On politicians that don't give away much

Tyler Cowen complains there's nothing new to say about Obama, despite the extensive coverage he receives. In my view, that's something to be expected of a well-run campaign for two reasons:

1. What's the point of staggering the release of information? The information you want out there is 'released' on day one, and there's no need or desire for more information later on.

2. The point of a presidential campaign is to reach Average Joe, not to keep the likes of Tyler and myself happy by feeding us with more news, and even more so important news. There's a simple message to be communicated - 'vote Obama cos he'll bring change' - and it will be communicated over and over again until it has reached everyone, preferably more than once. That's why companies run information-poor 30-second ads over and over again; the point is not to reach out to the afficionados, as they can no more keep a company afloat than they can win you an election.

Even more importanly, a politician that doesn't commit to specific policies (as is the case with the current low-information Obama campaign) is simply more powerful when in office, and given checks and balances and the fact that Average Joe is vehemently anti-market, anti-foreigners, anti-reason, etc, that's not necessarily a bad thing - think of how rarely referenda are used, and how the Western World would look like if that wasn't the case.

So stop complaining about politicians speaking without saying anything; on the one hand they are good marketers, and on the other they would like, once in power, to actually have some. A *successful* politician who communicates too much substance before an election can only be a populist.

This comment on Tyler's post is worth perusing:

Obama is too intelligent and well educated to have any fixed principles. He has fixed inclinations and preferences, but not principles.

Waste not, want not

The time seemed perfect—perhaps even overdue!—for a bra that could harness the untapped power of breast motion. [..] Maybe it's not very sexy to see breasts as a pair of batteries, but oil prices are so high, people are jogging to work.

Slate is after a breast-powered ipod.

by datacharmer | Sunday, June 29, 2008
| 1 comments | | Waste not, want not @bluematterblogtwitter

Friday Special 60

Dude - One word, so many meanings!

FiveThirghtyEight: Electoral projections done right

Baby duck feeding giant Koi carp in Japan

Do you need a coffee break?

Friday Special 59

Trick free kick compilation

Hilarious rivalry between Franck Ribéry and Luca Toni in The Grand Final

Brilliantly explaining the cultural differences between Gringos, Aussies, Canucks and the Brits

The Times opens up 200 years of their archived articles

Zapping on Neave Television without context

Discover Paris by night or a blue whale

Top 10 Euro football goals

Friday the 13th, lucky day

What's the opposite of a self-fulfilling prophesy?

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Unlucky for some? Dutch statisticians have established that Friday 13th, a date regarded in many countries as inauspicious, is actually safer than an average Friday.

A study published on Thursday by the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics (CVS) showed that fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays.

"I find it hard to believe that it is because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home, but statistically speaking, driving is a little bit safer on Friday 13th," CVS statistician Alex Hoen told the Verzekerd insurance magazine.

The story is here, hat tip Statistical Modeling.

by datacharmer | Tuesday, June 17, 2008
  | 0 comments | | Friday the 13th, lucky day @bluematterblogtwitter

The benevolence of the petrol station manager

A Devon petrol station is charging drivers more than £1.99 a litre - or about £9 a gallon - for petrol and diesel as drivers clamour for fuel.

He said the move was prompted by dwindling stocks. "We cannot get any more supplies. We're not being mean. I would say I'm a very nice person. The price will go back to normal as soon as we get a delivery."

Here's more.

UPDATE: £1.99 it is no more. The free market is out, rationing is in. Tim Harford comments.

Friday Special 58

Japanese version of the office

On the mystery of the moving rocks

Are the baby boomers coming?

This is, for example, Greg Mankiw: 'a looming fiscal crisis, which threatens to unfold as baby boomers retire and start collecting Social Security and Medicare' (and, unrelated to the topic, here's an entertaining quarrel)

This graph from the Congressional Budget Office flies to the face of this mantra:

A presentation is here, and here's interesting commentary:

Although many observers portray aging as the dominant cause of future growth in federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid, most of the increase that CBO projects reflects rising costs per beneficiary rather than rising numbers of beneficiaries. The effect of population aging is smaller.

That said, note that this (i.e. Medicare and Medicaid commanding 20% of GDP), simply can't happen, and the only thing that can give is the 'excess cost'.

What this graph says one thing only: we should expect the growth rate of medical knowledge to slow down in the years to come.

The Last Lecture

Or Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, delivered by Randy Pausch at Carnegie Mellon.

Set aside an hour seventeen minutes to watch this; it's entertaining, useful and moving. To give you another reason, I generally can't stand this sort of 'inspirational' talk, and the fact Randy Pausch was looking forward to 3 to 6 months to live at the time would not be anywhere near enough to sway me over.

One of the best lectures ever delivered; ladies and gentlemen, this is Randy Pausch's Last Lecture:

[embedded video]

by datacharmer | Sunday, June 08, 2008
  , | 1 comments | | The Last Lecture @bluematterblogtwitter

Friday Special 57

Talking about smart...


Does not do economics. Does not believe in it. Anything vaguely related to economic reasoning is alien to anything that has anything to do with the Beeb. Check this one out:

The likes of Jonathan Ross and Chris Moyles are not receiving salaries above the market rate, according to a review of how the BBC pays its top names.

That’s not taking into account the fact that the BBC has massive price-setting power, being by far the biggest broadcaster in the land (and controlling 2 of the 5 terrestrial channels, only one of which has anything near it’s market share)... I would also think that Jonathan Ross, Chris Moyles, etc pretty much ARE the supply side of the market for extremely well-known and trustworthy TV presenters.

So, over-simplifying but just a little, the report says that the BBC does not pay more for its stars than what the BBC pays for its stars. Nice.

And ignoring market structure completely, they utterly fail to understand what the law of one price implies. ‘The BBC does not pay more than others’ – what’s the alternative? That they paid more than ITV for the same thing just for the fun of it?

I want my license fee back! And yes, I love Dr. Who and Have I Got News for You, but £130 a year?

by datacharmer | Thursday, June 05, 2008
  , , | 1 comments | | The BBC @bluematterblogtwitter