24 November 2016

Thought For The Day - 24 November 2016 (it's a Turkey) [update]

Well, it is Thanksgiving (at least, in the USofA), so there should be something to be thankful for. One would think so? Here's some musings on The Donald's announced appointments.

Atty. General, Jeff Sessions: will bring white supremacy to a head, by actually implementing voter suppression, as he did while Alabama AG.

HUD, Ben Carson: will implement a voucher-only housing support program, which will enable slum lords across this great land to be even richer; mortality and morbidity of residents will soar as maintenance of buildings will be optional under the now Rand based HUD, thus eliminating the less desirables (not to say, deplorables) from the population. One might call it the Carson Plague.

Education, Betsy DeVos: the Scamway of teaching will be the way of the future. The Bible thumping, snake handling, incestuous states will be encouraged to teach "traditional subjects" such as the earth is 6,000 years old, people froliced with dinosaurs, and the Bible is the only history book in use. Science will be deemed anti-American, and only white wives with at least three children will be certified as teachers.

UN, Nikki Haley: since she speaks in tongues, will be able to communicate with all members of the body without need of simultaneous translation.

Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus: cat's paw for Bannon (see below).

Chief Counsel, Steve Bannon: the really nice, smart guy that The Donald greatly admires. His white supremacist Breitbart doesn't really represent The Donald's view of the country. Will be in charge of building, staffing, and filling the rural re-education camps for all urbanites with IQ above 100, documented Democratic voting, multi-cultural thought patterns, and lacking family Bible handed down at least four generations.

Be thankful for a real, great America of the future.

[update 1:38 pm EST]
Just tuned into the Vikings/Lions game, and saw this ad. Cook has sent a shot across The Donald's bow. I'd bet on Tiny Tim.

21 November 2016

Thought For the Day - 21 November 2016

Those following Mr. Market have seen the argument about whether twitter's worth its share price, who might buy it, and how soon it goes the way of My Space. It occurs to me that The Donald's use of twitter as his propaganda vehicle will be its salvation. Technology to the rescue. I guess.

Red River Valley

As chronicled here for some time, well, once more. The divide here in the USofA has been urban/rural from the time of the Constitution's construction. It's only in the last few decades, from when Nixon instituted the Southern Strategy, the divide became Red State, Blue State. But that just confuses the issue. As mentioned here before, there are few, if any, homogeneous Red states; even Red states have Blue cities.

Here's a lengthy piece, with many on-point quotes, that describes the situation.
In 1920, for the first time, the Census Bureau counted more people living in urbanized America than in the countryside. This hasn't been a rural nation ever since.
and this
The Electoral College is just one example of how an increasingly urban country has inherited the political structures of a rural past. Today, states containing just 17 percent of the American population, a historic low, can theoretically elect a Senate majority.

Not to mention that the Red state whiners consistently are net moochers on the Federal purse:

Red states are twice as dependent on the Damn Gummint than the Blue States. Of course.

The only near term solution is the 270 state compact. I suspect that a Roberts' court will declare it unconstitutional, since it evades one interpretation of the state/Senate sovereignty clause. Hopefully, we get to find out.

A Grove of Olive Branches

Andy Grove, of Intel fame, is famous for "Only the Paranoid Survive", both epithet and book. While a reasonable adage in the micro world of corporations and sectors (not that corporates engage in oligopoly as a matter of course, of course), it's a bad foundation for heads of state. With Putin and his puppet The Donald leading the Western world in thin skinned whininess, we're in for a spiral into totalitarianism. The Donald tweets (will he still be spending his Presidential overnights all thumbs?) angrily about a fourth wall speech at "Hamilton". And now we find today a poll (oversampled against him, of course :):) ) demonstrating our collective revulsion of him.

Oh, and no, Ford didn't not move to Mexico because The Donald interceded. Ford never was going to move that plant to Mexico. The good thing about tweets, from The Donald's point of view, is that they're difficult to fact-check in real time. And how would you get the truth to The Donald's fawners? You see the problem? A congenital liar has the advantage.

17 November 2016

Pareto Failure

Quants, whether finance, bio, or econ consider themselves amoral in their approach. Just crunch the numbers.

After Adam Smith, Wilfredo Pareto is likely the "quant" most likely familiar to those interested in econ. Well, more theory than stat, but still. He defined a sort of optimal equilbrium, in the macro sense. In sum, the optimal allocation has been reached when further shifting of resources amongst participants yields lower overall "satisfaction".

The failure of Pareto is illustrated by a classic example: if one has a group of three individuals and a pie of resources where two of the three have taken half of the pie each, then Pareto optimal has been reached. The rationale is that any part of the pie going to the third individual means the two (either alone or tandem) must relinquish some resource. It's not surprising that Mussolini liked Pareto: he provided a sort of "scientific" excuse for autocracy.

Whether he's heard of or read Pareto, Trump is taking the Mussolini tack. That didn't deter him from selling a bill of goods to the poorly educated white (formerly blue collar middle) class. And they bought it by the bushel. We already know, although they will most likely ignore the reality (esp. if they get their news through Facebook!) or consider The Donald's tweets truth, that The Donald has thrown them under the bus. He was recorded telling his rich steakhouse billionaire buddies that they're going to get that wonderful tax break.

Will they believe their own ears, or just the continuing dog whistles from Trump Tower?

16 November 2016

Thought For The Day - 16 November 2016

In 1964 Goldwater, or as he was known to his followers AuH2O, ran as the President of not governing. He lost. Reagan ran the same way, but won. Neither, at least once the job's purpose became manifest, shirked their duty. Much of what they did was to turn governance to lining the pockets of the wealthy, but at least they governed.

Make no mistake, what you see going on with Trump is a purposeful effort to destroy governance. I see the various pundits, the not Breibart wing, wringing their hands over the incompetence of the transition. After all that Trump has said and done since he went Birther Ballistic, haven't they learned that he plays only one song? Trump only knows absolute power. His network of companies are privately held. His outside investors have no control of their investments. There are no public shareholders. Trump's word is fiat.

Why would he seek any other mentor than Putin? He doesn't need a transition because he and his kids will do the thumbs up or thumbs down on all decisions, just as what was done in Rome.

12 November 2016

The British Really Are Smarter Than a Republican

Leave it to the Brits the to figure out the US. For some months, these endeavors have argued that the Red/Blue dichotomy is actually false. The issue is urban/rural, and always has been. Except for the most empty of the Empty States™, blue cities abound. It's just that what have been characterized as Red states were, for a couple of hundred years, devoid of cities. Not so much anymore. Only if the Trump administration manages to fully implement voter suppression can the Right Wingnuts continue to control governance. Cities make for liberal ethos. God's country makes for tribalism and bigotry and the like.

Who's Driving The Car?

Thanks to simple-talk, I'm informed that Fabian Pascal has posted part two (part one is linked) of his series on "Principle of Orthogonal Database Design". If you read here, you should read this series. I've long mused that the essence of RDBMS is notion of independence in the data. Sometimes this is voiced as "one fact, one place, one time". I like orthogonal; it's a word that makes me giggle and has for years. Along with "batshit", which describes coders who "prefer to do transactions on the client". Totally batshit.

Which raises a question: are triggers as bad or necessary as discussed in Joe Celko's piece, also on simple-talk? One of the commenters describes an, alleged, corner case which demands trigger support. Joe provides an extensive answer, on point.

But I've always thought about such corner cases from the other direction: if the RM is consistent, which it looks so to me, and a SQL database schema is faithful to the RM, which vendors certainly don't enforce, then the answer may be somewhat different. The answer could, likely so, be that the application "logic" which demands the corner case trigger is wrong. Further normalization to reach organic normal form™ is the avenue of escape. After all, the RM is really a logic engine. It's no coincidence that the database language datalog shadows the programming logic language prolog.

Just a thought.

11 November 2016

Thought For The Day - 11 November 2016

That didn't take long.

Was it just yesterday that Hillary and Barack told us to give King Donald of Orange a chance to lead?

Well, the protests have already started. Reporting has it that EPA admin candidates are climate deniers.

His lead bullet point is abortion ban.

Lead? I predict, on the economic front, that he'll (by intent or stupidity) Volckerize the economy because
1 - he and his buddies want 10% risk-free return on their idle moolah because they're too chicken shit to make real investment, so the damn gummint must provide them with much higher, liveable, unearned income
2 - he and his buddies seek to destroy non-existent inflation; one can never start too soon to halt the scourge of inflation

And, of course, his propaganda chief (Giuliani?) will bullhorn that the ensuing catastrophe was the fault of Obama. And, of course, the reactionary rural rubes who voted for him will swallow hook, line, and sinker.

10 November 2016

Democracy? Not So Much

The electoral college is a constitutional relic of a fundamentally different nation, one with 13 states and a potential electorate of 2.5 million citizens, slashed dramatically by restrictions that limited the franchise to white, land-owning Protestant men.
-- The Guardian

Just the sort of electorate the reactionary rural rubes who gave us Trump have wet dreams about. Of course, most of them have no land, but who's paying attention. And they're stupid enough to think he'll wave his fairy wand and give them 90210 wage jobs. As if. Trump will do what every Republican has always done: give himself and his ilk more. He'll make an effort to give them satisfaction by further restricting abortion and having the DoJ flipping on voting suppression. DoJ will take the lead in legislating preventatives against voter fraud. And so on.

Funny thing is (and you can go find more for your own amusement) he violently tweeted back in 2012 that the Electoral College should be abolished. Depends on who's ox is being gored. Ya think?

09 November 2016

The B School Is Not, Very Not, Amused

This particular bit of R isn't of intrinsic interest to me, but the title can't be ignored, given some earlier musings here.
Webscraping with rvest: So Easy Even An MBA Can Do It!

Thought For The Day - 9 November 2016

Well, now we know the unvarnished truth: middle America, God's country, is unrepentantly white supremacist. While they live fat and happy on their $14 billion (and climbing) farm subsidies. And, I suppose, King Donald of Orange will bray about his "mandate", denying the simple fact he got fewer votes than Clinton. The wonders of gerrymandering and the Electoral College.

"The Economist" says it's even higher:
American farm subsidies are egregiously expensive, harvesting $20 billion a year from taxpayers' pockets. Most of the money goes to big, rich farmers producing staple commodities such as corn and soyabeans in states such as Iowa.

I guess it might be even more profitable if slavery could be re-instated. Don't laugh, the re-education camps will be opening soon. All of the intellectual elites on the coasts will be required to report.

What's amusing, in an "I told you so" mood is that healthcare provider stocks are in the tank on the basis that Obamacare might go away: lower volume will drive up average cost, and lower volume some more since even the blessed insured will find themselves priced out; rinse and repeat.

07 November 2016

Size Matters - Part The Second

Generally speaking, one sees drug developers announcing that some clinical trial is going so well that they've decided to increase sample size. That's baloney, of course, since trial success is intimately tied to p-value, and that's (for a given delta) inversely proportional to n. So, what they really mean is, "this shit ain't making it, so let's drown them with data points!" May be, just may be, the trial will squeak into stat sig (even if it's some post-hoc subset!) before the budget runs out. The delta might not even be clinically meaningful, but what the hell; FDA could still approve.

Today brings something of an exception: a revision (if I read this correctly) to lower sample size:
6:06 am Intec Pharma announces that the protocol for the Accordance Study has been amended to reflect input from opinion leaders and biostatisticians specializing in PD (NTEC) : Co states, "The amended protocol's sample size estimation uses a predicted standard deviation that is based on recent evidence from similar Parkinson's disease clinical trials. Using this estimated standard deviation and the same predicted difference between the active intervention and control, we achieve a substantial savings in sample size, without altering the objectives, endpoints or statistical power of the Accordance Study."
[briefing.com 7 November 2016]

Something of a roll of the dice, given that neuro drugs are notoriously difficult to measure in the first place.

05 November 2016

Thought For The Day - 5 November 2016

"Business Insider" is, as one might expect, a capitalist's organ. So you should read up its paranoid ravings on the result of anointing King Donald of Orange.
Trump's proposed tax cuts for the rich will not stimulate growth, just as the Bush tax cuts did not stimulate growth (because taxes on the wealthy are not actually stifling growth -- what is stifling growth is the lack of middle-class spending power). The tax cut will, however, increase the deficit and accelerate the growth of federal debt. President Trump will blame this on Congress and the Obama administration.

Personally, I hope most of this doesn't happen. I hope that President Trump would be the president that some of his smarter supporters expect him to be -- not the mean, petty, reckless, and uninformed proto-tyrant he sounds like, but a reasonable, effective pragmatist who just enjoys entertaining crowds by saying outrageous and offensive things and otherwise acting like a boor.

But given how consistent Trump has been in his actions and pronouncements over the past 18 months, I think it's more likely that what we've seen is what we would get.

04 November 2016

Nor Any Job But Think

These endeavors exist in a number of versions on multiple platforms.

One version has the following sub-title:
It's the Distribution, Stupid

That version also has some relevant quotes, among which is this:
As mass production has to be accompanied by mass consumption; mass consumption, in turn, implies a distribution of wealth -- not of existing wealth, but of wealth as it is currently produced -- to provide men with buying power equal to the amount of goods and services offered by the nation's economic machinery.
-- Marriner Eccles

Eccles has a bio on the Wiki. The point is that he was an FDR advisor during the Great Depression. This is the most elegant description of the capitalists' dilemma: physical capital earns its keep through productivity, but more importantly, sales of that output. No demand, no return. This is the simple explanation for why corporations and the 1% are sitting on trillions of idle $$$. They have lost the ability to turn fiduciary capital into productive physical capital. Thus we had the DotBomb (idle cash chasing The Next Big Thing), the Great Recession (idle cash chasing home mortgages) and today's 1.5% Treasuries (idle cash chasing "zero risk" return). In all three cases, there was little to no positive macro effect.

As Election Day approaches, we hear The Donald claiming to have the cure to the downwardly mobile middle class. Never mind that it's been confirmed that most of his wealth is from financial and tax engineering. He continues to blame capitalists for using immigrant labor and cheap imported materials. Just as he did with his Washington hotel.

"Di bot boss, di bot."

It's been obvious for some decades that the Luddites were right, just a century or two early. The current crisis, the non-recovery of jobs from The Great Recession, is merely the most recent manifestation. The bots have been on the rise for some time.
America has lost more than seven million factory jobs since manufacturing employment peaked in 1979. Yet American factory production, minus raw materials and some other costs, more than doubled over the same span to $1.91 trillion last year, according to the Commerce Department, which uses 2009 dollars to adjust for inflation. That's a notch below the record set on the eve of the Great Recession in 2007. And it makes U.S. manufacturers No. 2 in the world behind China.

But there are two sides to the middle class problem. The bots mostly explain the loss of the blue collar middle class. The rise of FIRE is the other side of the coin.

Back to 1800. The Luddites have forever been opposed by the Techs. Through the middle of the 20th century, the Techs held the policy upper hand. The argument, generally offered as some version of Pareto optimality. The crux of Pareto is that the "winners" *could* compensate the "losers" and still gain. But Pareto justifications never seem to require the compensation.
Thus, in practice, to ensure that nobody is disadvantaged by a change aimed at achieving Pareto efficiency, compensation of one or more parties may be required.

Where the Techs' analysis fails is to assume that the farm-to-factory migration of the late 19th through mid-20th century is still the exemplar to be followed today. That earlier labor migration worked because farmers could do factory work, since it required less skill, brain power, than what they had been doing. The dollar wage may have been a tad better, due to value of goods made.

But with the rise of FIRE as the sink for "skilled", brain work, labor has made a migration from lost manufacturing quite impossible. Worse, FIRE is a net overhead at the macro level. MBAs make money by moving Uncle Sam's moolah from the left pocket to the right pocket, and deducting a fine fee for the effort.
The Department of Education numbers support his point. In 1980-1981, some 19.1% of all the master's granted were in business. In 1990-1991, advanced degrees in business grew to 22.8% of the total market, and in 2000-2001, it was 24.4%.

Just what the world needs, more Liar Loans, LIBOR fiddling, and London Whales.

So, as the meta-quote from Bill Clinton says, capitalism (whether laissez faire or socialist) can only survive when aggregate demand tracks output. We know from the data that, on the whole, wealth and income concentration have put a spike in that. The situation will only get worse if King Donald of Orange takes the opportunity to worsen the concentration with his avowed tax plan.
[T]axpayers in the top 1 percent would see the largest increase in after-tax income on a static basis, driven by both the lower top marginal tax rate and the lower corporate income tax. Under the higher-rate assumption this increase would be 10.2 percent, and under the lower-rate assumption this increase would be 16.0 percent.

Further, the notion that giving more moolah to profit-rich corporations and 1%-ers will lead to investment-driven Nirvana has been proven a lie at least since the Laffer Supply Side nonsense. One can't push a string; monetary policy can contract an economy by killing the money supply. As the QE extension of TARP has shown, those with idle moolah don't make more physical investment if you give them yet more moolah. They just run, lemming like, toward Treasuries. There's a reason they bring about 1.5%: the CxO class is impotent.

03 November 2016

Data, Data Everywhere

A couple of interesting pieces in today's news on the data front. Some may recall the Triage piece from the early days of these endeavors. The point being to parse factors driving voter motivation to mete out cash in the most effective way. There's been more reporting during this election on "algorithmic modeling" in campaign management. You read it here half a decade ago.

So, today one side of the election is making fun of Big Data and widely reported public polls. Messina makes the case for Little Data. It sounds something along the lines of the Moody's prediction which is totally poll-free.
Clinton is forecast to pick up 332 Electoral College votes against 206 for Republican Donald Trump, Moody's Analytics predicted on Tuesday in the final update of its model before Election Day on Nov. 8. That would match Obama's margin of victory over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in 2012.

Messina makes the case that targeted data is more informative than widespread polling. Little Data beats Big Data.

The other supportive piece confirms a point made here more than once: the Red/Blue divide is really an Urban/Rural divide.
"What happens if you abandon the places where most people live?" said Mr. Perlstein, the historian. After its 2012 defeat, the Republican Party wrung its hands over the need to face demographic change in a country that's becoming majority-minority. But geography poses a problem, too: Once-white suburbs are growing more diverse; poverty is spreading there; and central cities that Republicans relinquished are now the country's economic engines.

Thanks to the Obama/DNC stupidity before the 2010 mid-term elections (which provoked the Triage piece), the Right solidified its minority ruling class base through the simple expedient of rampant gerrymandering. It may happen, and perhaps forever, that Democrats win the popular vote, due to my personal definition of "over voting" in cities, yet lose the Electoral College. Once that happens, there's exactly 0 chance of getting a Constitutional elimination of the College. Right wing minority control of governance becomes permanent.

Have a nice day.

02 November 2016

Thought For The Day - 2 November 2016

Major European indices trade in negative territory amid widespread risk aversion associated with Tuesday's presidential election in the United States.
-- briefing.com/2 November 2016 @7:24am

Not that King Donald of Orange cares what anyone thinks, so long as he gets his unearned tax breaks.

01 November 2016

Thought For The Day - 1 November 2016 [update 3 November 2016]

It will be discovered, some months from now, that the Abedin email dump on the Weiner machine were planted by rogue (or so it will be claimed at the time) FBI agents using the copies made from the private server. These will be the self same agents who demanded further action against Clinton during the initial private server inquiry. Unrequited, they set out to elect Trump.

Well, that didn't take long: here
"The FBI is Trumpland," said one current agent.
The FBI would not comment for this story.

There has been other, emerging, reporting. Of course.