Saturday, January 31, 2009

Way cuter than Diana Ross

A Williams sweep

Serena Williams won the Australian Open this morning, crushing Little Marat in less than an hour, love and three. This is her 10th major singles title. The day before, she and Venus won the doubles, their 8th major doubles title together.

Let's see, am I forgetting anything? Oh, yeah, Serena, at 27, is once again the number one player in the world and halfway to another "Serena Slam".

Friday, January 30, 2009

The CATO 200

I got an email today, suggesting that I should be embarrassed to be one of the "CATO 200." (Link to ad)

In fact, according to this emailer, I should be MUCH more embarrassed to be one of the CATO 200 than ANY of the "Duke Lacrosse 88."

I guess I see the point....both were paid ads. But the CATO 200 ad is an existence proof that the claim of professional ecnomists' unanimity on the need for a bailout is not true. Everyone listed in the ad is a professional economist, from many different universities. (5 from Duke, interestingly).

The Duke 88 ad was....something else, IMHO. I have several friends (friends then, and friends now) who signed it. They were, and are, welcome to express their view.

But the ads have pretty different objectives. I don't think the analogy is very insightful.

And the real message, as in this very nice piece at CBS News, is that the unanimusts should just try to get out a little more, and broaden their social circle.

Neo-Logisms and Keeping Gitmo Open

Random Friday thoughts, based on the perils of Blago.

1. Political neo-logisms are important, but hard to predict. Calling something BLANKgate, for's a key party of journalistic argot.

What will it be for Blagojevich? In the car: "Oh, jeez. Everybody check their shoes. Somebody must have stepped in Blagojevich back there."

Or, when someone keeps griping about something that is entirely their own fault: "Will you knock off the Blagojeviching? Just shut up!"

Oops, Letterman, and some other folks, are way ahead of me. Carry on, then.

2. I have changed my mind about Gitmo. I had thought it should be closed, as a prison anyway, as soon as possible. But I was wrong. We are clearly going to need it.... to house all these Democratic governors (Bill Richardson, Elliott Spitzer, Rod Blagojevich, who knows who is next). There is no other way to shut them up.

Okay, Now I've Switched

I have to admit....I've switched sides. All of my sympathies are with ex-gov Blago now.

On the plus side, consider this: After the impeachment vote (59 Y -- 00 N)....

He vowed to, "keep fighting to clear my name," and added: "Give me a chance to show you that I haven't let you down."

"I love the people of Illinois today more than I ever have before," he said. And in a joking reference to Chicago's history of crooked politics, he reached down to a boy in the crowd of well-wishers and said: "I love you, man. You know, this is Chicago. You can vote for me. You're old enough."

That's juevos. Juevos Chicageros. The media claimed that he was showing his sense of humor. I submit: NO. He was totally serious.

On the sympathy side, consider this:

" beneath the dignity of the state of Illinois. He is no longer worthy to be our governor," said Sen. Matt Murphy, a Republican from suburban Chicago.

You want to impeach the guy, okay. But...."beneath the dignity of the state of Illinois"? Holy cow. That's really an ugly thing to say. Kerner.....Rostenkowski ....Ryan? Dude! Blago is a housecat compared to thos tiges. And that's just in the last 40 years.

The best paper I read this month

It's by Jesús Fernández-Villaverde and it's titled "The Econometrics of DSGE Models" ( ungated version here).

It lays out the evolution of DSGE models, gives an excellent and readable account of Bayesian estimation, and discusses some of the major challenges facing the field. It's also witty and a pleasure to read.

Here is a sample:

"the likelihood of DSGE models is, as I have just mentioned,a highly dimensional object, with a dozen or so parameters in the simplest cases to close to a hundred in some of the richest models in the literature. Any search in a high dimensional function is fraught with peril. More pointedly, likelihoods of DSGE models are full of local maxima and minima and of nearly flat surfaces. This is due both to the sparsity of the data (quarterly data do not give us the luxury of many observations that micro panels provide) and to the flexibility of DSGE models in generating similar behavior with relatively different combination of parameter values (every time you see a sensitivity analysis claiming that the results of the paper are robust to changes in parameter values, think about flat likelihoods)."

and another:

"A compelling proof of how unnatural it is to think in frequentist terms is to teach introductory statistics. Nearly all students will interpret con…fidence intervals at …first as a probability interval. Only the repeated insistence of the instructor will make a disappointingly small minority of students understand the difference between the two and provide the right interpretation. The rest of the students, of course, would simply memorize the answer for the test in the same way they would memorize a sentence in Aramaic if such a worthless accomplishment were useful to get a passing grade. Neither policy makers nor undergraduate students are silly (they are ignorant, but that is a very different sin); they just think in ways that are more natural to humans. Frequentist statements are beautiful but inconsequential."

People, I am gonna have to go with BOTH "Yikes" AND "Amen". It's well worth reading in its entirety.

PS. The second best paper I read this month is here (forthcoming in the JME but been around for a while).

A breakfast treat

We woke up this morning and the Nadal - Verdasco semifinal was still going, so we took breakfast upstairs and I chomped on my Gorilla Munch while Rafa finished off the 5th set. The match was 5 hours and 14 minutes, the longest in the history of the Australian Open, and it set up the dream final of Federer - Nadal, though Federer will be much fresher with an extra day off and an easy straight set victory over Roddick in his semifinal.

Nadal beat Federer last year on his surface (Roland Garros) and on Roger's surface (Wimbledon) so it will be very interesting to see if he can recover enough to give Fed a match on this hardcourt surface. This will be Rafa's first grand slam final on hardcourts. If he wins, I'd put the probability of him winning the grand slam at maybe .3 or so.

Tensions will be high at Chez Angus 'cause Mrs. A will be rooting for Federer and I'll be rooting for Rafa!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

No good deed goes unpunished

Just ask this good Samaritan:

"A Kalama police officer reached into a tank of sewage to rescue a dog that had jumped inside. The officer, Jeff Skeie, was able to grab the sinking dog by the ear Tuesday and pull it out by the scruff of its neck. He had waste only on the sleeves of his uniform until the dog gave itself a vigorous shake, spraying him head-to-toe with sewage."

Hey! It's kind of like the Illinois legislature and Rod Blagojevich, innit?

Porkulus II: Porky's Revenge

I forgot about the protectionism in Porkulus:

"The House-approved plan's "Buy American" provision generally prohibits the purchase of foreign iron and steel for any infrastructure project in the bill.

The European Union's trade commissioner, Catherine Ashton, pre-emptively voiced concern about the US measure.

"We are looking into the situation. ... Before we have the final text ... it would be premature to take a stance on it," Ashton's spokesman, Peter Power, said in Brussels.

"However, the one thing we can be absolutely certain about, is if a bill is passed which prohibits the sale or purchase of European goods on American territory, that is something we will not stand idly by and ignore," he said.

Canada's government said it is concerned about US protectionism in the economic stimulus and its diplomats were lobbying US makers against the "Buy American" drive.

"We're always concerned when there are protectionist pressures in the United States," Industry Minister Tony Clement told public broadcaster CBC.

"At the same time the United States has treaty obligations," he said, citing US membership in the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

"And we expect the United States to live up to its treaty obligations of open and fair trade."

About 40 percent of Canadian steel is sold in the United States and Canada imports steel from its southern neighbor."

Mother of Porkulus

People, remember when the TARP failed so they loaded it up with extra pork and got it passed the second time? Apparently our government has learned from their mistakes because the stimulus bill is pre-porked for your approval.

From the WSJ: "There's $1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that hasn't turned a profit in 40 years; $2 billion for child-care subsidies; $50 million for that great engine of job creation, the National Endowment for the Arts; $400 million for global-warming research and another $2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects. There's even $650 million on top of the billions already doled out to pay for digital TV conversion coupons.....Most of the rest of this project spending will go to such things as renewable energy funding ($8 billion) or mass transit ($6 billion)."

From Martin Feldstein: "On the spending side, the stimulus package is full of well-intended items that, unfortunately, are not likely to do much for employment. Computerizing the medical records of every American over the next five years is desirable, but it is not a cost-effective way to create jobs. Has anyone gone through the (long) list of proposed appropriations and asked how many jobs each would create per dollar of increased national debt?

The largest proposed outlays amount to just writing unrestricted checks to state governments. Nearly $100 billion would result from increasing the "Medicaid matching rate," a technique for reducing states' Medicaid costs to free up state money for spending on anything governors and state legislators want. An additional $80 billion would be given out for "state fiscal relief." Will these vast sums actually lead to additional spending, or will they merely finance state transfer payments or relieve state governments of the need for temporary tax hikes or bond issues?

The plan to finance health insurance premiums for the unemployed would actually increase unemployment by giving employers an incentive to lay off workers rather than pay health premiums during a time of weak demand. And this supposedly two-year program would create a precedent that could be hard to reverse."


There's something happening here...

....but what it is not at all unclear; it's the emergence of the Thunder as a viable (on the court at least) NBA team. Last night they beat the Grizz for their 11th win, putting them three rungs out of the bottom of the Association. Scottie Brooks moved Durant to small forward from shooting guard and somehow made it clear to everyone that Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook were going to be getting the shots and leading the team. They are all responding. KD is averaging 24.8 on 47% shooting (42% on 3s) along with 6.6 boards. Last year he shot 42% overall, 29% on 3s and pulled down 4.4 boards. Jeff Green's numbers are similar to KD's and after a very shaky start, Westbrook was named Rookie of the Month in December. Durant is 20, Green 22, and Westbrook is 20 as well.

The Thunder also have 3 first round picks in the upcoming draft and 2 in the following one. The only trouble is they are now losing ping pong balls at an alarming rate (They are 6-4 in their last 10 games).

Here's a paen to Durant from Bill Simmons (hat tip to Tyler Cowen, the LeBron James of bloggers).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I guess it takes a thief to catch a thief

Geithner confirmed as Treasury Secretary

I Bet Somebody Copied....

University plagiarism policies look suspiciously alike.....buncha cheaters.

Everybody hates Novak

We are down to the final 4 in both the men's and women's draw at the first tennis major of the year. Novak Djokovic is out, by his own hand, for the 4th time in a major. That's right people, he's retired 4 times in major championships and he's ONLY 21 YEARS OLD! And HE WAS THE DEFENDING CHAMPION!


Last year at the US Open, Andy Roddick ripped Djokovic for his imaginary injuries before playing him and Novak beat him down bad. This year Djokovic quit against Roddick and then Federer ripped him after he was out of the draw (proving that Federer is smarter than Roddick?).

Here's Fed on Novak:

“He’s not a guy who’s never given up before…it’s disappointing,”

“If Novak were up two sets to love I don’t think he would have retired 4-0 down in the fourth. Thanks to Andy that he retired in the end. Andy pushed him to the limits. Hats off to Andy.”

Let's see if Roddick can take advantage of Federer's man crush on him and maybe beat Roger in the semis? Actually it looks to me like the final will be Roger - Rafa, which is the best anyone could ask for in today's tennis.

Election 2008: The Lib Gov Results

Some people asked for the county by county totals. Here you go, sorted from hightest to smallest.....(source link)

0.050356031 Pender
0.046638319 Orange
0.042566293 Brunswick
0.042561983 Stokes
0.042078228 New Hanover
0.042074739 McDowell
0.04085844 Macon
0.040363843 Alleghany
0.040231955 Watauga
0.040000000 Onslow
0.039938984 Buncombe
0.039565894 Durham
0.039527351 Jackson
0.039498058 Transylvania
0.039160974 Polk
0.038636599 Randolph
0.037845617 Chatham
0.037659733 Wake
0.037647059 Rockingham
0.037633637 Haywood
0.036779295 Davidson
0.036588255 Wilkes
0.035634959 Madison
0.035306334 Swain
0.035121825 Mitchell
0.034839776 Henderson
0.034592576 Alamance
0.03446227 Davie
0.034229254 Yadkin
0.033348902 Currituck
0.033090457 Rutherford
0.032336494 Graham
0.031133166 Surry
0.030687387 Guilford
0.030574881 Clay
0.029697746 Franklin
0.02945571 Camden
0.028972212 Forsyth
0.028449394 Ashe
0.028244275 Lee
0.027798264 Dare
0.027603067 Moore
0.027542974 Caldwell
0.02700933 Person
0.026635171 Cherokee
0.026609899 Tyrrell
0.02656562 Granville
0.026337186 Carteret
0.026162244 Caswell
0.025562649 Harnett
0.024976025 Columbus
0.024560957 Avery
0.024228607 Johnston
0.024225993 Beaufort
0.024127049 Yancey
0.02406452 Rowan
0.023290759 Pamlico
0.023157029 Chowan
0.022628907 Burke
0.022526691 Craven
0.022439586 Jones
0.021873926 Iredell
0.021825371 Cabarrus
0.021678773 Lincoln
0.021587838 Cumberland
0.021505376 Montgomery
0.021452549 Catawba
0.021410163 Bladen
0.021233156 Hyde
0.021172363 Pasquotank
0.020491803 Hoke
0.02028794 Pitt
0.020218489 Mecklenburg
0.020035149 Stanly
0.019852941 Richmond
0.019458946 Perquimans
0.019442523 Union
0.019177109 Duplin
0.018462851 Wayne
0.018367129 Gaston
0.018305045 Alexander
0.017255072 Scotland
0.016554163 Cleveland
0.015367146 Lenoir
0.015265642 Warren
0.014826225 Vance
0.014664411 Gates
0.014601616 Robeson
0.014472944 Martin
0.014367104 Greene
0.014159969 Nash
0.013764651 Sampson
0.01373297 Wilson
0.0134255 Halifax
0.012858249 Washington
0.012691798 Northampton
0.012368584 Bertie
0.010984919 Anson
0.01081624 Edgecombe
0.00809678 Hertford

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Holy Moly

At the end of the third quarter LeBron James ALREADY HAS A TRIPLE DOUBLE:

20 points, 14 boards, 11 dimes, to go with 3 blocked shots and only 2 turnovers in 32 minutes of PT.

Yeah it's only the Kings he's playing but man oh man, that is pretty cool.

In Loco Parentis at Utah State

Reporting "Students of Concern" at this site....could be anything.....anything at all.

From the site:

Occasionally, a student's behaviors will rise above normal interactions to a level of concern that may lead to disruption of classroom or university activity or cause concern of threat towards oneself and/or others. University training is available to help identify these situations.

Like....maybe....protesting? Not agreeing with professors? Very disturbing to be disagreed with, yes?I liked the way that George Orwell put it, in 1984:

"There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized."

Multiplier blues

We've heard a lot about government spending and tax cut multipliers in the press and blogosphere. In a new NBER working paper (ungated version here) Eric Leeper and his co-authors address a fundamental issue in measuring the effects of tax cuts. They call it "fiscal foresight".

Here's the abstract:

"Fiscal foresight—the phenomenon that legislative and implementation lags ensure
that private agents receive clear signals about the tax rates they face in the future—is
intrinsic to the tax policy process. This paper develops an analytical framework to study
the econometric implications of fiscal foresight. Simple theoretical examples show that foresight produces equilibrium time series with nonfundamental representations, which misalign the agents’ and the econometrician’s information sets. Economically meaningful shocks to taxes, therefore, cannot generally be extracted from statistical innovations in conventional ways. Econometric analyses that fail to align agents’ and the econometrician’s information sets can produce distorted inferences about the effects of tax policies. The paper documents the sensitivity of econometric inferences of tax effects to details about how tax information flows into the economy. We show that alternative assumptions about the information flows that give rise to fiscal foresight can reconcile the diverse empirical findings in the literature on anticipated tax changes."

And here's a punch line:

"We couch the quantitative assessment in terms of tax multipliers and show that conventional econometric methods, such as identified VARs, can produce wildly inaccurate inferences: multipliers can be estimated to be positive, negative, or zero and they can be five or more times too large over various forecast horizons."

Oh my. People, that is not good. The paper though IS very good and well worth reading.

Final Election Analysis: Best Counties

For the last two days, I have been putting up maps showing support for my Gov campaign, by county. Sunday was the percent map, Monday was the total vote map.

Today: The overall "Best Counties," using the criteria of higher percentage and more total votes. Here is the map:
The counties in Green are both more than 2,000 votes and greater than 3.5% support.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Here's Your Ticket!

From the NYTimes Laughlines:

Barack Obama still maintains he will have an open-door policy with Republicans. Of course, to maintain some semblance of order, access to that door will be done by a system of purple tickets. – Janice Hough, Palo Alto, Calif.

(Purple ticket reference, if you find it obscure)

That's daughter of my good friend, and Ms. Angus coauthor, Jerry Hough.

UPDATE: A little more on Purple Tickets.....

Problems were reported at other entry points as well. There were delays at the Orange Gate, and a power failure at the Blue Gate apparently caused the screeners to have to pat down attendees instead of sending them through metal detectors. But nowhere else were the problems as significant, or the dissatisfaction as strong, as it was among the Purple Ticket Holders. Dianne Feinstein has called for the Secret Service to get to the bottom of the matter. It may be that President Obama should get Chief Justice Roberts prepped for a third rendition of the oath, for the many people whose tickets could not get them access to the festivities.

Shovel Ready? Really?

The Mayor asks, "What this 'shovel ready' thing mean?"

Given this, I'm not sure I know, or that anyone knows.

LW--How's about a little consistency?


A little MORE election analysis.....

Yesterday I showed a map with vote percentages for the Nov. 4, 2008 election, by county.

Today: Vote TOTALS. So, where did I get the most votes? The answer is likely to be "where the most people live," and to some extent that's true. Blue is more than 4,000 votes from that county; Green is 2,500 to 3,999; Yellow is 2,000 to 2,4999, and White is less than 2,000

Here are the top five counties. My vote total was 121,584. (If Al Franken were in charge of my recount, my total would have been 7,245,823)

Wake 16,486 (Raleigh)
Mecklenburg 8,234 (Charlotte)
Guilford 7,326 (Greensboro)
Durham 5,341 (Durham)
Buncombe 4,870 (Asheville)

In other words, those five counties gave me well over 1/3 of the total. The other 95 counties....well.

Tomorrow: vote numbers AND percentages--the BEST counties

Evo 1, Jesus 0

While the final results are not in, it appears that, despite divine disapproval, Evo's new constitution will be going into effect as a clear majority (somewhere in the upper 50%s) approved it yesterday. Some good analysis here and also here. Evo will now be cleared to run for a second 5 year term as president in December and I don't think we've heard the last of the eastern provinces' autonomy movement.

Whatever one may think of Evo, I am happy to see indigenous Bolivians getting a voice in their government. Here is a cool slideshow about the voting.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A little election analysis

Went back and looked at the county by county vote totals for Nov. 2008 for the Gov race, just to see how we did. I was very disappointed in the result, receiving only 2.8%. Yes, that's more than the 2% threshold required to keep the Libs on the ballot, but we really got smoked, in spite of a pretty big statewide effort.

Still....what went right? What counties came down heavily "for," in the Percent Vote column? A map....
Green is 4% and above, Yellow is 3-3.99%, White is 1.5-2.99%, and Red is less than 1.49%. (Click the map to enlarge)

So, pretty good in the southern coastal areas (Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, etc.), in the liberal part of the central Piedmont (Durham-Chapel Hill-Greensboro), and generally best of all in the mountains, especially Buncombe County (Asheville).

Tomorrow: Same Map by Total Votes, not Percent Votes....Stay Tuned!