30 September 2018

Join Me For Drinks

Some interesting news (well, not news to some):
For the first time since 2005, the U.S. Army missed its recruiting goal this year, falling short by about 6,500 soldiers, despite pouring an extra $200 million into bonuses and approving some additional waivers for bad conduct or health issues.

Those who've been paying attention know that the military has been lowering the bar to recruitment for decades. Fatter, dumber, and crazier after all these years:
Only about 30 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds meet the physical, mental and moral requirements for the military, and only one in eight are interested in serving.

Only about 30 percent of Americans are the The Manchurian President base. That means 70% aren't thin enough, smart enough, and sane enough. Now we know where the base comes from. Coincidence?

Last October, Army said it would meet its goal:
The Army will reach its goal of 80,000 new soldiers without compromising quality, predicted Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, who leads its recruiting command.

Well, no.

Turns out, not too surprisingly, that the problem has been reported for some time. Here's 2006:
Replacing a gunner who'd scored Category IV on the aptitude test (ranking in the 10-30 percentile) with one who'd scored Category IIIA (50-64 percentile) improved the chances of hitting targets by 34 percent.

Is this stat sig?? Not reported, but I'll guess that it's close to population data, so it's just numbers.

Which gets me to wondering: have the Cats been re-defined over time? That is, is a Cat III or IV less intelligent now than in the past? Has there been a double whammy here? The wiki has some history.
The ASVAB was first introduced in 1968 and was adopted by all branches of the military in 1976. It underwent a major revision in 2002. In 2004, the test's percentile rank scoring system was renormalized, to ensure that a score of 50% really did represent doing better than exactly 50% of the test takers.

Was 'renormalized' just another way to cheat dumber kids into the Service? Well, here's contemporary pushback against that accusation.
"We don't want people to think we are lowering the standard of quality coming into the Air Force," Ms. Strickland said. "It appears that way because 36 is lower than 40, but it will still be the same quality of applicants we are accepting into the Air Force today."

That newspeak for: "we've found that all these kids are dumber than in years past, so we've lowered the raw score to meet the percentile we've previously used." The assertion made by DoD is that kids got smarter from 1980 to 2004, so raw scores needed to be lowered to meet the median (IQ?) that existed in 1980.
"Potential servicemembers in the last 20 years, simply put, have gotten smarter," Ms. Strickland said. "So the scores have shifted."
Do you believe that? Make you feel better?

We hear all about, esp. in Military recruiting adverts, how the "new Army/Air Force/Navy" is more tech savvy. Which means more tech savvy personnel. One meme is that video gaming prowess is now a plus. Yes, it's true.

Here's some other data. It's from the wiki, but as usual is heavily linked. It shows that, even after boosting the raw scores with a renormalization, math and verbal SAT scores have been and continue to decline. Is it likely that college aspirational students would be in decline, while HS/GED students are ascendant? I thought so.

24 September 2018

Show Me The Data!!

Just a short note, to tell y'all to go do some reading. As most of you are aware, the fish oil vs. heart disease story has been public for at least years, if not decades. The wiki page on the Mediterranean Diet alludes to fish oil benefit from the 1960s. Exactly when fish oil capsules took off, sometime later. (A bit of surfing revealed "cod liver oil"!! Of course. My Mama didn't force it on me, but yeah, it's been widely consumed nearly forever. According to the wiki, specifically to children as a source of vitamin D.)

What type, and possible mixes, of fish oil has been debated since then. One company, Amarin, has been developing a single oil type, EPA. FDA gave them clearance some time ago to sell it, but to a limited population with skyrocket triglycerides. FDA wouldn't label it for general cardiovascular disease reduction. Amarin was pissed. FDA demanded a large population, long term study; by their nature, CV studies have to take a long time and mostly are post-approval for that reason. We're talking thousands of people for years.

Not the least reason: all the studies on near-similar fish oils have failed. Ummm. The arguing, on a host of venues, between the believers and dis-believers was something not often seen. The MoA of EPA in general CV prevention has never been rock solid; why FDA wouldn't label in the first place, and why pundits were, mostly, predicting the trial would fail. Badly, most said.

The data has been known to be nearly ready for some months, so the bickering intensified, waiting for the shoe to drop. It did this morning. Boy howdy. Not only did it meet the primary endpoint, but with a p-value<.001. Now that's stat sig!! Here's Amarin's PR. There'll be a whole lot bickering for a while. I expect the dis-believers will look to dredge up some contrary conclusion as the data is revealed. Ain't quant fun? To add to the mix, Amarin is one of those USofA corporations that fled to Ireland (in name only, of course; the facilities and work remained stateside, naturally).

23 September 2018

Live Long and Procreate

During the fiasco called Kavanaugh one of the Left pundits (I didn't take notes, but this isn't a unique assertion) allowed has how the USofA is the last modern country which puts its supreme court judges on the bench for the rest of their lives. He also allowed that an 18 year term has been broached, and he supported such. The argument is simply that a life term in 1800 spanned far fewer years than today. That's not disputable. But what is disputable is how much? The pundit stated 36 as the life expectancy then, while now it's around 75. Lifetime appointment is nuts!!!! And so on.

But, naturally, it's a somewhat bogus argument. Life expectancy at birth didn't change by big numbers until the 20th century. Childhood vaccinations, sulfa drugs, antibiotics, and such account for why folks live longer. And most of the increase comes before 21 or so. Here's a succinct table.

So, yes lifetime Supreme Court appointment is nonsense, but not because middle aged white men live a whole lot longer now than in 1800. Another table which indicates about 8 years more now for 50 year olds, a reasonable guesstimate.

So yes, Kavanaugh is a horrid candidate (and should be impeached for lying at his 2004 and 2006 hearings), but he'd not be around as much longer as the "life expectancy has risen 40 years since the Constitution" assertion. Don't use stupid numbers to make your case.

14 September 2018

A Good Wheel

Lots of times there's no reason to reinvent the wheel. The Microsoft/R folks have gone through the Maria deaths report, and provide good evidence that The Manchurian President is a Tillerson. In spades.

The process used by the George Washington researchers is easily defended by anyone who is not innumerate. Go have a read.

13 September 2018

Big Lies - part the first

If you're going to lie, might as well make it a big one. Today is unemployment reporting day, and once again the reported number of new claims is the lowest since 1969. There will be a tweet in due time taking credit for this. Which isn't even true, in the time series sense. But consider the base number for 1969 and 2018: the size of the labor force. The BLS has such data, surprise! Here's the picture.

If you look real close, you can see that the labor force has doubled. Not an apple to apple comparison.

11 September 2018

Papa Doc Makes a House Call

Another skunk in the outhouse. Papadopoulos, convicted, is now setting up interference for The Manchurian President. Too bad the mainstream pundits don't see it. So I'll tell what Papa Doc is doing.

First, the denial/no recollection of the statement to the Australian diplomat about the Hillary emails.
Second, the assertion that Session not only didn't push back on the Trump/Putin meeting, but encouraged it.

The first gag is designed to impugn the onset of the FBI counter-intelligence investigation. Which led to the current mess. Trump gets to claim it's all a fabricated witch hunt.

The second gag is designed to provide an excuse for canning Jolly Jeff, putting in DeVos (or any other bag o flesh that's been confirmed) in as AG and then can Rosenstein, Mueller, and anyone else up on Russia.

Now you know. It'll be a while until the usual suspects figure it out.

The Man of The Book

Two meaningful events today. Both remind us of The Manchurian President: he bragged that his building was now the tallest after the towers were downed, and Woodward's book goes on sale. It's all about The Donald. Sad.

It seems that we can interpret Woodward's book title in two ways. And even at the same time.

As a complete sentence - Fear Trump in the White House. Which means exactly how it reads.


As a definition - Fear: Trump in the White House. Which means exactly how it reads.

10 September 2018

Thought For The Day - 10 September 2018

The Manchurian President responded to Obambi's stump speaking with a complaint, as one might expect. The recovery from the Great Recession was the weakest in history. And such. This sounds an awful lot like a motorcyclist, who rides without a helmet, and who runs into a bridge abutment after drinking all night. The Obamacare folks put him back together, but he continues to complain that his face isn't exactly as pretty as it was before. Some ingrates have all the luck.

09 September 2018

Horton Hears a Who

With all the hubbub over the Anonymous op-ed in the Failing New York Times, the most agita (from my reading) is that the Times risks significant loss of credibility, and perhaps faces an existential threat from Dear Leader and minions, if it turns out that Anonymous is the second assistant deputy director of toilet paper in the Small Business Administration. Or some such.

What all those hand wringers appear to ignore is the critical sentence:
I work for the President.

Now, it is possible that the Editors at the Times would allow Anonymous to make that statement, knowing that s/he is really the second assistant deputy director of toilet paper in the Small Business Administration, but I find that impossible to believe. The Editors preamble describes Anonymous as "a senior official in the Trump administration". That's not the second assistant deputy director of toilet paper in the Small Business Administration, either. Those two statements combined have to mean at least Cabinet member or White House denizen. Some people are scared shitless by this fucking moron, as Tillerson has it.

07 September 2018

Protect The Rich. NOW!!

Yet another ode to protecting the rich from the poor huddled masses. Football owners, who on the whole get stadiums paid for by taxpayers to begin with, are being discriminated against by the states' tax policies. Move to Red states where the governments don't provide education, healthcare, clean water, clean air to the bulk of their citizens. Poor football owners.

Here's the tale from Fox Sports; not the left-wing rabble you might expect to talk about the issue.

It's worth noting that moving high capital sports to Red states doesn't work. We already know how that ends up. NASCAR has been failing for some time, especially since the Great Recession. It's just that good ole boys just can't pay the freight to attend. And watching roundy-round cars until one crashes isn't as much fun since there aren't so many wrecks and few die; any more.

03 September 2018

Quants' Hubris - part the fourth

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The perpetual mantra of the financial quant, horrid experience to the contrary.

And so back to the main question - can quants actually predict the future? Quants depend on the past, as manifest in their data, being the same as the future. For natural phenomena, that's true. The problem for quants in that space is knowing what God's Rules really are. Black plague is carried by rat fleas, not a punishment for impiety.
Because they did not understand the biology of the disease, many people believed that the Black Death was a kind of divine punishment - retribution for sins against God such as greed, blasphemy, heresy, fornication and worldliness.

But, in time, a scientific explanation emerged:
The most authoritative account at the time came from the medical faculty in Paris in a report to the king of France that blamed the heavens, in the form of a conjunction of three planets in 1345 that caused a "great pestilence in the air". This report became the first and most widely circulated of a series of plague tracts that sought to give advice to sufferers. That the plague was caused by bad air became the most widely accepted theory.
[the wiki]

Well, may be not so much science. Or, as Mellencamp has sung, "people believe what they want to believe when it makes no sense at all."

We saw just this happen when the quants enabled the Great Recession; believing that house prices could rise, everywhere, like a rocket forever. After all, the data proved it. What the data didn't prove was why so many wonky mortgages could be made. The answer to that question was simple, if not widely expressed: the Powers That Be had changed the rules for making a mortgage. The old data was under the old rules. Not the new mortgages. Oops.

Recent reporting brings us another example of data lagging reality. And, perhaps, just as unpleasant results. You should read it up, if you only follow Fox News. It's worth noting that fracking is nothing really new. Tertiary extraction, which has been used for decades, works by the same principle: force out trapped oil with high pressure fluid. What's new, to me, in this article is this:
A key reason for the terrible financial results is that fracked oil wells show a steep decline rate: The amount of oil they produce in the second year is drastically smaller than the amount produced in the first year. According to an economist at the Kansas City Federal Reserve, production in the average well in the Bakken — a key area for fracking shale in North Dakota — declines 69 percent in its first year and more than 85 percent in its first three years.

IOW, fracked oil is not sustainable, either in terms of output or financially. Which leads to the second question: if these well go dry as fast as a high school lineman sucking up a milkshake, how is output sustained? A good question, it seems to me.
Because the industry has such a voracious need for capital, and capital costs money, fracking could not have taken off so dramatically were it not for record low interest rates after the 2008 financial crisis. In other words, the Federal Reserve is responsible for the fracking boom.

The problem with QE, not so much TARP, was that it didn't make any requirement for sensible use of the capital. So, sense went out the window. The article ends thus
But rhetoric doesn't produce profits, and most things that are economically unsustainable, from money-losing dot-coms to subprime mortgages, eventually come to a bitter end.

Another voice in the choir of quant hubris and the asymptote of progress. If welfare queens had been given the moolah, and went out and bought crack and Cadillacs, ya think the billionaire donor class might have yelled and screamed? Ya think?