Jul 12

The internet…

is not a series of tubes, nor a dump truck.

Jun 12

Crime is running rampant out there…

Except that it’s not.

Dec 11

Christmas Infographics of 2011

Oct 10

Mental Exercise: Data, Mortgages, Derivatives, and Foreclosure

I’m heartened to see that 40 of the Attorneys General of the states here in the US are going to examine mortgage foreclosure fraud.

I’m certain more than a few of them will take the easy way out and blame the victims  (afterall, this is an election year, and the Teabaggers will demand scalps), but there can be little doubt that fraud was occurring on a massive scale and likely was the cause of the collapse of the US housing market.  A 2005 FBI report estimated that 80% of fraud losses came collusion and collaboration from industry insiders (via this MeFi thread).  All of the major lenders are at the very least scrutinizing their processes and at most ordering foreclosure moratoriums.

How could data mining and visualization aid in surfacing potential fraud?

As a mental exercise, consider the multitude of data that certainly exists and the challenge of combing the haystack and creation of a comprehensible narrative.

These flowcharts posted by Barry Ritholtz (sourced from  Foreclosure Fraud for Dummies Part 1,  Part TwoPart Three, and Part Four) show the process as it should occur.  The news has been full of stories about foreclosure mills rushing foreclosures through and in some cases ‘recreating’ original documents, pushing through foreclosures.

Government agencies – both local, state, and Federal – have access to terabytes of data from the VA, HUD, Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac, with more to be discovered via subpoena, from proprietary lender systems to MLS and MERS to credit bureau data, as well as email and other correspondence between borrower, lender, and broker, as well as the other invested parties.   From Patriot Act disclosures to county deed filings and lien notices to the eviction notice sent to the sheriff, each of those transactions lives as a datapoint, somewhere…

Then there’s the question of “should we go down this road”? While I personally think the answer is “Hell Yes, Round up the Banksters!”, I’m certain that ‘following the money’ will open the door to more investigations.  Fraud may end in the foreclosure process, but it certainly didn’t start there.    The trail will certainly lead us past questionable practices regarding the mortgage backed securities, collateralized derivatives, credit default swaps, mortgage servicers, mortgage originators, home appraisers, builders, realtors, mortgage brokers, and yes, homeowners (there’s a variety of infographics here).

The fallout will likely include homeowners, stock markets, the entire domestic financial system, and the entire global economy.  Will renewed scrutiny and the likely fallout lengthen the Great Recession, or worse yet precipitate a Great Depression 2.0?

Mar 10

Explaining US Healthcare with Pretty Pictures

The GOP released this nightmarish Powerpoint slide to illustrate their interpretation of Democratic reform:

Of course, it’s a little more and a little less than that.   A graphic designer (Robert Palmer) cleaned it up to make it a little less political and a little more understandable:

Do not fuck with graphic designers by robertpalmer.


You can’t really understand the healthcare debate without a little   background, context, and perspective.

First things first, we pay a lot more than any other industrialized country, and get a lot worse in terms of outcomes and conditions. The United States is   ranked 37th for health care amongst industrialized (first world nations).   Anyone who says we have the best health care system in the world is lying to your face.



The next problem is competition.   The insurance companies face no pressure to lower premiums, and local, state, and Federal level, so you can just count on premiums continuing to rise.   Anything above 40% of a given market is nearly a monopoly, in that there is little financial incentive for new competitors to enter the state.

bw healthcompetitionmap Health Care Competition Infographic

Strangely enough, the states that spend the most on health care…

…have  the most uninsured…

…and  the unhealthiest of behaviors

..are the same states that most oppose insurance reform.


I think a lot of the frustration with the health care debate is that it went on too long (with the GOP doing this intentionally), that it’s a complicated problem, and a low level of literacy in the subject are by constituents.   Plainly put, here are the stakes:


And here’s what’s in it for you…

obama's health care chart