Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Relevance Continually Trumps Timeliness

There’s lots of push lately in the tech community to chase the dragon of real-time.

I do see real-time it most valuable during events that I’m not able to attend in person (the recent IgniteMpls event comes to mind immediately).

Even then, there’s always delay.

Each second delay brings an opportunity to filter for relevance. That’s the biggest win of our increasing use of online services for social interaction. We trust and filter each other [1] [2] [3] [4][5]. While these processes take time, they magically transform a firehose of information into an energizing conversation over a couple of beers.

A friend of mine has opted for a 48-hour delay on his incoming stream. Two days is about how long it takes for daily drama to dissipate. And if it doesn’t – it’s significant, if not relevant.

I was reminded of this earlier today when I received a forwarded email. The email was terribly partisan, terribly incendiary, terribly xenophobic, terribly incoherent, terribly panicked about the economy and the changing face of their community. They even invoked Godwin’s Law2 completely out of the blue.

I received it today.

So I assumed it was written recently – say within the past couple days.

Not at all.

August 2008 it says.


On second read: apart from a sentence or two, it could have been written in August 2001. Or August 1981. Anytime when significant changes in the American zeitgeist were afoot.

Quite a bit has happened since last August. I can only assume a significant percentage of the people this diatribe was directed at are no longer in positions of power. Do these issues reflect anything 9+ months later?

If this were realtime – no.

Yet, I received it today, and the author’s name has 18,200 Google results2 – all pointing to this identical rant.

Whether or not it reflects the current feelings of the author or their community, this rant has continued to inspire a portion of the American populace to share it with each other.

1. I’d much rather people invoked Steiner’s Law instead.
2. As a comparison, my name has between 18,700 and 32,100 results depending on spelling.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Decision 2008, and My Vote Goes to…

Attention, St. Anthony Villagers, your sample ballots are here (Hennepin | Ramsey)

My votes;

Presidential & Vice Presidential:
Barak Obama & Joe Biden

U.S. Senator:
Dean Barkley

U.S. Representative District 5:
Keith Ellison

U.S. State Representative District 54a:
Mindy Greiling

Constitutional Amendment: Clean Water, Wildlife, Cultural Heritage and Natural Area: Yes.

Overall, the decisions were easy. Either the incumbents are doing a great job, or their competitors irked and frustrated me multiple times.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

McCain & Obama Tax Plans: Small Change

Viveka Weiley redrew Washington Post’s chart of Obama’s and McCain’s respective tax plans.

First off, a caveat: Basing a vote on potential personal financial changes is as one-sided as basing a vote on gender, skin pigment, or hair color. It’s one factor and one that I hope to argue it is a wash to vast majority of Americans. For both plans call for significant cuts for the vast majority of Americans – households making less than $603k/yr (99% of Americans). For those remaining 1%, taxes will either go up or down. I’m part of the 99%, and I suspect you are as well1.

Income (% of Taxpayers) Plan Difference in $ Plan Difference
as % of Income
< $603k (10) 7,869 1.3 McCain
< $227k (10) 1,591 0.7 McCain
< $161k (10) 410 0.25 McCain
< $111k (10) 281 0.25 Obama
< $ 66k (20) 723 1.1 Obama
< $ 38k (20) 779 2.0 Obama
< $ 19k (20) 548 2.9 Obama

While much attention has been made to how different these plans are at the poles, it surprises me how close the two plans are for the middle 60% of tax payers (<2% delta).

I’m assuming both plans are drafts and would have to pass Congress to be enacted 2. If so, then I assume getting them passed through Congress would change the plans – perhaps even making them more similar.

Does this betray how similar their policies are/will be for the majority of Americans?

1. If you’re not, can I has monie? kthxbye.
2. Confirming we shouldn’t be investing too much in the candidates plans:

“The fact is that presidents have no power to raise or lower taxes. They can propose tax measures or veto them but Congress has the ultimate power to raise or lower taxes” – Walter E. Williams

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Now That It’s Either Obama or McCain….

The 2 parties have a 6-month opportunity to show the American public how serious they are about solving this country’s problems.

“…Spend 1/4 of the money [raised by the campaign] telling everyone how you’re using 1/2 of the money to help people. This proves that your Presidency will be about solving problems, because you’re not waiting to get elected to solve problems.”- Dave Winer

I have a hard time imagining people are waffling between the Obama or McCain. I have an even harder time imagining anything either of these campaigns do will pull people from the other camp (negative advertising, etc). Hell, I doubt there’s anything the RNC or DNC could do that would cause Bob Barr supporters to defect.

If there was. Anything. That could cause someone to switch affiliations between now and Nov. It would be using campaign dollars to solve problems today. Instead of betting that they won’t actually need to.

Friday, 23 May 2008

America, Which is Your Lesser Insecurity?

Within 6 months, we will know which of the following three insecurities we, as a country, have less of; ageism, racism, sexism.

While it’ll be nice to know the answer, it’s unfortunate we have to ask.

Thanks to Mungowitz for the video.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Lazy Libertarianism

A couple of conversations about Libertarian Paternalism came up on the iTunes this week, centered around Thaler and Sunstein’s book, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness.

The most enjoyable being the EconTalk with Richard Thaler, where Thaler does an amazing job of challenging Roberts. Not there’s enough of that on EconTalk. 😉

I found the Glenn & Helen Show with Sunstein annoyingly preachy. The conversation felt like a bad episode of The View, more interested in arguing at the surface rather than finding common ground by going in-depth.

In both, the primary challenges against Libertarian Paternalism seemed to be:
Because governments offering services vs. private firms competing in the market is an either/or proposition, governments shouldn’t be offering services, let alone deciding things for it’s citizen.

In addition to not represent reality (keep reading), this perspective just encourages bad, inefficient government. Since government exists, shouldn’t we make it the most effective, efficient, institution for providing the services it provides thereby requiring fewer resources?1

I jotted down my frustration with this perspective over at Twitter:

“garrickvanburen doesn’t understand the perspective of preventing the govt as one of many vendors in any given market (healthcare, retirement, etc)”

Privately, I received an email asking me to consider if the reverse was also true (“private firms as one of many vendors in any given govt market”)

In fact, I agree with both statements. I’m not sure what makes govt so special that they get a monopoly in some sectors and not in others – same with any private firm. If a private firm brings a competitive service to govt-dominated market – awesome. I’m also not sure why govt can’t enter some markets and not others – ‘we’ rarely tell private firms (Wal-Mart, GE, come to mind immediately) which markets they can’t enter. Feels the same.

My instincts tell me that govt should focus on the infrastructures to support; commerce, trade, security, and encourage highly-speculative new ventures that build markets (space, internet, highways, biofuels, etc). From that perspective, it’s less about what ‘business’ is and more about what belongs in the infrastructure. I’m thinking of Minneapolis’ city-wide-wifi. It was decided that internet should be part of the city’s infrastructure, and they brought a fair offering to market. It’s not the only offering, nor should it be. It’s an option and more options are better than fewer. Nor are they requiring people to sign-up for their offering, that would be anti-competitive.

To the private firms in govt markets statement, the first example that comes to mind is mail. US Postal Service is one vendor that delivers messages, FedEx, UPS, DHL are private options. Each with their own costs and benefits. And this leaves out other ways to deliver messages – email, fax, telephone, bike courier. None of which are govt offerings.

1. Mental exercise: What if taxes were the most effective way to outsource?


“Rather, opposition to these increases grows from the correct perception that a legally protected monopolist such as the United States Postal Service can keep prices higher, and service inferior, to what these would be under competition.” – Don Boudreaux

UPDATE 11 June 2008:
This perspective is why I’m all for public mass transit, national passenger rail, ubiquitous high-speed internet service, and state-level (or federal) universal health care.

Monday, 31 December 2007

The War That Wasn’t

In addition to the the BBC’s editorial policy promoting using terms more accurate and less loaded than ‘terrorist’ the UK government has declare the “War on Terror” non-existant.1

“‘The people who were murdered on July 7 were not the victims of war. The men who killed them were not soldiers,’ Sir Ken Macdonald, Director of Public Prosecutions, said. ‘They were fantasists, narcissists, murderers and criminals and need to be responded to in that way.'”

Another great high note to end the year.

Who else is declaring war on fear?

1. via boingboing. Thanks to the collaborative nature of cullect.com, I’m reading and enjoying Boing Boing again. Yes, I’m just as surprised. Still can’t read slashdot though.

Friday, 27 April 2007

Garrick Balances the Minnesota State Budget


My pass at MPR’s Minnesota Budget Balancer with the differences from Gov. Pawlenty’s budget. Numbers in $$ millions.

Spending Garrick Pawlenty Difference
K-12 Education 685 685 Same
Pre-school 200 38 -162
Healthcare 300 48 -252
Long-Term Care 76 76 Same
Welfare & Other 48 48 Same
Local Aid 300 65 -235
Property Tax Relief 40 300 +260
Rebates No change No change Same
University of Minnesota No change 155 +155
MnSCU No change 125 +125
Student Aid 25 140 -115
Debt, State Agencies, & Veterans No change 120 +120
Agriculture & the Environment 200 85 -115
Jobs, Housing, & Arts 130 15 -115
Transportation 185 65 -110
Prisons No change 70 +70
Courts & Public Defenders 100 70 -30
Budget Reserves No change 50 +50
Resource Garrick Pawlenty Difference
Personal Income Tax No change No change Same
Corporate Income Tax No change No change Same
Sales Tax No change No change Difference
Cigarette Tax 100 No change +100
Alcohol Tax 55 No change +55

Hey, MPR, I think you should make these things much easier to share – like providing a permalink to My Budget.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Sunday, 15 April 2007