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Edward Tufte Appointed To Help Track and Explain Stimulus Funds 186

Posted by Soulskill
from the authoritative-bar-graphs dept.
President Obama recently announced several appointments to the Recovery Independent Advisory Panel, including data visualization expert Edward Tufte, author of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. The purpose of the panel is to advise the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, whose aim is "To promote accountability by coordinating and conducting oversight of Recovery funds to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse and to foster transparency on Recovery spending by providing the public with accurate, user-friendly information." Tufte said on his website, "I'm doing this because I like accountability and transparency, and I believe in public service. And it is the complete opposite of everything else I do. Maybe I'll learn something. The practical consequence is that I will probably go to Washington several days each month, in addition to whatever homework and phone meetings are necessary."
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Edward Tufte Appointed To Help Track and Explain Stimulus Funds

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  • Re:Mercy me... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @11:22AM (#31400884)

    >

    Always assume Isaac Newton-level political ability until proven otherwise.

    We should all be so lucky. Isaac Newton eliminated coin clipping.

  • Efficiency (Score:2, Informative)

    by Pete Venkman (1659965) on Monday March 08, 2010 @11:30AM (#31400984) Journal

    Wouldn't it be more efficient to keep up with where the money goes AS IT GOES OUT THE DOOR? The way this panel is doing it now is just a waste of even more resources, and it provides a little time for the recipients to come up with some more BS to explain why all their execs needed multi-million dollar bonuses for running their companies into the ground.

  • Tufte may have used that graph, but Charles Joseph Minard [wikipedia.org] made it, way back in 1869. Minard was an early pioneer in data visualization, and Tufte says that particular graph "may well be the best statistical graphic ever drawn."

  • Re:Dumb question (Score:3, Informative)

    by ianare (1132971) on Monday March 08, 2010 @12:18PM (#31401524)

    It was the previous administration that started giving out the money. Since they had nothing but contempt for any kind of tracking or accountability (see : e-mail fiasco), there's no surprise there.

  • by localman57 (1340533) on Monday March 08, 2010 @12:30PM (#31401660)
    No, it won't. Tufte's whole point is that the focus should be on the data, and that anything that doesn't contribute to understanding ("chart junk") should be dropped. It may well contain elegant graphs, though. The other thing you can count on is that Tufte won't let them pull dirty tricks, such as using log scales, charts with a y axis other than 0, non-propotional areas, etc.

    I'd reccomend both his books and his seminar to anyone, by the way. You'll never look at another graph or powerpoint wihtout critiqeing it.
  • Re:Academics (Score:4, Informative)

    by jfengel (409917) on Monday March 08, 2010 @12:58PM (#31401968) Homepage Journal

    I don't think Ron Paul expects to end paper currency. Nor does he think that's the problem. He knows that only a tiny fraction of the money will ever be in the form of paper.

    The problem, he believes, is that the currency is ultimately backed by nothing more than a government's promise to limit its availability. Printing the actual paper bills is chump change. Inventing more money is even easier than that: they just enter a number in a computer.

    It's not the computers themselves he sees as the problem, but rather that the accounting rules make the total arbitrary under certain circumstances. He wants to make that impossible by fixing it to a quantity which is relatively fixed: a rare metal.

    Unfortunately, that doesn't really solve the problem. For one thing, as long as there is paper currency, checks, and bank payments, rather than actual bits of gold, there's no way to enforce it. The government can set the exchange rate any way it likes. You can limit that by law, but then, you could do the same for the numbers entered into the computers.

    And truly fixing the value of the currency slows the economy drastically. Fractional-reserve banking puts more money in circulation than there is backing for, but as long as that money is invested in things that turn a profit (in sum), it gets paid back and you have real economic improvements to show for it. Without it, those improvements happen far more slowly, and other countries out-compete us.

    It leads to booms and busts, but those happen anyway. We saw that even when we were on a gold standard. We were on the gold standard going into the Great Depression. Breaking off the gold standard allows the big banks the flexibility to try to solve such crises, using the tools I just mentioned: fractional-reserve banking multiplying money until the crisis of confidence ends and productivity returns to pre-bust levels.

    And what institution managed that? The Federal Reserve, another institution Paul despises. Paul is not a stupid man, but if he imagines that the economy was free of the boom-bust cycle before the invention of the Federal Reserve, he's simply missing history.

    We may need a new solution, but the old solutions have already been disproven. That's why the Fed was created in the first place.

  • by pdabbadabba (720526) on Monday March 08, 2010 @02:08PM (#31402914) Homepage

    he has never run even so much as a convenience store

    I realize this is really only intended as empty rhetoric but, come on. Here are a few things Obama has run, for everyone's information:

    The Harvard law Review
    Chicago's Developing Communities Project (DCP)
    Illinois's Project Vote
    Chicago Annenberg Challenge
    Illinois Senate's Health and Human Services
    U.S. Senate's subcommittee on European Affairs

    Now, I realize that it is at least arguable that none of these provide the leadership experience required to be an effective president. You probably would like to have seen a former governor/mayor/head of a large agency. I don't think that sort of experience is strictly necessary, but I see how reasonable people could disagree. (Though, if I may ask, what leadership experience does John McCain have that qualifies him in your eyes? Is it just length of service in the Senate?)

    But to say that Obama has not run so much as a convenience store is just totally false and it smacks of an either mean spirited (or, at best, willfully ignorant) parroting of the popular right-wing line that Obama is somehow a lightweight.

  • by Bassman59 (519820) <[ten.ektal] [ta] [ydna]> on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:03PM (#31404468) Homepage

    he has never run even so much as a convenience store

    I realize this is really only intended as empty rhetoric but, come on. Here are a few things Obama has run, for everyone's information:

    The Harvard law Review Chicago's Developing Communities Project (DCP) Illinois's Project Vote Chicago Annenberg Challenge Illinois Senate's Health and Human Services U.S. Senate's subcommittee on European Affairs

    Now, I realize that it is at least arguable that none of these provide the leadership experience required to be an effective president. You probably would like to have seen a former governor/mayor/head of a large agency. I don't think that sort of experience is strictly necessary, but I see how reasonable people could disagree. (Though, if I may ask, what leadership experience does John McCain have that qualifies him in your eyes? Is it just length of service in the Senate?)

    But to say that Obama has not run so much as a convenience store is just totally false and it smacks of an either mean spirited (or, at best, willfully ignorant) parroting of the popular right-wing line that Obama is somehow a lightweight.

    And let's remember that this experience was a LOT more relevant than George W Bush's term as Governor of Texas. Texas has a constitutionally weak governor.

  • Re:Academics (Score:5, Informative)

    by Uberbah (647458) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:44PM (#31404998)

    1. he is not stupid - he is a strict constitutionalist.

    Oreaaaaly? What's the Constitutional basis for Paul's Sanctity of Life Act [wikipedia.org], which defines human life as beginning at conception?

    Founding fathers knew the opression from the almighty government first hand and were reluctant to give federal government more power than necessary.

    Right, which is why all the "strict constitutionalists" also rant and rave about the CIA, the NSA, the FBI, the USAF, spy satellites and NORAD. Because the Constitution only allows Congress to fund an Army and a Navy. Oh wait, they don't - which means the entire lot are political hacks.

    They chose gold and silver to be a legal tender so nobody has a print button - fiat currencies were tried in their times already and failed.

    Nevermind that we actually had more financial collapses under a backed currency than under a fiat currency. It's like gold bugs have excised the 19th century from their minds.

    When people start to gamble and overinvest (prosperity) they compete for loanable funds. These funds shrink rapidly and IR raises to match high demand.

    Nevermind that the current crisis was banks making insanely risky investments at 60:1 asset ratios. What would the gold standard done to prevent this? Nothing whatsoever. And of course we were on the gold standard when the economy crashed in 1929, for much the same reasons as it did in 2008.

    There was a recession of 1920 (caused by retooling to peace time production and returning soldiers sharply increasing workforce numbers), more severe than the Great Depression - it ended in 1,5 years because government did nothing to fight it. Great depression was enlarged and stretched out by failed policies meant to end it.

    Wow. You should have stopped digging a hole in your credibility when you passed Baghdad Bob. When there's a total economic collapse, the only entity that can stimulate demand is the government. Know when FDR actually made the depression worse? When he listened to fiscal conservatives and slashed spending in 1937 to cut the deficit.

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