taxes will never happen. Anyone who has seriously studied cartels and economic coalition knows aligned carbon-limiting agreements and enforcement among scores of countries is impossible. It just takes one country to cheat or refuse to stifle their economies by participating and it all collapses.
On that last point, Bryan Walsh of Time said it best: “if carbon trading can’t make it in Europe, it can’t make it anywhere.” He’s right. It can’t make it anywhere.
Am I being too jaded about how pocketbooks override ideals? Consider 2009 — when the Republican deniers were held in check by congress and the president. No fewer than 5 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) carbon tax bills were proposed by Democrats concerned about co2. Despite a fillibuster-proof majority, none made it to the floor.
Me, what do I expouse? I am adopting the line of the Economist. Despite the fact that “temperatures have not really risen over the past ten years.” (15 really…) We need to take “wise precautions.” I wholeheartedly advocate that our politicians spend as much time and effort as possible researching, discussing, and drafting bills that can help prevent catastrophe. They need to divert their attention away from meeting with lobbyists and instead study the climate.
The blogosphere has been roiling of late over a report titled What Does Bowdoin Teach? The 360-page document profiled in the WSJ makes the case that the Brunswick college has abandoned its historical “commitment to Western Civilization” and instead has focused on “reshaping America in the image of progressive politics.”
In my mind, a school that accepts only one in six applicants and charges 44 grand a year can’t be faulted for having a losing formula. If the right-wing embraces market acceptance as the ultimate test, there is no compelling reason for them to ask Bowdoin to revert to a different formula.
Regardless, high demand does not imply a wise investment.
I’ve been noodling around with the site College Risk Report — an online calculator designed to assist those evaluating the net long-term value of various colleges. Naturally, I could not resist seeing how Bowdoin stacks up. The results are not pretty. According to CRR, a liberal arts major would net a better return by standing pat with their high school diploma, and would net about 250K more by attending a local community college instead. See below.
Does political alignment appear to affect net return? What happens if we plug in a school that’s ranked number one for traditional conservative values? Using out of state tuition pricing, here is how Texas A&M stacks up:
And with that bargain in-state pricing:
While it’s probably tempting for some to view this as a win for the conservative mindset, note that Texas A&M dominates here largely due to the fact that its a less expensive school.
My pal Steve reminded me of his thought-provoking post he made a while back asking the question “Why Hasn’t Europe Caught Up?”
Gallup may have a partial answer in this report issued in 2007.
The results echo what the class concluded in an Economics course I took years ago. The overarching topic was an evaluation of the root cause(s) of America’s economic success. Natural resources featured prominently, as did solid infrastructure (transcontinental railroad, etc.) But those factors don’t explain very well why Europe lags today.
The conclusion we reached after 10 weeks (with the helpful hand of the professor) was that the key to our success was that as a nation of immigrants, our population had an unusually high proportion of risk-takers. The thinking was that those who would uproot from everything they knew and loved to forge out to new opportunities, were also more inclined to be entrepreneurial. This mindset endures apparently.
These from the Gallup report:
“When it comes to a choice between being employed or self-employed, Europeans still prefer the former, while across the Atlantic, the entrepreneurial urge still predominates. In fact, there has been a slight decrease in the gap between the EU25 and the United States, with 3% more Americans (up from 34% in 2004) now preferring to be employed. However, the percentage of Americans wanting to do their own thing (61%) is still higher than in any of the other 27 countries under review (see Chart 1 and the Annex Tables for answers to Q.1).”
Been playing with oldtweets, which searches an archive of the first year of statuses posted on Twitter. Makes it easy to see who tweeted what first.
Was pleasantly surprised to see an old conference cohort of mine — Jeffrey Veen, was the first person to tweet the word “Seattle.” Not only that, that it mentions one of my editorial creations — the Web Design World conference.
A little validation for us Huskies from the folks at SmartMoney and their sources — The College Board; U.S. Department of Education and Payscale.com. It will be likely reassuring to UW students and parents who view college through an (arguably narrow) “vocational” lens.
While its intuitive that — holding all other variables as equal — graduates from more selective schools will earn higher salaries, it’s also clear that these schools cost a lot more. If you weigh those numbers against each other the way SmartMoney does, the Georgia Institute of Technology comes out on top in terms of ROI. The UW comes in 6th, Harvard ranks 24th and Yale is 33.
Before I get too smug here, it should be noted that PayScale did their own analysis in 2012, and depending on how you decide to sort their table, Georgia is still number one, and Harvard comes in 6th place. Then again it might be Harvey Mudd. In that latter scenario UW drops to 22 (Harvard is 21).
It should be recognized that the SmartMoney analysis assumes students are paying out of state tuition. Those paying local rates (about 40% the cost) benefit from a significantly higher return.
For those who help various organizations evaluate their real and potential online audiences, it’s always nice to find a promising new service that can help determine how much effective reach someone has online.
There’s been a lot of conversation of late in the political sphere surrounding how “real” candidates Twitter followings are, especially in a world where massive numbers of followers can be purchased.
I had the opportunity to test statuspeople.com, the “faker” detection service often referenced in these articles, and was impressed with what I found when the service was run against a very small, yet clearly defined Twitter account.
The other day a friend emailed me asking me to check out his twitter follower count. I was surprised to see it had surged by 7500 percent(!) His explanation for the thousands of new followers? Simple. “I bought ‘em”. He had done so on a lark, just to test the service, and paid maybe $20 to garner over 10,000 new followers. Prior to this, he had carefully grew his followership — so I felt comfortable that about 13% of his now massive total follower count was “real.”
With this information, I ran to statuspeople.com to see what they thought of his followerbase. Here is what they came up with.
They nailed it pretty well IMHO….
Are the brand-name social metrics companies missing the boat?
A few weeks back I attended a carefully crafted social media “influencer” event (one where I did not have a hand in formulating the guest list) Initially I was concerned that I didn’t recognize many of the attendees. My fear of missing the boat was quickly dissipated though. One “VIP” I didn’t know seemed to have impressive numbers — over 20K followers while only following a few score in return. At first blush, it seemed the analysis/campaign done via a household-name social metrics platform had found someone intriguing. After running this person through statuspeople.com, I came to a different conclusion:
Are you a Web data geek? Are you into scraping sites? If so, you may be one of the many people who rely on the highly-regarded Needlebase to help you in your efforts.
After reading about Needlebase on RWW, (very, very cool example of the potential here.) I spent many hours playing with it — and while I was able to do some interesting/fun things, I finally gave up on Needlebase because of several issues:
Byzantine interface. Think this. Built by engineers, for engineers. While I’m sure Professor Frink had no issues, mortals were no doubt lost much of the time.
Latency. Since it was a Web-based service running in the browser, and required clicking to page after page after page to set set up a sequence, it always felt like I was running in molasses. (Might have been more of a Safari issue than a Needlebase issue…?)
Constant denials. Since it was a Web service, and sites hate getting scraped, sites learned to deny access to Needlebase. This is not Needlebase’s fault, BUT — you generally didn’t know until well into the process that your efforts were all for naught. (See interface issues above).
The bad news is that Google (who acquired the service) has now killed it.
The good news is that most people can happily get what they need using the excellent FireFox plug-in Outwit Hub.
I discovered Outwit Hub months ago and never looked back. Discovered I wasn’t a dope after all. Half an hour after installing it, I was happily extracting data from a myriad of sites.
Outwit Hub Works like normal humans would expect. Define fields, establish pre and post tag/html sets, enter a URL, and scrape away. No fool questions, denials by sites, or convoluted questions popping up. Since much of what’s happening is running locally on your CPU, the latency issue largely vanishes. Cheap too. Pay $35 one time, scrape forever.
R.I.P, Needlebase, I know there were a lot of people who relied on it and liked it a lot. I guess I’m glad now I just couldn’t warm up to it.
If you cash in your million dollar winning lottery ticket in Virginia like this man did, you can take it in installments of $40K a year for 25 years.
If you are a retired teacher in Illinois, your pension is (on average) $45K per year. Plus it will go up annually thanks to automatic cost of living increases.
Note that data from the U.S. Department of Education shows a median retirement age for public school teachers of 58 years. Given a life expectancy of 81, that’s 23 years of expected payouts (not including death benefits to spouses etc.) I am also not including pensioners health benefits nor the fact that these teachers contribute to their pension fund at a rate of 9.4 percent per year.
I’d love to see a real cash flow analysis of everything involved. Given this quick pass, I think it’s safe to say that there are definitely some (many?) public employees who are effectively lottery winners.
Found these numbers interesting.
Medicare Fraud? $60 billion a year.
Wall Street Profits? $13.5 billion. Bonuses? 19.9 billion.