Friday, November 30, 2007

"Web users tend to be like sheep."

In response to criticism by, Facebook spokesperson Paul Janzer wrote that, "Your feedback has made it clear that Beacon can be kind of confusing. To fix this, we are clarifying the way we inform you about a Beacon story before you decide whether or not you'd like to publish it on Facebook."

Janzer added that the site was working to make it clearer which retailers were participating in the program through "visual cues," as well as providing more information in help pages. The post makes no mention of discontinuing the program or bowing to MoveOn's demands for an "opt-in" system, where users specifically approve their participation before their purchases are broadcast to friends' pages.

In fact, the 46,000 users in MoveOn's protest group make up less than 0.1% of the site's user base, points out Jeremiah Owyang, an analyst with Forrest Research. That's far fewer than the hundreds of thousands of users who convinced Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to apologize and disassemble a more public version of the site's News Feed application in September of last year.

It's also less than the 436,000 users who have joined "Apple Students" fan group--a sign, according to Owyang, that Facebook's advertising tactic of associating users with brands will win out despite privacy protests. "When you look at how users actually care about personal information, the majority may be concerned, but are they going to do anything about it? Not likely. Typically Web users tend to be like sheep."

Found at Forbes

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

It's about time

For months, I have been wondering when someone would call out Hillary Clinton's "experience." She has repeated claimed that she is the most experienced candidate for President, and based on most polls, people have bought it. But let's take a look at her actual experience (from her official biography at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, with some additional information from CNN):
2001 to present: junior Senator from New York
1993 to 2001: First Lady of the United States
1983 to 1993: First Lady of Arkansas
1979 to 1981: First Lady of Arkansas
1976 to 1992: Attorney at the Rose Law firm (named a partner in 1979)
1975: University of Arkansas Law School faculty
1974: Staff worker assisting the House Judiciary Committee during the investigation of the Nixon administration
I, for one, have a hard time accepting that being married to someone makes you experienced at what your spouse does. Executives in the private sector are well aware of this; when was the last time your heard about the spouse of a former CEO taking over? In fact, this is a large part of the reason that so few family businesses survive, and of those that do survive, family members often recede to a more passive ownership role.
So it made me very happy to read that Barack Obama is finally calling Hillary out on this issue . "My understanding is she wasn't treasury secretary in the Clinton administration. I don't know exactly what experience she's claiming," Obama told reporters in Iowa.
It's about time.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Between a rock and a hard place

I never thought I'd find myself writing these words, but here goes...
Pat Buchanan is right.
Not about everything, probably not even about most things. But on this one issue, he could hardly be more right.
The recent hand-off from Alan Greenspan, the maestro of the Global Economy, to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke may turn out to have been a lateral far behind the line of scrimmage, leaving Bernanke holding the bag for a recession for which he is no more responsible than was the hapless Hoover.
Buchanan's point is that the Federal Reserve is now between a rock and a hard place. The softening economy, subprime debt going bad on the books of major banks, the inability collapse of the housing bubble, and the credit crunch, all taken together would normally make rate cuts a no-brainer for Bernanke.
But the Fed is responsible not only for the national economy. It is responsible for defending the dollar, which represents the real savings and wealth of the nation. And that dollar has lost more value in seven years than in any similar period in modern history. A euro, worth 83 cents the year Bush was elected, has risen in value to $1.47.
To put it another way, the Dow Jones Industrial Average spent most of 2000 around 10,000, and is currently a bit over 13,000. That sounds like a 30% gain, or about 4.3% a year -- not great, but not terrible. But when you account for the weakening dollar, the DJIA has actually lost 27%! Without getting deep into economic and monetary theory, the ideal solution to this would be to raise interest rates and reduce the monetary supply.
So Bernanke is faced with a no-win scenario. If he lowers interest rates, the economy is stimulated and people keep their houses, but we may be pushed into 1970s-style stagflation, or even an Argentina-style currency collapse . If he raises rates he fights inflation, but pushes the country into a recession, potentially a very deep one.
Personally, I think a recession would be far preferable to currency collapse, but for various reasons of political expediency, it appears that Bernanke is more concerned about avoiding a recession.

OMG! Racists in Ann Arbor! I am like so...

The title screams: Racism lives in Ann Arbor! But a more acurate title might be "Drunkenness lives at U of M!"
Late Saturday night, I was walking up to the ATM on Church Street and South University Avenue, when a SUV full of drunk men yelled at me, "Fuck you, Afghanistan bitch!" I kept walking, ignoring this eloquent comment. They targeted me because I was wearing my keffiyeh, a checkered Palestine solidarity scarf, which is not in any way related to Afghanistan. I'm white and Jewish, yet I still experienced anti-Muslim racism.
Aside from the absurdity of expecting drunk racists to understand the difference between a keffiyeh and a hijab (well, maybe in Ann Arbor we should expect this), I think it's a bit racist on the author's part to expect people to be able to identify her as Jewish on sight, in the dark, from a moving vehicle. As someone with Jewish ancestors, I find the author's implicit assumption that Jews can be recognized this way to be offensive.
Farther in, we get the author's suggestions.
Beyond changes on campus, we must establish truth and reconciliation commissions, modeled after South Africa's post-apartheid resolution process - a process that is now being applied across America in communities that are no longer willing to sweep ongoing injustices under the carpet. Without addressing past wrongs, power dynamics will continue to be asymmetric, and the racial hierarchy will remain unchanged.
[The author] is an Ann Arbor-raised, Detroit-based emcee and activist.
I guess calling herself an "activist" sounds better than saying that she doesn't care about any particular cause, she just enjoys complaining about things and protesting.
Don't forget to read the comments, most of them clearly had more thought put into them than did the article.
By wearing a keffiyeh, it makes a statement that you sympathize with Palestinian terrorism. The keffiyeh serves no religious function and is ONLY used to make a political statement.

So let me see, you're a white, Jewish, hip-hop "artist" who sympathizes with Palestinian terrorism. Question 1: Where can I get your CD? That should be, um, interesting.

OK, you certainly don't deserve to be shouted at or have stuff thrown at you. I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume your values are confused due to your age and lack of knowledge. But your ignorance makes me sick and your "Jewishness" is clearly out of birth and not based on your values. So don't go holding that out as a shield.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

When one of the wealthiest people in the world says taxes should be higher, maybe we should listen.

Warren Buffett, the billionaire CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, is known for speaking directly, sometimes bluntly. "Dynastic wealth, the enemy of a meritocracy, is on the rise. Equality of opportunity has been on the decline," Buffett said, as the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on estate tax reform. "A progressive and meaningful estate tax is needed to curb the movement of a democracy toward plutocracy....In a country that prides itself on equality of opportunity, it's becoming anything but that as the gap between the super-rich and the middle class is widening."
Buffett earned his billions by understanding people and money. If the free market rewards good ideas, then every American with a net worth of less than $52.4 billion needs to listen closely to what Buffett has to say.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Everyone lies

TV's Dr. Gregory House has several rules for diagnosis. Number one is that "everyone lies." Number two is "I don't ask why patients lie, I just assume they all do."
Maybe political pollsters need to adopt a similar approach. In a recent Rasmussen poll, nearly half of respondents said it was very or somewhat important to elect a president with military experience. In the last four presidential elections, voters have chosen candidates with no meaningful military experience, even though in each case the major party opponent did have that experience. Voters chose draft-dodger Bill Clinton over World War II veterans George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole, then chose George W. Bush, who didn't even show up for his National Guard duty, over Vietnam veterans Al Gore (passed up the National Guard to serve as an Army reporter in Vietnam) and John Kerry (Bronze Star, Silver Star, and three Purple Hearts). Kerry''s service was actually mocked by Republican opponents, who took to wearing adhesive bandages with small purple hearts on them. Of current presidential candidates, only Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter and Republican Sen. John McCain have significant military experience, both in Vietnam, but neither are performing particularly well in polls, and it is likely that our next president will have little or no military experience.
I see three possible explanations. One is that voters really do want this in a president, the tracking polls are wrong, and McCain and/or Hunter will garner many more votes than current polling suggests. The second possibility is that, while voters do want this in a president, there are other experiences and qualities that they place a greater value on. The third possibility is that this poll is simply wrong, and voters don't really care about a presidential candidate's military background or lack thereof. Any of these possibilities suggest problems with the poll, which should lead us to also question the accuracy of tracking polls.

Running up the score

Although I am a Green Bay Packers fan, I am also a fan of Bill Belichick. I think he might be the greatest NFL coach ever, and I think his team has a very good chance to go 19-0 this year. Not only do I not see any problem with his team running up the score against opponents, I think its actually the right thing to do. The players are professionals, being paid to do a job. The offense's job is to score points and the defense's job is to prevent opponents from scoring points. If the offense is on the field and not trying to score, they are not doing their job, and if a coach is not calling plays that will help them score, then that coach is not doing his job.
The same issue arose in college football this weekend, in an incident that got national attention when Wyoming coach Joe Glenn "flipped the bird" toward the Utah team after the Utes attempted an onside kick while ahead 43-0. Glenn was reprimanded by the Mountain West Conference on Monday, and rightly so. We hear enough stories about bad sportsmanship, trash talking, and on-field brawls, that a head coach should know better than to behave like this. If a head coach, a professional, an adult with years of experience, behaves like this, what can we expect from the unpaid 19- and 20-year-olds playing the game?
The only thing in this incident that I disagree with, is Utah coach Kyle Whittingham's later comment that the onside kick with a 43-0 lead was a "bad decision." Winning is never a bad decision, and neither is winning big. Utah was not playing a "warm-up" game against a I-AA opponent, this was a conference game. Whittingham should not apologize for his team's ability to score; if anything, Glenn and the Wyoming team should apologize for their poor performance on the field.
As a Kentucky fan, I have been on the wrong side of a blowout game many times. While its certainly no fun, every time I see my team lose badly, I know that it's not the fault of Steve Spurrier, Tim Tebow, Les Miles, or any other opposing player or coach. They did their job; it was my team that wasn't able or prepared to compete. The right response is not for the loser to blame the winner, but for them to make changes and adjustments so that the next time the teams meet the tables are turned. That's exactly what Bill Belichick did after losing to the Colts last winter, and that's why he is such a great coach.

Friday, November 09, 2007

News flash: headline lies

Less than 24 hours after losing their reelection efforts, Ecorse's mayor and city councillors voted to slash their successors' salaries . The 5-2 vote Wednesday night cut council members' annual pay from $15,000 to $5,000 and the mayor's compensation from $69,000 to $12,000.
What you had to read well into the article to learn, is that the council was voting to adopt a decision by the Local Officers Compensation Board. Under state law, the Compensation Board members, appointed by the mayor for five to seven year terms, meet every other year. The commission's decision is binding unless two-thirds of the council members and the mayor vote to reject it.

Detroit population grew 4% from 2005 to 2006

The US Census Bureau has adjusted its 2006 population estimate for Detroit, accepting corrected information supplied by the city.
The original estimate indicated that the city's population had fallen 8.5% in six years, from 951,270 in 2000 to 871,121 in 2006. The revised 2006 estimate of 918,849 means that the population has only fallen by 3.4% in that time. Because the city did not challenge census estimates prior to 2006, the 2005 estimate of 883,465 will stand, and official records will show that Detroit grew by 35,000 people (4%) in 2006.

"I think it's a ridiculous law because people are going to drink whether there are games involved or not. They're at a bar."

That was a University of Michigan student's comment when the Touchdown Cafe's liquor license was suspended for 5 days because of bar patrons playing beer pong.