29 November 2017

Yay! Miners

In keeping with today's theme that data isn't always real enough for some people, we get an admission that pharma isn't above lowering the level.
Basically, whenever a trial fails, there's almost always a group of patients — left-handed Peruvian men who hate the taste of basil, say — in whom it works. Drawing conclusions from such analyses is statistically fraught, to say the least, so why do scientists so often do so?

"One answer — unpleasant but real — is that pharmaceutical companies want to put a positive spin on their drugs, even when the trials fail to show benefit," writes Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, who has personal experience in the subject.

Barbarians at the Gate

Long time reader well knows that my view of R is its capability as a stat command language is the Goldilocks point, but surely not as a programming language. Ugh!! to the latter. "Real" coders want little to nothing to do with it. With the rise of C++ interface packages, I predicted that ever more "coding" in R would cede to C/C++, and R would develop into a better SAS/SPSS/BMDP (if you know the last, your old).

Well, another data point today:
1250 user packages is staggering. We can use the progression of CRAN itself compiled by Henrik in a series of posts and emails to the main development mailing list. A decade ago CRAN itself did not have 1250 packages, and here we are approaching 12k with Rcpp at 10% and growing steadily. Amazeballs.

This is actually a good thing, IMO. Let the bare knuckle coders do the dirty work, and the rest of us can get along with analysis. Even if, in the dawn of the Orange Julius Caesar dictatorship, policy will be driven by whim and conspiracy theory and self-dealing we can still try to get "facts" to the public.

28 November 2017

Flat Chested

The hawks, whether chicken hawk war monger (I'm talking to you Orange Julius Caesar) or zealous monetarists, are always walking around with their chests pumped up and out, saying "Look at me Snowflake!!!" Well, avid reader will recall warnings in these endeavors that, if those fakirs get their way (I'm talking to you McConnell and Ryan, too), you'll see a rate inversion that will blow a whole in your head.

Today's news brings some mainstream reporting inching closer to confirming that eventuality.
Finally, an inverted yield curve has predicted the past 7 recessions. Flattening isn't the same thing as inverting, but it is one step closer. Morgan Stanley notes that "we are not on recession watch now, and peg the 12-month probability of recession at 25% ... [but] by 2020, that probability grows to near certainty."

Note that the author makes the common mistake: asserting that the Fed "controls" short-term interest rate. It doesn't, in fact. The Fed coaxes the really short-term rate(s), but hasn't the power to set any rate by fiat. And, as mentioned here more than once:
Concurrently, as global central banks expand their balance sheets, that puts downward pressure on long-term rates.

Note, again, that it's not just central banks sending moolah into their economies through buying up existing instruments (thus generating more moolah in hands already holding more idle moolah than they can invest in physical capital), it's also the MegaCorps sitting on trillions of idle moolah, too. As they say in Econ 101: supply and demand work to set the market clearing price. That price isn't guaranteed to be in the medium, much less long, term benefit of the entire economy. In the end, all that idle moolah bids up Treasuries even more, and crushes interest rates. I'll remind gentle reader that the Right Wingnut Donor Class will soon be pressuring for fixed rate instruments, rather than auctioned. And take away holding time restrictions on capital gains, naturally. Much like Orange Julius Caesar's tax cut, most of the benefit often goes to the 1%.

27 November 2017

My, How Times Have Changed

I know... I like Sammy and all, but I'd like to see them go even lower. 2TB SSDs shouldn't be a luxury anymore.
-- lilmoe/2017

Boy howdy!! How times have changed. Comment on this AnandTech piece on the latest Samsung SSD.

25 November 2017

The Cost of Normalizing

What Orange Julius Caesar hath wrought. Nazi rides again.

22 November 2017

Lump of Coal For Christmas

Gentle reader likely recalls the many times these essays have called out the ingrates in Red states, in particular Appalachia whose population would still be getting water from hand pumped wells, shitting in the dirt, and reading their Bibles with kerosene lamps were it not for the largesse of FDR and developed states. They remain multi-generational ingrates, whose leaders continue to push the USofA toward the United States of Alabama.

Yet another tome telling the tale. I've not yet read the book, and may not, naturally given that I am a member of the choir.
He is aghast that so many Appalachians vote against their own interests. (West Virginia went heavily for Donald Trump.) He posits that jobs versus health is a false choice. He suggests a way forward that includes reparations, the creation of new kinds of communities, free college tuition and other remedies.

As stated here more than once: the uneducated, unskilled, unemployed won't be helped by the likes of Orange Julius Caesar. He's just a Barnum, fleecing the already dispossessed, so hidebound and uneducated that they'll blame The Others (city/black/educated folks) rather than themselves for their predicament if gulled by an expert charlatan.

The review closes:
If a country can be judged by how it treats its worst-off citizens, we do not seem especially virtuous. "What made politicians and investors think," Stoll writes, "that they could do whatever they wanted wherever they wanted?"

The answer, naturally, lies in the title of Thomas Franks' "What's The Matter With Kansas". It's the stupidity, stupid.

Minority Report, part the fourth

Another episode in the continuing tale of minority rule. Gentle reader should recall that these endeavors have made the point that macro policy, if done based on data, relies on government collected and dispensed data. Moreover, gentle reader will remember the posts dealing with the events of 2010, when I had interviewed at the DNC in advance of that election. The Democrats totally ignored the effect of the census, while the Right Wingnuts created REDMAP.

It's gotten worse. The 2020 census is slated to be run by this Nazi. It's one thing to gerrymander, quite another to fuck the basic data. Let's all slow goose step to the arena; dictatorship by slippery slope.

21 November 2017

Visitors Stink After Three Days

And, do you still believe all those corporations will give you a nice fat raise if they get huuuuuuuuge tax cuts? And ban unions? Well, do you punk?
They are paid as little as $10 an hour, and brought to the U.S. for six months at a time thanks to these visas, which allow foreigners to supervise work, but not actually do it themselves, a loophole we found being exploited at the expense of American workers.

Wake up Johnny Reb.

18 November 2017

Stupid People Ain't Got No Reason To Live [update]

More than a few folks have excoriated your humble servant for the observation that Democrats are wasting their time trying to win back Orange Julius Caesar zealots. The reason is straightforward: those folks have reached escape velocity from the Real World. They choose to believe anything from the Right Wingnuts.

Finding mainstream pundits who've also thrown in the towel is like looking for hens' teeth. Found one today.
But the problem is not the Russians — it's us. We're getting played because too many Americans are ill equipped to perform the basic functions of citizenship. If the point of the Russian campaign, aided domestically by right-wing media, was to get people to think there is no such thing as knowable truth, the bad guys have won.

Call it the Roy Moore effect; the desire to return to the false notion of 19th century USofA as nearly Eden. It wasn't, for all but the very rich. And these yokels have bought into the Cut Cut Cut Tax plan as good for the 99%.

About the scariest reporting:
When NPR tweeted out sections of the Declaration of Independence last year, many people were outraged. They mistook Thomas Jefferson's fighting words for anti-Trump propaganda.

The bright spot, most non-Right Wingnuts say, were the election victories in Virginia and such. Well, may be. But keep this in mind:
Northam did best in the metropolitan areas of the state like Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia. These places also witnessed the greatest bump in turnout. Northern Virginia saw a 12 percent jump, and Hampton Roads' participation grew by 9 percent. Combined, these two places accounted for more than 50 percent of Tuesday's vote.

Two points: the only way to counter gerrymandering and voter suppression is way, way, way above average turnout, and recognize that the split in the USofA is city/rural not Red/Blue states. Orange Julius Caesar won because the city folk just didn't turn out in PA, MI, WI.
In these three Rust Belt states [Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin], plus Ohio, Trump turned out voters from rural counties, improved on Republican Mitt Romney's 2012 percentage of the vote in most counties and closed the gap in or won Democratic-leaning counties, according to a cleveland.com analysis of unofficial election results.

Will the cities really Resist suppression next year? One might infer that Orange Julius Caesar and the Congress think they've only got a few months left given their frenzy. By most measures, the Base is about 25% of the electorate. The remaining 75% should be enough to toss out these bums.

Nick Kristof weighs in today on the topic. So some quotes.
Yet if one looks at blue and red state populations as a whole, it's striking that conservatives champion "family values" even as red states have high rates of teenage births, divorce and prostitution. In contrast, people in blue states don't trumpet these family values but often seem to do a better job living them.

And David Leonhardt has the wooden stake in the heart of the vampires.
"The G.O.P.," Henry Olsen, a conservative policy expert, recently said, "really wants to do nothing other than cut taxes for businesspeople and the top bracket based on what can only be called religious devotion to supply-side theory."

So, who are these folks?
And most Americans realize that the tax plan is dreadful. Only 16 percent of adults said they thought the plan would reduce their own taxes, according to a Quinnipiac poll released last week.

Just farmers and hedge funders? Strange bedfellows, to be sure.

16 November 2017

Weird Al

For all those looking to add to the Rightwing's slim majority in the Senate by tossing Franken out, a thought. Every male on the planet has, or will before croaking, kissed someone (mostly, females) who didn't really want to be kissed. No one should lose his job over that. There is a limit to punishment.

This is how stupid it gets.
A 6-year-old boy near Colorado Springs, Colorado, was suspended from school for kissing a girl on the hand. You read that correctly.

Al behaved like a 6-year-old, high on testosterone for sure. He isn't, on what we know, Roy Moore.

15 November 2017

Data Yoga

One of the benefits of finishing grad school in the middle of a major recession is that one will, likely, find a position at a much lower starting wage than those who enter the labor market during a raging boom. And that short fall will follow you for the rest of your life. Sweet. Another benefit is that said position will likely be a soporific 9 to 5, with minimal engagement. And the knock-on effect is that you find yourself going from an intense struggle with advisors and classes and papers to write that sucks up all your attention 24/7, to having gobs and gobs of unattended time.

What to do with all that time? Well, one could explore aspects of life not previously experienced. One might move from the brain to the body, for example. Say, yoga and tai-chi and karate and dance, for instance. And if one did so one would make an interesting discovery: as disparate as they sound, all are grounded in two concepts. Those being centeredness and flexibility. Yoga and tai-chi are quite explicit about those two ideas. Dance a bit less so, and depending on the style and instructor, karate yet a bit less so.

Centeredness emphasizes keeping the physical center, about a fist's distance below the navel, balanced with the ground. Flexibility mostly means the pelvis and large muscles as well as the spine. Notably, golfers and baseball players are now beginning to emphasize the need for both. Golfers talk about "getting the hips out of the way". Batters talk about the arms following the hips. And so forth. The light bulb has gone off for them.

Well, centeredness and flexibility are also important to datastores. Not for the first time, I'll remind gentle reader that Chris Date has said many times that there's only one "data model", the RM. The naming of hierarchical and network datastores as "models" is retronymic (if that's really a word). Neither is based on an abstraction, but both on hard-wired application specific structure. XML hell, as many now say.

I bring this up, again, because I found this post, which is chock-a-block with links, particularly NoSQL, particularly this one, which takes on NoSQL's alleged benefits. Gentle reader will likely not be surprised that it lists the issues that Date, Pascal, and humble self have been yakking about for years.

So. The RM is centered because there's an engine (at the center) which keeps the data in line. So to speak. Without that center, each application (in fact, each bit of application code) has to roll its own. Every time. And every time the datastore is changed. Any change to the datastore requires that all code accessing that data be, at least, visited. With the RM/SQL (the latter, sort of, naturally), if one starts with at least 3rd NF data, only the application bits concerned with that table(s) need be looked at. In fact, if one eschews the *, then only those narrow bits of code interested in the added/deleted columns/tables give a crap. You can't do that with XML. So, there's the flexibility of the RM: application code deals with the datastore on a "need to know" protocol. Go read the post; it's a gas.

Those are really good qualities in a datastore. We've had them for the better part of 50 years and only have SQL as implementation language which is only about 3/4 of a glass, and still the kiddies embrace the data tech that their granddaddies used: COBOL file defs. Reactionaries exist beyond the world of politics.

11 November 2017

Can I Have Moore? [update]

The Deplorables have another standout member in Roy Moore. And Bannon/Quisling think that making this country into a total United States of Alabama is a good thing. While the .1% get even richer off the "tax reform" which serves only to perpetuate the transfer of gummint moolah from Blue states to Red states. Where it will be used to support the local .1%, naturally. Schools? Hospitals? Hardly.

Well, here's the definition of Moore:
A person who has already graduated high school, yet still hangs out at all the high school spots with all the kids still in high school.

That definition has a list of synonyms, and yes, pedophile is one them. Of course it is.

Found a link to this post, which includes this comment:
Breaking News: Teresa Jones (Roy Moore's former Deputy DA at the time this stuff was happening) made a public statement today saying:

"It was common knowledge that Roy dated high school girls, everyone we knew thought it was weird," former deputy district attorney Teresa Jones told CNN in comments aired Saturday. "We wondered why someone his age would hang out at high school football games and the mall ... but you really wouldn't say anything to someone like that."
-- Over40VictimOfFate

This is the CBS News post.

09 November 2017

Mine Is Longer Than Yours

It's been some years now that auto loans have moved from the early long history of three year duration to as much as 8. There have been a few missives on the subject in these endeavors, mostly along the line: such loans exist for the sole purpose of lowering the monthly nut of the loan, thus making car purchases possible by folks who can't otherwise do so. The same thing (i.e., bend the norms to lower the nut) happened in housing with the run-up to the great recession.

And, it's been a while since the mainstream media took a look. Today brings some reporting.
... the CFPB noted that they're used especially by consumers with lower credit scores. The average credit score for buyers who take out six-year loans is 674. That's 39 points below the average for consumers who took five-year loans.

Note that 5 years is now defined as the new normal. It isn't.

06 November 2017

Ponzi Was From Boston

"Parts Unknown" remains the Best Show on the TeeVee, and when I saw the listing for the night's episode yesterday afternoon, Puerto Rico, I instantly wondered whether it would be a bookend to the Emmy Nominated "No Reservations" Beirut one. Not quite, but rather close. The recording was done around Easter, 2017 and begins with a voice-over by Bourdain about Maria and ends with a graphic for relief. The episode does discuss, through the lives of residents, the problem of the territory's debt.

Two kind of by-the-way points stood out to me, which this missive will now discuss.
1 - a teacher wonders whether her pension will exist for her in following years, since the pension system is paid on current account (not that either she nor Bourdain understand that). Bourdain describes it as a "Ponzi scheme".
2 - the flight of manufacturing installations after generous tax giveaways expired.

Let's look at 2 first, if only because John Oliver, coincidence or not, devoted much of his show later in the evening to just such blackmail. Studies have been done for decades, and few if any have found lasting benefit to such schemes. Oliver mentions in the course of his piece that the two Kansas Citys (Kansas and Missouri) have been engaged in stealing installations with ever increasing blackmail. In sum, Kansas netted about 1,000 workers at a total cost to both states of $331 million. Bourdain found just that, and showed the abandoned buildings.

As to 1, well both the teacher and Bourdain are totally wrong. Sort of. Pension programs, whether public or private, are by definition inter-generational Ponzi schemes. They have to be, if you consider what their purpose is for just a minute. Here's the consideration.

Social Security came to be in 1935. Whenever a pension program is created out of whole cloth (and to do otherwise is simply not possible), meaning to cover existing folks of age from the get go, it has to run from current account. There's simply no choice. Now, the next question is how to fund the program going forward. The government (the same applies to a private program as well) can "invest" the contributions in existing private corporations, with all of the risk that entails. And who would decide which corporations get the benefit of all that moolah? Or it can "invest" in public fiduciary instruments. Both have distinct problems. In the case of investing in private corporations, there is the fundamental question of conflict of interest: how can government make and enforce laws, if doing so reduces the value of the pension program's fund? Does government turn a blind eye to such violations? Does government, by definition, morph to Fascism (look it up)? The answer, naturally, is a big Boy Howdy.

So, to avoid that conflict, SS did the right thing by putting the moolah into government instruments. But, naturally, that's just moving the government's money from one pocket to another, both on current account and inter-generationally. The government moves some additional money (the return on Treasuries) to the SS account periodically. There is no real earned interest in this exercise, just some accounting sleight-of-hand. All governments do it, because it's the least bad alternative.

The problem for either approach is that real growth (aka, interest earned) derives from tech progress, not accounting manipulation. Since the Great Recession, and largely because of it, interest rates on government fiduciaries have hovered near 1%. The reason, naturally, is that The Giant Pool of Money continues to grow, and its holders continue to be risk averse; thus The GPoM chases those instruments driving up their price and down their rate of return. The GPoM, after the DotComBomb, sought above risk-free returns at near risk-free risk, and so turned to (mostly) US residential housing. After all, there had never been a sector wide collapse of value in the past, so why would there be one now? Everybody into The Pool!!!

The macro/global reality is that the low growth regime lambasted by Donald J. Quisling is not the fault of Obambi. It's the fault of the Asymptote of Progress. The first Dark Age happened because humans fell into religiosity and stopped thinking. The second Dark Age is happening because humans have figured out everything that matters in the macro world.

05 November 2017

Obscured Relational Management

Yet another, and quite fun to read, take down of ORM. A light read for a Sunday afternoon.
I still see many developers singing praises to ORMs, but I have stopped using ORMs several years ago. I have accumulated enough experience on both sides now, so I'd like to lay out my case against using ORMs.

04 November 2017

And the Winner Is...


There's a long standing convention that placebo controlled clinical trials are allowed for drugs (generally), but not for procedures. Particularly procedures which are considered standard or only-option. Among such are stents in cardiac care. I recall, long ago, reports that stents caused clots, which sometimes escaped into the bloodstream and caused great harm.
Early difficulties with coronary stents included a risk of early thrombosis (clotting) resulting in occlusion of the stent. Coating stainless steel stents with other substances such as platinum or gold did not eliminate this problem. High-pressure balloon expansion of the stent to ensure its full apposition to the arterial wall, combined with drug therapy using aspirin and another inhibitor of platelet aggregation (usually ticlopidine or clopidogrel) nearly eliminated this risk of early stent thrombosis.

So, this week Gina Kolata reports that stents aren't so useful for one of its major uses.
Then the subjects had a procedure: a real or fake insertion of a stent. This is one of the few studies in cardiology in which a sham procedure was given to controls who were then compared to patients receiving the actual treatment.

When the researchers tested the patients six weeks later, both groups said they had less chest pain, and they did better than before on treadmill tests.

But there was no real difference between the patients, the researchers found. Those who got the sham procedure did just as well as those who got stents.

Oooooops!!! Read the whole piece, and see how little data (well, none, really) supported using stents in this way.

02 November 2017

Lies, Damn Lies, and the NSA

The first thought which crossed my head when Comey announced that the FBI had been running a counter-intelligence investigation of Russia/Trump since July, 2016: the CIA and NSA have all the comms on storage and Trump/Quisling is dead meat.

This Monday, the Papadopoulos plea was released, and much the same thought: how did the FBI know he lied? After all, to know that Pap lied means they knew what the truth was. How dat? As of last night, none of the mainstream pundits had either posed the question or answered it. So off to the innterTubes went I. Which got me this piece from Daily Kos. It was posted Monday night. And, no, obviously I'm not a regular over there or I would have found it then. Still, it remains the only source of explanation. The obvious one, naturally.
It sure looks like someone in the intelligence community (CIA, NSA, foreign...) has been watching this professor for some time. And it sure looks like they knew a lot of details about Paps contacts with this guy, going way back to March 2016. And it sure seems like the FBI would be watching Pap closely from the moment they found out about his contacts with the professor. With the technology available to the Intelligence community, it sure would seem they would be monitoring every email, every phone call, and every other contact between this American, British, Russian trio.

Donald J. Quisling must have dumped some serious brown into his boxers when he saw the plea.

01 November 2017

Dancing to Destruction [update]

Eduardo Porter takes on Donald J. Quisling and trade in today's missive. He spends most of his text explaining that Quisling's approach has been tried before, and failed totally. Will Donald J. Quisling learn? Will Hell freeze over?
"Bilateral deficits are going to keep popping up everywhere," [Robert Staiger] said. "Trump is going to be playing Whac-a-Mole."

The overbearing cause of the trade deficit is the need to keep US Bucks in sufficient supply to sustain global growth; global deflation through the simple mechanism of restricted supply of specie (which, as you know if you've been reading these missives for a while, is the US Buck) will be a disaster for everyone. And, no, the loss of supply of goods from south of the Rio Grande and Asia won't mean that manufacturing capacity will pop out of the ground as toadstools after a heavy rain. FIRE has eaten the GDP.
Robert Lighthizer has been involved in international trade diplomacy long enough to remember this kind of go-it-alone trade strategy. He doesn't appear to have learned the lessons history has taught us since then.

Alas, Porter doesn't connect the dots through to the demand for the US Buck as support for international trade. Thanks to having won WWII, and rebuilding both Europe and Japan, we now have the responsibility, in perpetuity, for that trade.

for the record, here's a graph of gold stocks
[the wiki]