December 2006
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Month December 2006

Sunrise

Happy New Year!

On Earmarks & Lobbyists

Doonesbury. Much more on earmarks, including local activity, here.

Google’s Tipping Point?

Michael Arrington:

Taken in a vacuum, a fairly trivial thing happened a few days ago. The co-founder of Firefox, Blake Ross, wrote a post criticizing Google called “Tip: Trust is hard to gain, easy to lose“. He takes issue with a new Google search feature that promotes certain of their own products over organic search results. See Google searches for Calendar, Blogging, Photo Sharing and others and see Google pushing Google Calendar, Blogger and Picasa, respectively, above what is supposed to be the most relevant results – Google search. Even a search for Yahoo Calendar has these Google results above the obvious destination the user was searching for.

I say this is trivial incident taken in a vacuum because, quite frankly, Google has every right to promote their own products on their website. But I think Ross’ post may be a sign of a change in attitude towards Google that’s been percolating for the last year or so, and is beginning to manifest itself. The fact that a highly respected entrepreneur finally spoke out should be a wakeup call for Google.

The Creation of American Girl’s 2007 Girl of the Year – Nikki

Christina Binkley visits Middleton’s American Girl (a unit of Mattel):

A little more than a year ago, executives at the dollmaker American Girl sat down to undertake a high-stakes marketing mission: cramming everything the company deems uplifting and authentic about American girls into a single plastic and cloth figure. The goal: to create a character so compelling that parents will pay $86 for an 18-inch doll and a paperback book.

Working with a trove of customer feedback culled from its magazine, Web and book-publishing empire, the company determined that the typical girl these days is dependable, athletic and loves animals. She is also completely overscheduled and stressed out. She skis like a demon, rides horses, trains guide dogs, plans school parties, washes the dishes, battles popularity crises and helps her little brother with his math homework.

The improbable result is Nicki Fleming, the company’s 2007 Girl of the Year — an annual event in which the Mattel Inc. unit releases, on Jan. 1, a new doll meant to capture the current state of girlhood. Nicki’s dog Sprocket, together with training treats, a collar and leash, sells for $24. Her horse Jackson with Western saddle costs $62; his tack box, curry brush and carrots are $34.

Mattel’s (Jill Barrad was CEO at the time) acquisition of Pleasant Rowland’s American Girl for some $700M lead the way to the creation of Madison’s Overture Center. Former Oscar Meyer CEO Bob Eckert currently runs Mattel.

The Future of the Equity Premium

Brad DeLong and Konstantin Magin:

Suppose that, at the start of some year since the beginning of the twentieth century, you had taken $1,000,000 that you had invested in bonds and believed you would not want to touch for twenty years, and invested it insteade in a diversified portfolio of equities. (Or suppose you had been able to borrow $1,000,000 at the long-term government bond rate). And suppose you had then let both legs of that investment ride for twenty years. What would have been the results in dollars (adjusted for inflation) twenty years later?

Guns to Caviar Index

Daniel Gross:

Reading the news, it’s easy to get the sense that the world is at war: strife in Afghanistan, chaos in Iraq, genocide in Darfur, upheaval in Lebanon, and a variety of insurgencies and border squabbles around the globe. Reading the news, it’s also easy to get the sense that the world is in the midst of a golden age of peaceful prosperity. Each year, tens of millions of Indians and Chinese join the middle class. Latin America and South America, previously dominated by authoritarian regimes and civil wars, are now generally democratic and enjoying steady growth.


So, which is it? Is the world more peaceful or more warlike? Since Americans are doing the lion’s share of the fighting and military policing, it’s difficult for us to answer the question objectively. Fortunately, there is an unbiased global economic indicator that sheds some light on the question: the Guns-to-Caviar Index.

Gerald R. Ford and Presidential Approval

Charles Franklin:

President Gerald R. Ford died last night. Today’s initial stories have stressed his role in restoring the country after Watergate, and have emphasized that he was a decent man. They also dwell on his pardon of President Nixon. I thought it might be worthwhile to review President Ford’s approval ratings as an alternative way of recalling his presidency. While less easy to judge “good” and “bad”, the data are also less sentimental about his time in office.

2006 Foot in Mouth Awards

Tony Long:

Welcome to Wired News’ 2006 Foot-in-Mouth Awards program. You, the readers, have sent us your picks for the lamest quotes from or about the world of technology during this eventful year. We have selected the “best” of those and present them to you now.

Photos of the Year 2006

John Nack:

The NYT has posted its Year in Pictures, featuring images of war, politics, sports, and more. It’s amazing how quickly events can fade from our (or at least my) consciousness, often just months after they occur.

MSNBC has some terrific galleries from this past year. (Bet you’ve never seen a bull doing a headstand before.) See also Time’s collection.

Market Risk Perception vs. Popular Perception

Lawrence Summers:

THE YEAR 2007 will begin with a vast divergence between the popular view of global risks and the risks as priced in financial markets. While the commentariat has been more alarmed about the state of the world than global markets for some years, the gap increased in 2006 as markets became more serene and everyone else grew more anxious.

The headlines and opinion writers focus on how the U.S. is badly bogged down in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; on an increasingly unstable Middle East and dangerous energy dependence; on nuclear proliferation that has already occurred in North Korea and that is coming in Iran; on the potential weakness of lame-duck political leaders; on record global trade imbalances and rising protectionist pressures; on increased levels of public and private-sector borrowing combined with record low saving in the United States; and on falling home prices and middle-class economic insecurity.