Video of the day

Time lapse of changing of the seasons in Central Park.  Very cool (click on the link for the larger version at Vimeo):

One of the most striking things about New York City is the fall colors and there’s no better place to view this then Central Park. I chose 15 locations in the park and revisited them 2 days a week for six months, recording all camera positions and lens information to create consistency in the images. All shots were taken just after sunrise.

by Jamie Scott
invisiblejam.com

Quick hits

1) Loved this in the Atlantic on 5 statistics problems you’re probably inclined to get wrong and how come.

2) Listened to a fascinating Fresh Air interview with Andrew Solomon about his book about raising a child very different from yourself– whether due to disability, sexual orientation, the child resulting from a rape, etc.  Here’s a great NYT review that’s a nice summary.

3) Liked Kevin Drum’s take on the decline in crime across many cities despite various approaches to crime reduction.  Short version: the dramatic reduction of environmental lead (my take from last year).

4) Love Ezra’s take that Obama’s no longer negotiating with himself:

Perhaps the key lesson the White House took from the last couple of years is this: Don’t negotiate with yourself. If Republicans want to cut Medicare, let them propose the cuts. If they want to raise revenue through tax reform, let them identify the deductions. If they want deeper cuts in discretionary spending, let them settle on a number. And, above all, if they don’t like the White House’s preferred policies, let them propose their own. That way, if the White House eventually does give in and agree to some of their demands, Republicans will feel like they got one over on the president. A compromise isn’t measured by what you offer, it’s measured by what the other side feels they made you concede.

5) Unlike most writing about the no new tax pledge, John Cassidy emphasizes that’s really about no revenue increases from changing the tax code, period:

His [Norquist] troubles began the day after the election, when Speaker Boehner indicated that he was amenable to raising tax revenues, if not tax rates—a statement that seemed to open the wary for an agreement that eliminated some of the loopholes and deductions that wealthy taxpayers enjoy. However such a deal was structured, it would almost certainly violate Norquist’s pledge, which commits its signatories to “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates,” and also to “oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”

6) Liberal women are less content with the amount of sex they are having than are conservative women.

7) Yglesias on the very annoying fact that such a key motivating principle of “Fix the Debt” is not just reducing the deficit, but lowering marginal tax rates.  That’s a different issue entirely and very much shapes their approach to their supposed prime goal of deficit reduction.

8) Shocking research finds that sex is considered the activity that makes people the happiest.

9) Obama is coming to take your guns away!!  Or so believe the people of Lubbock, TX (and surely many other places to reality).  Hello, earth to gun nuts– he’s not.

I will be outspent

I’ve mentioned before how the Obama campaign rigorously experimentally tested everything they did.  How could you not love a campaign that so fully embraces social science?  Anyway, here’s a nice piece in Businessweek about their various approach with emails.  The best subject line, “I will be outspent.”  Astronomically more effective than “the one thing the polls got right.”  Here’s some of the findings:

The appeals were the product of rigorous experimentation by a large team of analysts. “We did extensive A-B testing not just on the subject lines and the amount of money we would ask people for,” says Amelia Showalter, director of digital analytics, “but on the messages themselves and even the formatting.” The campaign would test multiple drafts and subject lines—often as many as 18 variations—before picking a winner to blast out to tens of millions of subscribers. “When we saw something that really moved the dial, we would adopt it,” says Toby Fallsgraff, the campaign’s e-mail director, who oversaw a staff of 20 writers.

It quickly became clear that a casual tone was usually most effective. “The subject lines that worked best were things you might see in your in-box from other people,” Fallsgraff says. “ ‘Hey’ was probably the best one we had over the duration.” Another blockbuster in June simply read, “I will be outspent.” According to testing data shared with Bloomberg Businessweek, that outperformed 17 other variants and raised more than $2.6 million.

Pretty interesting stuff.  Surely, the Romney people must have been using some of these techniques, too.  Right?   I’m confident that whomever the 2016 Democratic candidate is they will adopt and build on the Obama team’s rigorous, social science based approach.  What I’m most curious about will be the degree to which Republicans successfully play catch-up.

Photo of the day

Apparently there’s  a huge camel fair in India every year.  Makes for some pretty cool photos (In Focus):

Camels stand before the setting sun during the annual camel fair in Pushkar, on November 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

The indescribably dumb opposition to Susan Rice

Fred Kaplan lays it out in full.  Especially the amazingly brazen and rank hypocrisy on the parts of John McCain and Lindsey Graham.  Now, hypocrisy is par for the course for politicians, so I’m generally not that big a fan of it as a line of attack, but there’s hypocrisy and then there’s hypocrisy.  Short version: their defense of Condeleeza Rice for far more serious crimes than one they are pillorying Susan Rice for.  But what I really wanted to highlight was one of the dumbest statements from a politician I’ve heard.  I actually heard the quote on NPR while driving today and thought, “I need to look it up.”  I didn’t need to, as Kaplan flagged it in this piece.  Here you go:

Odder still is Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who said on Wednesday, “I continue to be troubled by the fact that the U.N. ambassador decided to play what was essentially a political role at the height of the contentious presidential election campaign by agreeing to go on the Sunday shows to present the administration’s position.” Imagine that! A senior administration official presenting her administration’s position!

If that isn’t about the dumbest excuse for opposing a potential Secretary of State.  She might as well criticize her for wearing clothes to work.  The whole episode is just embarrassing.

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