Cash for Clunkers Update

A little over a week ago, in Cash Clunker, we discussed UC Davis Professor Christopher R. Knittel’s assessment of “The Implied Cost of Carbon Dioxide Under the Cash for Clunkers Program.” As we indicated then, “the analysis suggests that costs per ton of carbon removal exceed $200 – and may even approach $500” – ten to 25 times as much as the current price of carbon offset credits in Europe.

On Tuesday night the program expired, having received $2.877 billion in rebate applications. Yesterday, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration issued this press release on the Cash for Clunkers wrap-up, emphasizing the economic benefits of the program, and studiously avoiding the questions raised in Professor Knittel’s analysis.

Kansans have applied for $31,496,500 in vouchers under the program. For a complete statistical report on the details of Cash for Clunkers see Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) final statistics.

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Published in: on August 27, 2009 at 2:02 pm  Comments (1)  

Job Seeker Beware

In a recent issue, the New York Times discussed the question of “Job Search Firms: Big Pitches and Fees, Few Jobs”, observing the propensity of many to exploit “the vulnerability of job seekers as they cast about for help in the most difficult job market in decades and encounter a bewildering and largely unregulated array of individuals and businesses offering assistance.”

As the Times reported, “while some customers have benefited from their work, others have accused the companies of using misleading sales tactics.

“‘Career management’ or ‘career marketing’ companies like ITS, which charge large up-front fees, are easy to stumble upon on employment Web sites. Often, as in Mr. Fischman’s case, they contact job seekers after they post their résumés. They usually focus on professionals and managers, massaging their egos by boasting that they accept only the most marketable candidates. Some companies place advertisements that appear to be job postings but instead are lures for sales pitches.

“The offices of several state attorneys general said they had fielded complaints about career counseling companies during this recession.

“‘Many employment services provide valuable help, but others misrepresent themselves and their services in an attempt to take your money,’ said the Illinois attorney general, Lisa Madigan, who succeeded several years ago in having one career counseling company, Bernard Haldane Associates, banned from doing business in the state. ‘To find legitimate agencies for your needs, it’s critical to do your homework first.’”

Many of the services these companies claim to perform for the dedicated job seeker can be done independently, using the free resources of the local public library.

Published in: on August 27, 2009 at 12:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Data Mining for Fool’s Gold

Fool's Gold (Iron Pyrite - Humboldt State University)

Fool's Gold (Iron Pyrite - Humboldt State University)

Committed narcissists and egosurfers will already be intimately familiar with the results of Googling their own names. But in “Find Out How the Web Sees You”, today’s New Scientist offers a quick look at Personas, a kind of reductio ad absurdum of the technique of data mining.

As the authors of Personas explain, “in a world where fortunes are sought through data-mining vast information repositories, the computer is our indispensable but far from infallible assistant. Personas demonstrates the computer’s uncanny insights and its inadvertent error, such as mischaracterizations caused by the inability to separate data from multiple owners of the same name [in my case, a former judge in Florida, a law enforcement officer in California, an activist in Christian ministries, a “fantastic” horn player, and numerous others] . It is meant for the viewer to reflect on our current and future world, where digital histories are as important if not more important than oral histories, and computational methods of condensing our digital traces are opaque and socially ignorant.”

As the principal behind Personas suggests, “[Data mining] is always presented so authoritatively, when in reality what’s happening behind the scenes is controlled voodoo.”

Published in: on August 27, 2009 at 12:07 pm  Comments (1)  

Home Values & ‘Walkability’

Walking the Walk

When amenities such as libraries, parks, schools, restaurants and stores are within walking distance (generally between one-quarter of a mile and one mile), the value of a home is $4,000 to $34,000 greater, according to a new study of 15 major real estate markets by CEOs for Cities. Walking the Walk: How Walkability Raises Home Values in US Cities is an interesting 30-page exploration of the linkage between home values and walkability. Of the 15 markets studied, 13 showed a significant relationship between walkability and premium home pricing. For a quick press release on the essence of the study, see this summary from CEOs for Cities.

As CEOs for Cities President Carol Coletta avers, “if urban leaders are intentional about developing and redeveloping their cities to make them more walkable, it will not only enhance the local tax base but will also contribute to individual wealth by increasing the value of what is, for most people, their biggest asset.”

Published in: on August 27, 2009 at 10:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Internet Arcana

Here’s an interesting post for technological antiquarians, from Yglesias, a note on the very first congressional website: Senator Ted Kennedy’s. The comments are quite interesting.

Published in: on August 27, 2009 at 9:48 am  Leave a Comment