While I was working on my collection of lessons for my WaPo column this week, I ended up finding all manner of interesting, amusing but ultimately unusable items. Some of these were ironic and funny and snarly, but I did not want the column to be “The Schadenfreude Chronicles.”  Rather, I wanted to find real lessons that were usable for investor and business types.

However, lots of this stuff was too good to just throw away. So as a wrap up to this week’s theme of Lessons of the election, I’d like to point out some of the folks who distinguished themselves, but mostly in the wrong way.

As per last weekend’s discussion on info sources, these are the methodologies, organizations, and yes, people whom you should quarantine as dangerous to your wealth. They have poor long term track records, (pretty awful is a fair descriptor). Their approaches favor wants and hope over data, confirmation bias over mathematics, and cognitive dissonance over objective reality.

If you can recognize this sort of foolishness in real time, you can avoid allowing these folks to help you lose money. Perhaps we can start giving out awards for this kinda stuff:


Big Money Loser (Institutional): Wall Street

Wall Street bet heavily on a Romney victory, and lost. Not only is Dodd Frank and the Volcker rule going to be a thorn in their paw for the foreseeable future, but Senator Elect Elizabeth Warren is going to haunt them for at least 6 years.

Bonus stupidity: Hasn’t anyone on Wall Street ever heard of Hedging?


Source: Quartz


-Honorable Mention: Intrade, whose numbers were consistently less accurate than Betfair and other prediction markets. I don’t know why, but they were much less accurate, and not nearly as reliable as other sites.


Big Money Loser, Super Pac edition: American Crossroads

Karl Rove’s Superpac spent over $300 million dollars — net results were a loss of 2 senate seats, 1 house seat — oh, and the Presidency.

Whoever gives this guy money might as well burn the cash for kindling.


Source: ‏@bendimiero


The Stating the Obvious Award: XKCD: Math Matters


The delightful nerd comic xkcd tickled my funny bone with this instant classic:

Source: xkcd


Innumeracy Award for most Mathematically Incompetent: UnskewedPolls.com

I dont know if they simply made up their own numbers of just cherry picked what they liked (Selection Bias, Confirmation Bias). Nearly every data point they ran was wrong.

This screenshot shows their Ohio exit polling data — and it was simply delusional:




The ‘Not Nate Silver’ but Close Award: Votamatic

Every one has been talking about 538, but Simon Jackson’s Votamatic predicted 91.4% Chance Obama Wins with 332 electoral college votes.



Nicely done!


• Right Wing Can’t Be Wrong All the Time Award: While much of the conservative movement were happily living in their artificial bubble, one right wing pundit made the early call in February 2011: “Ann Coulter says that if we don’t run Chris Christie for President, then Romney will win the nomination and we’ll lose in 2012.”

I have to chalk this one up to luck, as she is so often wrong about, well practically everything else she ever writes, speaks or I assume, thinks.

Bonus: Bruce Bartlett nailed it as well — Why Romney Can’t Beat Obama in 2012 — but since he is rational and not criminally insane, its less notable.


• Most Notable Election Jackass: Donald Trump

The Donald’s election night meltdown was consistent with his persona of a self promotional blowhard assclown. Brian Williams summed up the Tweets, by broadcasting “Donald Trump, who has driven well past the last exit to relevance and veered into something closer to irresponsible here is Tweeting tonight.”


Source: Daily Mail


A fledgling movement has begun — trying to get his horrific MensWear removed from Macy*s and a boycott of his inane show on NBC. And while I never followed him, today, I blocked @realDonaldTrump — It felt great!

Trump: The only business person who has managed to lose money in both NYC Real Estate AND casinos is now well past his Sell By Date.



My advice to you goes well beyond politics: It does not matter if they are left, right center or far right — note who has a process that works, and bookmark their site. Note who does not, and throw da bums out. These are the money losers, and The Price of Paying Attention to them is simply too great. Delete the bookmark, quarantine them and move on.

Your portfolio will thank you . . .



The Price of Paying Attention (November 2012)

Information Triage (April 2011)

Category: Philosophy, Psychology

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

26 Responses to “The Price of ‘Attention Unworthies’ . . . ?”

  1. GuinnessFan says:

    Donald Trump and Jack Welch deserve to be celebrated on a cover of Mad Magazine. Their utility to rational commentary has ceased to exist (if it ever did exist). It’s sad to see supposed “leaders” such as those two become nothing more than the town fools on Fox and Twitter.

  2. flocktard says:

    “Bonus: Bruce Bartlett nailed it as well — Why Romney Can’t Beat Obama in 2012 — but since he is rational and not criminally insane, its less notable.”


  3. GuinnessFan says:

    Barry, thanks to the stupid spending of the Super Pacs weren’t the media companies big winners in this travesty?


    BR: Local stations more than big media

  4. ohemingway says:

    If a picture tells 1000 words that comic by XKCD tells about a million. Too funny and right on.

  5. VennData says:

    If you believe the nonsense on this blog I’ve got a business that’s first or second in its market I want to sell you.

    – Jack Welch

  6. Iamthe50percent says:

    I see from those contribution numbers that Micro$oft will be getting their unlimited H1-B visas.

    US Government $627,000? Isn’t that misprint? or is it from the public financing? Didn’t Obama forego that?

  7. lkiser says:

    You can add to your “not Nate Silver award” by including Dr. Sam Wang at the Princeton Election Consortium–


    He even got Heidi Heitkamp right!

  8. rd says:

    This election is an excellent example of the dangers of back-testing investment strategies. The Republicans have bet hard on divisive politics over the past 20 years and it has worked very well to date. However, they missed the underlying trend of increasing diversity of the American electorate and therefore were unable to squeak by in this election. Their long-term investment manager, Karl Rove, continued using his old playbook that had worked well and lost big in the Crash of 2012 when his technical trading strategy was kicking out false positives. He had accurately called the Bush Bulls of 2000 and 2004 using these trading strategies.

  9. stonedwino says:

    Right on BR, right on…good stuff as usual.

  10. BennyProfane says:

    ” “Ann Coulter says that if we don’t run Chris Christie for President, then Romney will win the nomination and we’ll lose in 2012.””

    C’mon. Imagine the fat jokes.Imagine the Jersey jokes. Imagine his muse, Springsteen, writhing a fat joke song of some sort. Imagine him just, you know, going off on almost anything like the bipolar specimen he is.

    She wasn’t really all that lucky. Please don’t give that horribly nasty and awful woman any kind of credit. Please.

  11. boveri says:

    Best fun post anywhere. Thanks

  12. Conan says:

    The “Reality TV” syndrome needs to be explored or the fact that it is entertainment and not really any intelligent conversion. The Kardasians and Jersey Shore of Politics:



    So going further to your point, it was Reality TV gossip and loud mouthing, being provocative that was of great note. Look at your examples above and see how many of them feed on unintelligent, irrational entertainment value. This is the group think that makes them brain dead.

  13. A says:

    The worst part about the Donald (no, it isn’t his embarrassing hair-do), is that he became friends with Romney and helped Mitt learn how to insert the foot into the mouth.

  14. cyaker says:

    Can somebody explain the $627,628 from Governement ?

    Am I mistaken but i have seen no evidence that Obama will penalize Wall Street for supporting Rommney to the contrary if you read Bill Black or Naked Capitalism it is quite the opposite

  15. matt wilbert says:

    I’m pretty sure Votamatic is run by Drew Linzer.

  16. DrungoHazewood says:

    I live in a heavily rep state and could find no one that thought Romney would win. I did talk to one guy that thought Romney would win the popular vote, but lose the election. I think he was a little drunk though.

  17. leveut says:

    While, in good fun, many things in the proprietor’s post are amusing, and some are even true, one might observe it is a rather impressive exercise in confirmation bias provided by one who allegedly doesn’t like Democrats, but who definitely hates Republicans, according to his own post.

    Re Coulter: “I have to chalk this one up to luck, as she is so often wrong about, well practically everything else she ever writes, speaks or I assume, thinks.” One must ask if that is actually true, or if it is a statement that the proprietor disagrees with Coulter therefore she is wrong.

    Re Trump: “The Donald’s election night meltdown was consistent with his persona of a self promotional blowhard assclown. ” This humble poster has wondered if Trump were actually working for Obama given the idiocy he has displayed.

    *SNIP *


    BR: You appear to be defending both the Shrill Blond Harpy & the Chump named Trump. Sorry, go sell stupid somewhere else.

  18. whskyjack says:

    “Can somebody explain the $627,628 from Governement ?”

    I believe those are campaign contributions from either individuals or pacs. I believe your employer is part or the recorded information.

  19. victor says:

    1) the contributions as shown in the table have got to be from individuals only, right BR?

    2) Once the celebrations and the corresponding handwringing are over the participants should ask: why didn’t we win by a bigger margin and correspondingly why didn’t we lose by a bigger margin. Upon correct answers, succesful corrective action should follow. End of story.

  20. VennData says:

    Washington Memo: Legacy at Stake, Obama Plans Broader Push for Budget Deal


    We must stop any legacy at all costs.

    – Mitch McConnell

  21. the bankster says:

    The Donald’s investors have lost far more money in real estate and gaming than he has, if he’s lost anything. He runs a better racket than even private equity. But we better stop before he sues us. Or lest we give him more attention.

  22. CharlesII says:

    XKCD wins the prize.

    As for Bartlett, I only give him partial credit. Romney was not done in directly by Republican infighting.

    Certainly attacks by Gingrich and Perry gave credence to the idea that Romney was a pirate and looter, not a businessman. But those attacks were run in southern states like Georgia. I don’t think many of them aired in the eventual battleground states. In this case, Romney’s real enemy was Romney. Since he is a pirate and a looter, it’s hard to deny it.

  23. MikeNY says:

    LMFAO on The Donald. “Blowhard Assclown” should be his official title.

    I think he and Linda McMahon should be the GOP ticket in 2016. Karl Rove can make it happen!

  24. rocketgas says:

    We all have our dumb ideas, being a trump acolyte is bad. Nevertheless socailism is still a terrible idea, look at europe.

  25. Alan327 says:

    rocketgas: I keep hearing the terrible idea that is socialist Europe statement and you might want to consider that more carefully. Norway, Germany, Austria and Switzerland are approximately as socialist as Greece, Spain and Italy. Socialism may be your particular irrational nightmare, but it may also not be the uniquely determining factor in economic success or failure.

  26. Slash says:

    I decided awhile ago to use Trump as a measure of lack of intelligence. He is an idiot, incompetent at anything other than attention whoring. Anybody who thinks Trump is smart or savvy in any way other than convincing people to put him on TV is even less intelligent than he is.