The Best Laid Projections of Mice and GDP

What did we know about 2010 in 1970?  What do we know about 2050 GDP in 2010?

This is what Goldman Sachs thinks…

We know/assume/hope the future will be MORE.  But how much more and what does it mean?  Numbers go up, but how real is the growth?  In the end, they are just numbers and there’s always the chance they will add up to LESS.  The wheel of fortune spins after all.

Here’s a little background on these players historically…

Imagine what this chart will look like in 4016, when we will be firmly lumped with the rest of ancient history.

[Charts via The Atlantic and The Big Picture, respectively]

I Still Believe in Global Warming. Do You?

After spending the 90’s helping the tobacco industry hide the dangers of secondhand smoke, The Heartland Institute is still around and still working the wrong side of the debate, presently functioning as “the primary American organization pushing climate change skepticism.”

This is the billboard they paid to put up in Illinois ahead of their 7th annual ‘The Climate Isn’t Changing’ Conference.  Two others included Fidel Castro and Charles Manson with the same line.  All three variations were taken down after the resulting public outcry.

This is the billboard Forecast the Facts attempted to put up in response, but failed to get Clear Channel’s approval.

This is the billboard Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project successfully replied with.

How did Heartland not suffer a fatal heart attack from its smoky past?  Because when there’s money on the wrong side of the debate, the bullshit never ends.  That’s why this time there’s an effort under way to cut off the flow of funds to this cancerous institution.  A third of their funding has already fled and you can help wise up the stragglers.

A few corporate donations shouldn’t be enough to shoot humanity in the foot.  Not if we’re paying attention and can find the time to occasionally sign a petition or make a phone call. We’re not all going to agree, but how about we move on to arguing about how we get ourselves out of this mess.

.- .–. . / -.-. — -. / — -.– – ….

Print out the chart below, head over to and in one minute KB3BYT will explain how you can become a Morse code pro.  This chart is the key…

You go left for a dash (dah), right for a dot (dit).  Pick a letter below, walk through it once above, and all will be clear.

Why learn Morse code? -… . -.-. .- ..- … . / -.-. — -.. . … / .- .-. . / -.-. — — .-..

Think of it as binary for humans.

And the possibilities…  Imagine if we all really invested ten minutes a day learning Morse code over the next few months and then spent the rest of our lives occasionally going out to restaurants and banging on the table the whole time while not saying a word.

If you’ve got a better idea, .–. .-.. . .- … . / … …. .- .-. . / .. – / .. -. / – …. . / -.-. — — — . -. – …


Bank of Coal (or Did Santa Give it to Them?)

No one is happy with Bank of America.  As their annual shareholder meeting draws to a close in Charlotte, NC today, four days of protests will be reaching their height while BofA’s stock continues to languish at lows it has not seen since the early 90’s.

There have been calls to stop doing business with Bank of America.  There’s a petition and song about breaking up the bank.  It was ranked #5 among America’s least reputable companies and named the second worst company in the country two years in a row.  They tried to raise debit card fees, backed down from the resulting outrage, and yet are already working more fees back in.  And now, as the possibility of their own credit rating getting a downgrade looms, their CEO’s pay has quadrupled

Where do you even begin cleaning up that mess?  An apology would be a start, but this one turned out to be a bit of economic fan fiction.  Meanwhile, Bank of America continues doing business, such as being the largest financier of the U.S. coal industry, which earned their stadium in Charlotte a recent rebranding campaign.

Aside from generating 42% of the electricity produced in the U.S. during 2011, there’s not much good to say about coal either.  If you’re tired of the usual laundry list of coal’s consequences, then maybe a report from Harvard pegging the best estimate of coal’s annual cost to the U.S. public at a third of a trillion, $75 billion in Appalachia alone, might be of interest.

The most alarming thought, however, is the simple combination of a desperate bank and a literally dirty business.  If no one is walking away from money on a good day, Bank of America will likely be the last to admit that it’s $4.3 billion coal business is as toxic as it’s purchase of Countrywide, a contender for the worst deal in history.  …  That’s why they’ll probably need a little help.

If you’d like to join in breaking the news to them, there’s a protest going down, a petition going around and a good chance you haven’t heard the end of this story.

[Stock Chart from Google Finance, Image from Rainforest Action Network via]

Comfortably Numb? (or The Mere Fact That You Call It COMFCOMF Tells Me You’re Not Ready)

Every week 250 lucky American consumers are quizzed on their thoughts about the economy, the “buying climate” and their own personal finances.  The result is called the Bloomberg US Weekly Consumer Comfort Index, or COMFCOMF if you’re sitting at a Bloomberg terminal, and for the last five years the response has indicated consistent discomfort.

(click for interactive chart)

What’s behind the recent jump in sentiment?  We don’t know either but if you find out put it in the comments.

Famous Scientists for $1,000

Earlier this week we looked at the study of culturomics, which takes the frequency of a word’s use in written literature to quantify cultural trends.  Now we’re going to see what can be done with this data on a larger scale, in this case, measuring the impact of scientists.

Here’s the top 20 from the Science Hall of Fame, which includes over 4,000 names from two centuries…

Though the researchers used milliDarwins as the measure of fame for the study, ACM’s favorite, Bertrand Russell tops the list.

To give you a little more perspective on the timelines involved here, check out this video that covers physicists, chemists and biologists and their level of fame by year.  You’ll find plenty of new names worth looking into further…

Speaking of, who was Claude Bernard?  Turns out he was a french physiologist who worked to bring the scientific method to medicine.  First to use the term milieu intérieur (aka homeostatis), let’s close with a quote from him regarding our bodies’ relationship with the external world, which has some interesting relevance to the Ape Con Myth…

The living body, though it has need of the surrounding environment, is nevertheless relatively independent of it. This independence which the organism has of its external environment, derives from the fact that in the living being, the tissues are in fact withdrawn from direct external influences and are protected by a veritable internal environment which is constituted, in particular, by the fluids circulating in the body.

For more on the Science Hall of Fame, you can check out the article from Science explaining their process or go to Gonzo Labs for other materials from the study’s creators, John Bohannon and Adrian Veres.

The Best of the America’s Worst

The voting has ended over at The Consumerist and Electronic Arts has won the title of Worst Company in America for 2012.

Bank of America made it to the final match-up for a second year in a row, but failed to worst EA this year as it did with BP in 2011.  The bracket brought together 32 of the least admired companies America has to offer and you can click on the image for the full bracket and blow-by-blow accounts of this year’s battle.

If you’d like to explore the history of the contest, here’s an archive of all the tournaments going back to The Consumerist’s start:

WCIA 2011BP beats Bank of America [bracket]
WCIA 2010Comcast beats Ticketmaster [bracket]
WCIA 2009AIG beats Comcast [bracket] WCIA 2008Countrywide Home Loans beats Comcast [bracket]
WCIA 2007RIAA beats Halliburton [bracket]
WCIA 2006Halliburton beats ChoicePoint [bracket]

Notice all the repeats.  Apparently “worst” doesn’t mean they won’t be around next year.  But where else are you going to take your demand when the largest companies control almost all of the supply?

The Tiny Box Called Today

It’s one thing to live in the present and another to live without a sense of future and past.  If there wasn’t so much going on today, that would be clear.

Culturomics attempts to make things clear by analysis of word usage from over five million books going back more than two centuries.  Of all the words people have bothered to write down, how do the days of the week rate?  That’s just one of many questions you can answer with Google’s Ngram Viewer.

Try ‘ape, con, myth‘ and you find the story of the lowly ape witnessing the slow demise of the con and the rise of the myth.

For something more down to Earth, you can found out who is playing second fiddle between ‘peanut butter, jelly’ and ‘beer, wine‘ or check out the historic temporal attitudes of prose writers with  ‘yesterday, today, tomorrow‘…

Turns out today wasn’t such a big deal in the 1800’s.  …  Nor was life expectancy.

If you come up with a good search, please share it in the comments.

Untitled Minimum Wage Post

Every once in a while you run into a page on Wikipedia that never quite came together.  It’s not a stub, but it’s far from complete.  ‘Economic issues in the United States‘ is one such page.  The edits still trickle in, but the page remains adrift.  The section on Cost of living is a particularly interesting read, starting off in one direction only to have the wheels fall off at the end.



Minimum wage is one of those things, but why?  Because the economy is a murky pool where it is easy to make correlations and often impossible to prove anything, especially what any one value will do to everything else when changed.  It’s perfect for humans since it allows everyone to make their point, even if no one really knows what is happening.

As for the first part, yes, paying employees more is one possible thing that might lead a business to raise prices.  But so are gas prices and food prices and prices in general.  Prices don’t wait until their year-end review to find out if they got a bump.  They go up and down as they please, but mainly up because the only measure is more.  There’s always someone raising prices and therefore always someone to point at and blame for your prices going up too.  It makes sense that wages get a turn, unless you want everyone to max out their credit and lose their home.

Now for that missing citation.  Would you say the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation over the past 30 years?

Almost, except for that first part there, the 80’s, where it didn’t at all and then the second part where it never caught up to the levels seen in the 60’s and 70’s.

The funny part though is how much drama surrounds the issue, once you start looking at the numbers.  Of the 139 million people employed in the civilian labor force in 2010, only 4.4 million (3%) were making at or below the minimum wage.  “Only 4.4M” because when the subject of minimum wage is brought up, you’d think the idea was to burn every business down.

Look closer and that 4.4M includes 2.1M workers aged 16-24 and 2.7M part-timers.  Look again and 2M work in leisure and hospitality (1.6M of that food services), 764K in retail and 425K in everyone’s favorite, education and health services.  Meanwhile, there’s all the cities and states that have set their own standards for living wages (some higher, some lower).

The federal minimum wage is a far more specific issue than it would seem and, apparently, what might be most at issue is the price of cheap, fast food.  If those kids didn’t make minimum wage, McDonald’s might cost as much as real food.  … Oh, never mind, it already costs more.  Two wrongs don’t make a right, but they can really turn out a profit.

In the end, if Wall Street can complain about their pay, everyone can.  (And perhaps they’re all right.)

It’s Not Just In Your Head

This one explains itself…

If you’re looking for more charts of the like, search no further than the Economic Policy Institute‘s The State of Working America.  The one above is from their Income & Poverty category, which brings together two things that are supposed to cancel each other out.

As long as employees are considered expenses, as opposed to, say, investments, they will continue to get squeezed rather than appreciated.

[State of Working America chart via zunguzunga]
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