29 October 2017

Scared Out of Your Mind

Spent the last week on the Island, with no innterTubes but with a bookstore. Recently saw Kurt Andersen flogging his latest book, "Fantasyland", which was on the shelf and the appointed companion to DB2 and stat text brought along. His interview had convinced me to do the book.

Boy howdy!! This has to be the scariest book I've read in some time. He chronicles the war on science and reason going back some years. I'm down with that part, naturally. Centuries, in fact. Some of the Amazon reviews/comments condemn the book (and Andersen) of being anti-Christian, more specifically anti-Protestant. But the facts are the facts. Except, naturally, when they're alternative facts.

If you want to know how Donald J. Quisling came to be, this history will show you.

21 October 2017

Tone Deaf Kelly

Others have already dealt with Gen. Kelly's duplicity in his accusations against Rep. Wilson. They're right, and he lied. That's that.

OTOH, none of the pundits I've read/heard have considered the event the got this all started: what (and, likely, how) Donald J. Quisling said to Ms. Johnson. In Kelly's re-telling of the conversation between him and Quisling, he provided to Quisling the context of what he and his senior officer did in the same circumstance: offer the 'he knew what he was getting into' meme. Here's the problem(s):
1 - Donald J. Quisling has 0 empathy and 0 military experience
2 - Kelly and the officers he mentioned had decades of military experience and some years of combat experience
3 - the recipient of Donald J. Quisling's speech is a 24 year old pregnant mother and now widow
4 - La David Johnson enlisted in 2014, so not much past a recruit
He enlisted in the Army in January 2014 as a Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic (91).
here He was not a macho killer. He fixed trucks.

So Ms. Johnson gets this phone call from Donald J. Quisling which follows, to some extent the meme offered by Kelly. If delivered, as I would expect, in the flippant liarly way of Donald J. Quisling she reacted as anyone would: with horror. Her husband fixed trucks, and now she finds out he got killed in a combat ambush. We don't, and likely may never, know what Sgt. Johnson told his wife about his deployment in Niger, but I'll bet a nickel she thought he was in base camp taking care of trucks.

Why was as a truck mechanic out on patrol??

20 October 2017

Biggest Corruption

If you were a risk-averse member of the Billionaire's Boys Club, what would be your ultimate wet dream? Well??? By my lights, I'd say I would want Treasury instruments to be sold at interest rate value rather than auctioned at coupon value.

Translation: the way it currently works by 31 U.S.C. Subtitle III, Subchapters I & II, Treasury sets a return value, aka coupon, per some unit of instrument, say $100 per unit. Treasury then auctions those units. The resulting interest rate is the $100/X where X is the final auction price of the unit. If X is $1,000, then the interest rate is 10%. If X is $10,000, then it's 1%. For the last few years, X has been nudging much closer to 1% than 10%. That's driving the idle rich batshit.

Near as I can tell, nowhere in the statute is coupon/auction mandated as the method for selling instruments. Donald J. Quisling can/could direct Treasury to henceforth sell instruments with a fixed coupon (current practice) and fixed price (not auctioned to highest bidder), thus yielding the idle rich's 10% government debt. The fall out from this is clear. The secondary market for Treasuries would still be awash in moolah, and so would bid up the price of such instruments, thus giving the original buyers a massive capital gain windfall (which implies a change in tax law to remove holding periods for capital gains protection, naturally). The other, much worse side-effect is that US government debt just got lots more expensive. Yet another transfer of wealth from the many to the few.

Have a nice day.

19 October 2017

For So Long?

While watching the baseball games yesterday, I noted (for the first time, I suppose) that the home plate umpire wore glasses!!! The country has gone to hell in a handbasket. The only reason I could see this abomination was because the ump caught a foul off the mask, which he took off for a bit, on camera.

So, off to the innterTubes to find out how long this degradation of America's Game has been going on. I expected a few years, at most. Well, not so much.
On April 25, 1956, newspapers across trumpeted the news that Frank Umont had on the previous day become the first big league umpire to wear eyeglasses in a regularly scheduled game.

Damn! And to top it off, that's my sister's birthday, although not year. Instant karma.

Why the iPhone X?

The first decade of my life was spent in a 1,000 sq.ft. house-on-slab, built on an abandon wood lot. Thanks to that, the termites swarmed in the spring. Bad as it was, the parents managed to get foreclosed, so it was off to veteran's housing. This was 1960, and then at least one parent had to be a real veteran; during our years there the projects devolved into open welfare apartments.

The parents were a bit above average smarts, but below average ambition. Oh well. The point of the experience was this: by the time I was eleven or twelve I noticed that there were a lot of late model Buicks and Cadillacs in the parking area. Why, thought young Robert? Weren't there more useful and important things to own?

The answer from the point of view of those Caddy Daddies, as I eventually figured out, was: of course not. A fancy, even if old-ish, car was the most conspicuous object poor folk could still buy. Even if it meant lousy living space and lousy food and lousy clothes and lousy everything else. But that Caddy was parked outside the apartment.

The iPhone X is quite the same: a conspicuous object that doesn't do much more than far cheaper alternatives, but worth it as a measure of self esteem. Behavioral economists' fodder, for sure.

18 October 2017

New Gold, Part the Fourth

Yet another installment in the continuing saga of what it means for the US Buck to be New Gold. Today's contestant is Eduardo Porter, a many time returner. His jumping off point is the current account trade deficit. What he doesn't do is connect the dots from domestic bucks to international trade dependent on sufficient US Bucks in the system to support non-deflationary growth. That last bit is an oxymoron, naturally.

Here's where Porter finally gets closer to the point
But slashing the trade deficit for good will be very tough. That would require weakening the American dollar, the reserve currency of the world. That would be no easy task.

The dollar is the main currency used in global trade, as well as international capital market transactions. People and governments the world over store their wealth in American stocks and bonds. What's more, the dollar is the go-to currency in the time of financial crises, even if the crises at hand are centered in the United States. Against these forces it is hard to keep the dollar down.

From AnandTech we get the louder drumbeat of the Brave New World; run by Corps rather than the Damn Gummint, of course.
From the beginning, the NNP and its Nervana Engine predecessor have aimed at displacing GPUs in the machine learning and AI space, where applications can range from weather prediction and autonomous vehicles to targeted advertising on social media.
[my emphasis]

I wonder. Will they take payment in rubles?

17 October 2017

The Gull Flies True

Once again, the editors of the NYT have shown their sense of humor. Two articles which illustrate an issue, just not on the same page this time.

The easy one is this Kimmel piece. Kimmel, after all, is an obvious totem these days. And he knows it.
Of course, you want as many people to watch your show as possible. But some things are more important than bringing in a big audience. I hope that we, as a nation, get back to a time where I can have a normal, well-rounded show, that's more focused on Beyoncé and Jay-Z than Donald and Ivanka. But for the time being, this is what's at the forefront of people's minds.

Paired with this piece on the Trumpcare situation.
So for residents of the nearly all-white county, who overwhelmingly voted for President Trump, the fight over the Affordable Care Act is about both lives and livelihoods, access to care and to jobs. And the cloud that remains over the law's future is unsettling.

May be, just may be, these shitkickers will figure out that the Billionaire Boys Club founder cares not a whit about them. He gulled them right good.

12 October 2017

Where Quant Matters

There's only one field where quant really, really matters and it's not tech and it's not finance (666). It's biopharma. And the reason, naturally, is that, past the discovery process, it's all about the numbers. Do the numbers from the trials demonstrate that CompoundX is really better than some placebo or Standard of Care?? Bayesians, may you rot in hell if you get your hands on clinical trials.

If you follow biopharma more than casually, you know of Derek Lowe. Today's musing is mandatory.
How many of the bullish investors in that company [Axovant] realized (or really understood) that the same exact compound had failed a well-run Phase II trial in Alzheimer's, and that since then two other drugs with the exact same mechanism of action had done the same?

I've used the epithet more than once: "as any math stat will tell you, give me a large enough sample size and I'll get you stat sig for a ham sandwich curing cancer". Well, here's a snip from a comment to Lowe's piece
I went back to look at the REVEAL results, and no wonder they are not filing it. The CV event rates were 10.8% for anacetrapib and 11.8% for placebo. That is a microscopic effect size. True, the p-value was 0.004, but that is probably due to the "black hole" effect common to many outcome trials - small difference trend toward significance when the sample size becomes large. No payer would reimburse for this level of efficacy, p-value or not.
-- Emjeff

Read through the comments. As of when I type this, they're at least as acerbic as Lowe. Well, a whole lot more. Good on 'em.

Balance the Scale

Here's some of a comment on a Seeking Alpha piece on Apple's new iPhones
Perhaps you aren't familiar with a manufacturing concept called economies of scale. Apple produces hundreds of millions of iPhones a year, while most analysts believe Google built no more than 1 million units of the Pixel and Pixel XL in the past 12 months. Something tells me Apple spends a whole lot less on each iPhone than Google does on each Pixel phone.
-- Bradmeister

A rookie mistake, naturally. Non-quants generally view EoS as, at least, infinitely linear to 0 average cost. That's stupid, naturally. EoS is determined by sector/company specific factors. And there's no evidence that EoS follows a linear trend, rather that it reaches minimum at some asymptotic value. (oooooh!! that notion again!!)

To put it another way, there are four generalist parts of production: capital equipment, input materials/assemblies, power, and labor. EoS is a result of technological advances, not just higher production, it's not some magical side effect of simply making more widgets. Imagine a semi-conductor production cell. It takes in sand at one end and spits out finished chips at the other; that's fanciful, to some extent, but close enough. Now how are there EoS for such a closed world production method? There aren't, naturally. With such a fixed capital stock, there's no average cost advantage to make more chips than 24/7/365 use of such a cell. You have to buy/build another cell. If you can't run it 24/7/365, i.e. sell its full output, your average cost/chip overall goes up, not down. Since this cell demands little to no labor, there's nothing much to be gained through labor saving. Supply of input materials/assemblies may or may not in total decline based upon outside factors.

So, in sum, it's unlikely that Apple or Samsung has much production cost advantage, especially given that the vast majority of iPhone is built by others than Apple. To the extent that EoS exists, Apple benefits just as much as Samsung et al since they all buy from the same underlying vendors who build to satisfy all comers. A falling tide lowers all boats. The notion that Apple will in-house production is foolish; they'll slide down the EoS to higher cost. There's a reason Apple has never made much of what it sells.

11 October 2017

Ashes to Ashes

Ever since, at least, the "totally destroy" North Korea nonsense from Donald J. Quisling, I've had a bothersome homo economicus nag. We know that NK has thousands of artillery along the DMZ (remember, the Korean War is not over, only an armistice) aimed at Seoul and environs. SK manufacturing is scattered over the country, but the administrative centers of these companies are in Seoul. Cut off the head, kill the dragon.

So, kill a million or two South Koreans, and put an end to the American consumer economy. Such a deal. Lose, lose. America first; all those jobs will come back to the USofA. Dontcha think??

10 October 2017

Ace of Trumps

So, we have this report today, wherein Donald J. Quisling throws down the gauntlet. I expect you can find the same on your news source of choice, modulo InfoWars and kin.
Speaking to Forbes magazine, Mr. Trump was reacting to the report that Tillerson had previously called the president a "moron."

I think it's fake news, but if he did that, I guess we'll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.

Of course, yesterday I did some innterTubes surfing to attempt to confirm what Donald J. Quisling has said in the past, that he's a smart guy. Oddly, he's never provided verification of his grades anywhere. Can you believe that? One should see that in the graduation book.

09 October 2017

Robin Hood, Well May Be Not

The notion that giving mo moolah to the rich will, instantly, yield more jobs has been rejected by most analysts at least since Laffer/Reagan when the gambit was tried. It was tried again by W. Neither giveaway led to more jobs or growth. Nor would it, considering that The Rich have no interest in growth or jobs. Again, do the arithmetic: Treasuries keep getting bid up (interest down) just because the 1% are chicken hearts when it comes to investment. They've no gonads for that sort of thing.

But, one might assert, the argument is just academic jealously of The Rich. Well, may be. But today's reporting from a Job Creator supports this fundamental truth.
As an entrepreneur myself and a friend to many others, I know that lower tax rates will not motivate more people to start companies. People start companies for many reasons: a compelling idea, ambition for fame and fortune, a desire to be one's own boss, frustration with one's employer. I have never heard someone say, "I would have started a company, but tax rates were too high" or "I wouldn't have started this company, but then George W. Bush cut tax rates, so I did."

Finally, some good sense (you've read the same here a number of times)
I am an entrepreneur and a businessman, but I am also a citizen. I believe tax cuts that deepen our already severe inequality in income and wealth are not in the long-term interests of any citizens, not even the very wealthy. Extreme inequality is corroding our civil society, poisoning our politics, and undermining our effectiveness as a nation. This is an extremely hard problem to solve, but when you're in a deep ditch, the first thing to do is stop digging.

Thought for the day - 9 October 2017

Echoing Comey,
Lordy, I hope there are tapes.
Wouldn't it be a treat if Corker has recordings of his dealings with Donald J. Quisling? Proving, of course, that Donald J. Quisling really did ask him to run in 2018 and offering support.

07 October 2017

On Getting Old

simple-talk's Database Weekly (you should subscribe) has a link to this comment-less piece on the persistence of C. Which word structure always reminds me of Dali.

[the Wiki]

I only have a couple of points to add. C dates from 1969, so is 50 years old in decadal terms; although it was sequestered to Bell Labs, more or less, for some years. COBOL is an even older language, and going strong for the same reason: billions of lines of code which would be way too expensive to re-write in PHP. And the author offers this
C is often referred to as cross platform assembly.
The way I learned it, the epithet was a tad stronger: C is the universal assembler. And not at all, really. Years before Excel there was something called Lotus 1-2-3. The first few version ran in DOS assembler, with so-called character graphics. The machines of the day were 8088 cpu, typically < 512MB, no floating point co-processor (-87), and perhaps a 5MB hard drive. Mitch decided on MS macro assembler as the language to use, since he had only enough man-years for one effort. He decided on the IBM PC as the platform, and then he had to decide on the OS and language. Gates won. And it was a blinding success. It made the IBM PC the device to have in any serious business. But, for reasons I've never bothered to track down (but fairly easy to guess), around the 4th release it was re-written in C. This was DOS 3.0. Wherever I was working, we "upgraded" from the assembler version to the C version (I doubt the powers that be had any idea), but without upgrading the machines.

Boy howdy!! What had been instant screen updates turned into the cursor slow dancing across the screen. Assembler, indeed!! Which is why any serious compute work is still done in a real assembler.

04 October 2017

Why? I'll Tell You

During one of last night's MSNBC chat shows, one of the pundits (failing memory says Chris Matthews) said something like:
When they wrote the Second Amendment, they were talking about muskets!!

Which is true. Here's the text
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

In historical context, of course, a Militia in 1791 was the same as the National Guard today: a state entity, not insurgents in Montana or other shitkicker empty states. That's the main reason opponents of unfettered access to guns say the 2nd has no basis for civilian access to military grade weapons.


Look back at 1791, and you see that (esp. non-urban) American civilians and standing army soldiers used the same weapon: a musket. Yes, the army had cannon and ships and such, but the soldier and the civilian had the same weapon. While I don't follow the NRA at all, I expect that someplace they've made just that argument: the civilian deserves access to the same weapon as the soldier, or the army will subjugate the populace.

Spider's Web

The Supremes are reviewing the anti-gerrymandering case, and the thought crossed my mind that someone, particularly of the Democratic vein, should have done some research. Recall the thesis presented here, and subsequently repeated by some of the mainstream pundits (without crediting your humble servant, of course), that there aren't Red states and Blue states. There are Blue cities and Red shitkicker empty counties.

Given gerrymandering, Rightwing success in minority rule, and the actual distribution of Reds and Blues, one would expect that Red legislatures (which predominate in having re-districting power) would attack cities by pie-wedging their area so that it often/always ends up that districts have some Blue city folks outnumbered by Red shitkickers. Kind of like a spider's web. One might expect this would be easy to demonstrate with the funds, folks and time that major think tanks have. Dontcha think?

I did, and here's what I found.

Here's a Washington Post article, which references the latest Brennan Center report. Neither, that I could find explicitly calls out urban cracking.

And, here's something explicit
For example, a Republican-held district near Philadelphia that had been trending toward Democrats was stretched westward to take in more conservative voters. And Democratic-leaning voters in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre were shifted out of a Republican-held seat into a Democratic-led district to help protect the GOP incumbent.

Law Street, at least, makes the case that such a process exists, but doesn't show such a district map. Oh well:
An example of cracking is when poor, urban voters are spread across districts where a large majority of the voters are rural. This prevents the urban voters from carrying much weight during elections. This is the most common type of gerrymandering.

OK, so ThinkProgress has some of the Wisconsin map. Very pretty.
[W]here Democrats lived near large blocs of Republicans, Democratic communities were "cracked" up and placed in multiple districts that were overwhelmingly likely to elect a Republican.

AKA, cities chopped up and bundled into shitkicker empty spaces.


03 October 2017

Whites Only

One segment of the population, and vaguely multi-culti, has figured out that the Donald J. Quisling cabal is purely white racist. Over the last few weeks I've seen Ta-Nehisi Coates on various chat shows, due to the imminent release of his book, "We Were Eight Years in Power". For those who've not seen him, or don't read "The Atlantic" any longer (your humble servant included), the book is a chronological collection of (all of?) his essays over the Obama presidency.

Rather than just collect and reprint the texts, he includes an introductory commentary to each one. Anyway, today's NYT has a review by Jennifer Senior, which you just have to read. You may skip the book because you don't want to be that up close and personal with a black guy, but read the review. And, as you can see, she's very white.

Pardon me for piling on, but here's that word you so often see in these missives, although applied to a different problem:
With Obama's election, Coates briefly allowed himself to entertain the same belief. He was quickly disenchanted. It's clear he now believes this arc, at best, reaches an asymptote — that dastardly dotted line it can never quite touch. And even that's probably too optimistic a reading.

Near the end of the piece is the gut punch, and well deserved,
In the election of Trump, Coates sees an affirmation of his bleak worldview. "To Trump whiteness is neither notional nor symbolic but is the very core of his power," he writes in the final essay here, recently published to much attention in The Atlantic. "Every Trump voter is most certainly not a white supremacist," Coates writes. "But every Trump voter felt it acceptable to hand the fate of the country over to one."
[my emphasis]

02 October 2017

The Blind Leading the Blind

Just caught this from Feuerstein's twitter feed. Here's the money quote:
VP of research at State Street sent me an amazing chart. This yr 67% of companies in the $XBI are underperforming the $XBI itself by > 10%.

So, the Masters of the World of Finance are amazed that income and wealth, even among the Corporates is heavily skew right?? I betcha these guys all have MBAs from Harvard.

01 October 2017

Great Job, Brownie - part the second

Donald J. Quisling continues to bray about how wonderful the response has been to Puerto Rico. One of the news shows had a display:
Haiti earthquake - 50,000 troops and equipment one week in
Puerto Rico - 10,000 troops and little equipment one week in

Donald J. Quisling brays that Puerto Ricans haven't done enough to distribute materiel, which would be funny if it were reasonable. He brays that Puerto Rico is surrounded by water thus,
This is an island surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water.

Spoken like any petulant six year old who's finally looked at a globe. But here's the salient fact
1,380 mi (1,200 nmi; 2,220 km) with ESSS stub wings and external tanks.

That's the ferry range of the Black Hawk helicopter. So, if you can get a squadron or ten to Miami, you can get them to Puerto Rico.
direct: Miami to San Juan - 1,031 miles
hopping: Miami to Nassau - 184 miles, Nassau to Turks - 469 miles, Turks to San Juan - 383 miles

So shut up. You could have had all the choppers in the USofA military distributing stuff all over the island in a few days. If you cared about a bunch of bankrupt dirty Spics who'd never vote for you. White grievance with maximum vengeance.