Change your ATM pin?

My wife came across this cool infographic somewhere.  Short version– way too many people use very basic PINs, e.g., 1234, 1111, that are all too easy for thieves to guess.  If that’s you, perhaps time for a change.

Try this on for size. According to a study of 3.4 million PINs by Data Genetics, nearly 27 percent of PINs could be guessed at correctly after just 20 tries. That isn’t just because popular pins like 1234 and 8888 reign – the most popular 1234 PIN accounted for 10 percent of the exposed PINs it studied. It’s also because, with four digits, there are only 10,000 possible combinations. Couple the two and you’ve got a situation that stands to expose an awful amount of people to a whole lot of felony theft — all over a PIN.

How Safe Is Your PIN?

Tornadoes in context

Fantastic post in the Atlantic putting the Oklahoma tornado in context.  If you have any interest in tornadoes at all, you really should check this out.  Among my favorite parts was this map of tornado frequency (controlling for area) by state:


Was quite surprised to see North Carolina so high up there and South Carolina right up there with the “tornado alley” states.  The whole post asks a series of questions about tornadoes and responds with nice explanations along with awesome charts and videos.  Like this time of day chart:

US_nationa_timeofday (1).png

Meanwhile, I was intrigued to learn that the 1978 Lubbock, Texas tornado— which people still talked about all the time when I lived there in 2000-2002– is still the third most damaging tornado in US history.  No wonder people still talk about.

Does your major matter?

Three’s been a fair amount of talk about a new report that concludes that only 27% of college graduates have jobs that are related to their major.  I think Yglesias‘ pushback is spot-on:

According to the paper, they’re measuring relatedness by using the National Center for Education Statistics’ Classification of Instructional Programs “occupational crosswalk” function. So I thought I would look up my own major, philosophy, and see what the federal government has to say about my career choices. They think that the only job I’m suited for is as a post-secondary teacher, teaching philosophy or religion classes at a college. In other words, I am one of the 73 percent.

But I would dispute the claim that my job has nothing to do with my college degree. My view is that undergraduate philosophy majors get a crash course in persuasive writing and logical argumentation. Any kind of liberal arts degree where you need to read a lot of texts and then learn to write persuasively based on said texts is a decent preparation for working in journalism. But philosophy is a particularly good one to study, because for better or for worse, journalists are typically asked to be generalists. As a philosophy major you read and discuss people who are not only great thinkers but people who managed to make meaningful intellectual contributions to the world without obtaining tons of new empirical information…

My larger point here is that it’s really important to pay attention to data quality. If existing labor markets do a poor job of matching college graduates to things the NCES CIP “occupational crosswalk” function says are major-appropriate jobs, is that a fact about the labor market or a fact about the statistical series?

Great point.  Be skeptical; check the data and the original study if the conclusions sounds suspect.  This comes up a lot in advising political science majors on what to do after graduation.  There’s a ton of jobs far away from politics that value strong writing ability and solid critical thinking ability.  Now, not all our students leave with that, but we certainly strive for it and I would argue are a generally very good training ground for those skills.  My former student that I had lunch with yesterday works at a bank on mortgage refinancing, but I guarantee the skills she learned as a PS major help her in that job, but she would clearly be in the 73%.  In the broader scope, I’ve been thinking for a long while now that your major is far more about the skills you learn than the specific body of knowledge that you master.   Any data/study that ignores that fact is inherently flawed.

The clean water fairy

It was just one more example of the NC GOP over-reach so I let it go by, but I came across this nice Op-Ed that explains just how egregious the latest example of anti-environmentalism is.

It is fantasy thinking to pretend that Jordan Lake will somehow clean itself up if the General Assembly repeals upstream pollution controls as proposed in Senate Bill 515, which the N.C. Senate passed last week…

Since its impoundment in 1983, Jordan Lake [where my drinking water actually comes from] has consistently shown substantial nutrient over-enrichment, which has led to algal blooms and other water-quality problems, problems well familiar to those boating, swimming and fishing on the lake as well as to downstream communities whose water treatment plants are often unable to remove resulting discoloration, taste and odor.

Most of this nutrient over-enrichment is caused by surface water run-off flowing from surrounding and upstream yards, streets, parking lots and fields, all of which is untreated and contains whatever the water picks up as it flows downhill and eventually into the lake…

In the 1990s, recognizing that growth and development around Jordan Lake would increase, individuals, private groups and state, local and federal government agencies began closely studying the problem of increasing degradation of the lake’s water quality. To help focus this study, the Division of Water Quality of DENR in 2003-2006 conducted more than 50 large-scale, structured stakeholder meetings, all involving dozens of groups and hundreds of individuals.

These meetings, through discussion, negotiation and compromise, produced considerable agreement on goals and strategies for cleaning up the lake and maintaining water quality thereafter.

In 2007-08, the N.C. Environmental Management Commission held three public hearings attended by more than 400 people, oversaw a public comment period during which 7,100 written comments were received and held 14 subsequent meetings to deliberate over received comments.

This highly public, participatory and transparent process resulted in the EMC’s passage in 2008 of a set of water-quality regulations balancing the responsibilities, needs and abilities of the five major sectors affecting lake water quality: existing development, wastewater dischargers, new development, agriculture and state and federal governments.

Public, transparent, involvement from all stakeholders.  Sounds like a model of how policy should be made.  And, as for the repeal of these regulations?

Then unexpectedly this month, without public notice or discussion, with no transparency, no public involvement, no stakeholder process and no advanced word, Senate Bill 515 emerged. This bill in one fell swoop would repeal the entire set of Jordan Lake water-quality regulations that were so carefully created, despite the fact those regulations were the product of widespread study, discussion, compromise and consensus.

And what solution does the Senate propose? Nothing but further study! What possibly could be left to study?

Regulations bad!!  And, even if you give the Republicans the benefit of the doubt and they are, this is absolutely no way that legislation of this sort should happen.  Especially considering what went into making the original policy.    Ugh.

Chart of the day

Fewer couples without kids– good news for the pet industry (via the Atlantic):


Long and the short of it: Childless couples and empty-nesters really do sink the most into caring for pets. A husband and wife with no kids spends 69 percent more, on average, on their dogs, cats, and whatnot than parents of children under six. Second place goes to the parents of adult children.

Of course, pet spending also just seems to track pretty closely with disposable income. Two-paycheck households with no children have a lot more extra cash to throw around on premium dog chow and fancy kennels than most singles or young parents, after all. So for those out there who aren’t particularly comfortable with Last’s brand of cultural criticism, here’s another way to think of what this data shows: The more married Americans that shy away from parenthood in the future, the better it’ll be for the Purinas of the world.

Investors, take note.

Of course, in the Greene household, as you know, it’s about spending on kids and pets.  Though, I suppose we spent more on our first dog, Lira, back before David was born.

Photo of the day

In Focus set on the Moore, OK devastation:

A woman walks through what remains of a bowling alley, and other buildings, after a huge tornado struck Moore, near Oklahoma City, on May 20, 2013. (Reuters/Richard Rowe)

Some of these remind me like something you would see in a science fiction movie with a giant robot or something just completely stomping out houses.  Unreal.

An aerial photo of a neighborhood in Moore destroyed by the massive tornado on May 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Steve Gooch)

Have the scandals hurt Obama?

It’s still a little early, but so far the various “scandals” have not hurt President Obama’s approval ratings.  I presume that if the media keep insisting that he is mired in scandal, this will change.  Anyway, Seth Masket brings the political science to help explain why Obama’s rating have not been hurt:

This is actually not the first time we’ve seen this sort of thing. The chart below shows President Clinton’s approval ratings in early 1998, when the public first learned about the Lewinsky scandal. As you probably recall, that was about the worst sort of coverage a president can get, plastered across every newspaper and broadcast on every news channel pretty much constantly for months. And yet, as you’ll note, his approval ratings jumped by roughly 10 points. Why?

There are a few theories that might explain it. One is that the public largely sympathized with Clinton. Not that they approved of his behavior—far from it—but that they felt that his affair did not warrant impeachment or the media firestorm that surrounded it, and they registered their dissent with the media and with overly enthusiastic congressional Republicans by supporting him.

I’m not sure I’m sold on that for Obama, but works well enough for Clinton.  Would love to see some more public opinion data on what the public actually understands about these “scandals.”  I suspect not much and that all they really know is that the press keeps telling them “scandal!”  That said, Masket explains why that may not be hurting him:

Another theory, offered by John Zaller, my advisor when I was in graduate school, is that the public generally doesn’t factor scandals in when evaluating presidential performance. What they do care about are the same things they care about during elections: peace, prosperity, and moderation. The intense scandal coverage caused people to pay attention to politics in a non-election season. They evaluated Clinton’s performance and generally judged him to be running things well…

One or both of these mechanisms may be in play today. It may well be that the public is looking at the scandals and judging them to be not that bad for Obama. It’s really hard to figure out what nefarious thing he allegedly did with regards to Benghazi, and it’s easy to dismiss that “scandal” as the product of conflict-hungry media and the same sort of overzealous Republican leaders who think having a Marine hold an umbrella is an impeachable act

It also may be that Zaller’s theory is in play. People are evaluating Obama’s performance on the peace, prosperity, and moderation dimensions and finding him to be doing reasonably well. Recent economic indicators have been pretty solid, he’s been resisting urgings to commit armed forces to Syria, and he’s been pretty moderate in his public pronouncements of late.

Apparently Republicans have been throwing out the “I” word.  Now, that would be so obviously over-the-top but I cannot help but think such a thing would result in a backlash to Obama’s favor.  For now, whatever the mechanism, it’s good to know that these false “scandals” are not having a negative impact on Obama’s approval, though they are surely are having a negative impact on meaningful political discourse.

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