Incredible video from the TED Talks Video Series
The website of Hans Rosling’s Gap Minder Website has a Downloadable Version of the Program He is Using.
Incredible video from the TED Talks Video Series
The website of Hans Rosling’s Gap Minder Website has a Downloadable Version of the Program He is Using.
|Predicted Round Two Accuracy||Round Two Accuracy|
|66.06% +/- 8||71.87%|
|Original Predicted Third RoundAccuracy||Revised Estimate|
|39.03% +/- 8||44.31 +/- 4|
I know absolutely nothing about sports … seriously I could not tell the difference between a basketball, a football or a football. Every year everybody at work wants me to join in the office brackets, winner gets a day off work.
I naturally have three problems:
So this year I finally decided to break down, download statistics from last year’s March Madness. I would design my own model and use it to enter my office brackets. My picks may be found here
Now it’s important to understand my constraints. I am not basing any of this on seeding. My model uses just the following statistics:
Why did I pick these? Because they all had high correlations to March Madness Scores
Do I know what all these mean? I have my guesses but not really.
Anyway I took these and created a standard linear model that generated scores for each team and then made probability predictions based upon the spread. There are certainly problems with my model … it appears to make normal predictions about 85% of the time and insane ones the other 15%. In fact probably the reason why I’m OK in my office brackets has more to do with luck then talent (I predicted Harvard winning!).
CBS has information on the distribution of people who chose different teams. Using this I have estimated that the average person with a CBS Bracket has a average 21.24 correct picks, and my office has an average of 21.29. assuming they both have a standard deviation of 1.99 (gained from my office). Then my predictions are performing above average but not above standard deviation.
So all in all … I think I’m doing pretty well. Below is how I performed against popular predictions in round two, if they are not too embarrassing I will post for round three:
|MY Prediction for winner||My Predicted Odds||Popular Choice||Percent That Picked It||Result||Who was right?|
|North Carolina State||72.80%||North Carolina State||67%||Temple||Neither|
|Nevada-Las Vegas||61.84%||Nevada-Las Vegas||76%||California||Neither|
|Miami (FL)||85.36%||Miami (FL)||99%||Miami (FL)||Both|
|New Mexico State||73.37%||Saint Louis||91%||Saint Louis||Popular Choice|
|Michigan State||74.43%||Michigan State||97%||Michigan State||Both|
|Albany (NY)||54.34%||Duke||99%||Duke||Popular Choice|
|North Carolina||82.87%||North Carolina||75%||North Carolina||Both|
|Virginia Commonwealth||59.24%||Virginia Commonwealth||91%||Virginia Commonwealth||Both|
|San Diego State||67.60%||San Diego State||59%||San Diego State||Both|
|Florida Gulf Coast||63.98%||Georgetown||99%||Florida Gulf Coast||Me|
|Wichita State||57.82%||Pittsburgh||68%||Wichita State||Me|
|La Salle||65.59%||Kansas State||95%||La Salle||Me|
|Notre Dame||52.63%||Notre Dame||58%||Iowa State||Neither|
|Ohio State||61.91%||Ohio State||99%||Ohio State||Both|
In his recent video, You Tube’s liberal viewer has announced that his Fox New’s Bias Playlist has reached 200 videos, the maximum allowed by You Tube. Allen Asch, aka Liberal Viewer, has been documenting media bias and dishonesty and bias since 2006. He has a lawyers precision and always documents and cites his sources, providing links for those who wish to look into them further.
Fox News is an interesting case because they go well beyond just reporting truth from a conservative perspective, rather they report misleading and dishonest versions of events. Fox should be treated more as propaganda then News. Here is liberal viewers most recent video:
Thunderf00ts Anti-Feminists Video:
The Skepticon Anti-Harassment Policy discussed by both Thunderf00t and myself:
Amy Roth’s Full Interview Was on this pod cast:
Rebecca Watson’s Elevatorgate Video:
Skepchick page o’Hate where with the charming rape/death threats:
Way Back Machine to Thunderf00t’s old blog:
One of the great annoyances of the day is the inability of many to understand the differences between legitimate debates and weird debates were one side obviously knows more than the other. In the olden days of political economy there was the traditional divide between the two mainstream schools of thought on money and inflation, the Monetarist and the Keynesians. However Recent political shifts have led to the heterodox Austrian school of economics replacing the Monetarist school view, at least in popular and political thought. Were as the old debate used to focus on somewhat different interpretations of certain facts, the modern debate usually focuses on the Austrian schools bizarre tendency to insist they are right even in the midst of being horribly, horribly, wrong.
In part 1 of this series we will be discussing different measures of the money supply. When many think of money supply they think of things like dollar bills, coins, or cowry shells. But money also includes electronic and conceptual forms, such as the money in your bank account. Both the mainstream schools and the Austrian school agree that the money supply influences the price level to some degree or another.
There are several different measures of the Money supply, which include different things as being money, the two most popular with mainstream schools of thought are called M1 and M2. The Austrian school has partially rejected M1 and M2 and instead created their own version which they quite humbly named the TRUE Money Supply, we will be calling it the more accurate name the Austrian Money Supply (AMS). According to Joseph T. Salerno one of the creators of the AMS:
Measures of the US money stock in current use in current use in economic and business forecasting and applied economical ans historical research are flawed precisely because they are not based on an explicit and coherent theoretical conception of the essential nature of money. Given the all-pervasive role of money in the modern market economy, existing money-supply measures therefore tend to impede, rather than to facilitate, a clear understanding of the past or future development of actual economic events. (Salerno 1987)
Further as stated both the mainstream and Austrian view is that the main use of measuring money supply is to predict changes to the price level. As Ludwig von Mise, the grandfather of Austrian economics states:
[A]n increase in the quantity of money (in the broader sense of the term, so as to include fiduciary media as well), that is not offset by a corresponding increase in the need for money (again in the broader sense of the term), so that a fall in the objective exchange value of money must occur Again, deflation (or restriction, or contraction) signifies a diminution of the quantity of money (in the broader sense) which is not offset by a corresponding diminution of the demand for money (in the broader sense), so that an increase in the objective exchange value of money must occur If we so define these concepts, it follows that either inflation or deflation is constantly going on, for a situation in which the objective exchange value of money did not alter could hardly ever exist for very long. (Mise 1953)
So I have a simple test to see if the AMS truly does what it says i.e predicts increases in the price level. We will take a measure of the Price level in this case the Personal Consumption Expenditures index (PCE) and test the different measures of money supply against it. If the AMS correlates best to the PCE, then the AMS really could be said to facilitate a better understanding of economic events as Salerno claims. On the other hand if in performs poorly then it will have failed to demonstrate its usefulness in the primary use of a measure of money supply.
Note: Since both the measures of money supply and the price index increase exponentially, I’ve converted the statistics to their natural logs, which allows us to better calculate the correlation across time periods.
Because we are dealing with statistics that all increase over time the correlations will all appear quite high, because they are all moving in the same direction. But just because two measures increases over time does not mean there is a connection between the two. In order to successfully tell whether the correlation is sufficient to be useful we will need to calculate a minimum correlation. In this case we will use the correlation between the price index and its own trend line. The trend line is simply the line depicting what the estimated index would be if it just increased at its average rate every year. It is one of the most basic and simple models there is and something has a lower correlation to the PCE Index worse than the trend line, then it doesn’t have much of a connection to the PCE. As we can see below the AMS has a lower correlation than basic trend line and M1 and M2 clearly have a much higher correlation.
|Correlation to PCE (1959 to 2012)|
Why does the AMS perform poorly as compared to the trend line? It’s useful to take a look at the rates of change. As you can see below the annual rate of change for the Austrian school has a strong negative correlation to the PCE, this means that the higher the AMS growth rate the slower the price level growth rate and vice versa, exactly the opposite of what you would expect from Austrian monetary theory which claims that the AMS directly correlates to price level growth . Given that Austrians like to use the “long-run” as an excuse for why their predictions fail, it’s rather funny that the only time the AMS has a higher correlation than M1 and M2 measures is in the short run (1-year growth rates), unfortunately for the Austrians that correlation is going in the exact opposite direction then they would predict.
|Correlation to PCE Rate of Change (1959 to 2012)|
|Annual Rate of Change||-0.2707||0.1386||0.2389|
|5-Year Rate of Change||-0.1505||0.5459||0.6133|
|10-Year Rate of Change||-0.0705||0.7210||0.7925|
Some Austrians might say I am being unfair and that the AMS is correct in the long run stating, “Of course one should not expect that changes in money supply have an immediate effect on inflation. Taking into account adjustment processes, it takes some time for the change in money supply to make itself felt in the economy.” (Polleit 2005) This is why if you look above I’ve included the 5 and ten-year rates of change in the chart above. As you can see the the very long twerm 10-year rate correlations are still negative but less strong. So in the long run the Austrians are less wrong but they are still really wrong.
One argument an Austrian might use to defend the AMS is that “no definition can be established by means of a correlation. The purpose of a definition is to present the essence, the distinguishing characteristic of the subject we are trying to identify. … But no definition can be established by means of a correlation. The purpose of a definition is to present the essence, the distinguishing characteristic of the subject we are trying to identify.” (Shostak 2010) They might argue that the Austrian definition is the accurate definition based on their concept of money regardless of whether or not it meets any statistical tests I have for it. If fact a huge and rather annoying tendency of Austrians is to define something and then state that its true because they defined it that way.
The above criticism may be rebutted by another one of the key claims of the Austrians, Ludwig von Mise says, “If there is no increase in the quantity of money and if there is no credit expansion, the average height of prices and wages will by and large remain unchanged. But if the quantity of money and credit is increased, prices and wages must rise, whatever the government may decree.” (Mise 1980) If what von Mise says is true then there will always be a direct positive correlation between price level and money supply. This is the case with both M1 and M2 but it is not the case with the AMS.
This means that either the Austrian claim that money supply is the major driving force in the increase in the price level is false or there is some major flaw in the AMS as compared to M1 and M2. In either case a major component of Austrian Monetary Theory is false. Going forward in part 2 we will ignore the AMS and concentrate on the Austrian view that an increase in money causes an increase in prices. This is more useful because AMS is such a failure that if we used it the discussion would end here. Further by continuing the discussion using M2 in Austrian models we will be able to compare different models of price level changes more accurately.
In Part two we will compare the rather simple Austrian Model of Money and Inflation to a simplified Keynesian model.
FRED Economic Data, St. Louis Federal Reserve, accessed July 8, 2010, http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=8Er. (all statistical data)
“True Money Supply,” Ludwig Von Mise Institute, accessed July 8, 2010, http://mises.org/content/nofed/chart.aspx. (For a list of components of the Austrian Money Supply)
Joseph T. Salerno, “The ‘True’ Money Supply: A Measure of the Supply of the Medium of Exchange in the Economy,” Austrian Economics Newsletter, Spring 1987, accessed July 9, 2010, http://mises.org/journals/aen/aen6_4_1.pdf.
Ludwig von Mises, “The Theory of Money and Credit,”, 1953, accessed July 9, 2010, http://mises.org/books/Theory_Money_Credit/Part2_Ch13.aspx.
Thorsten Polleit, “Why Money Supply Matters,” Mises Daily, November 08, 2005, accessed July 10, 2010, http://mises.org/daily/1956.
Frank Shostak, “THE MYSTERY OF THE MONEY SUPPLY DEFINITION,” THE QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF AUSTRIAN ECONOMICS, Spring 2000, accessed July 8, 2010, http://mises.org/journals/qjae/pdf/qjae3_4_3.pdf .
Ludwig von Mises, “Economic Freedom and Interventionism,” 1980, accessed February 8, 2010, http://mises.org/efandi/ch20.asp.
Well I’ve read some nice stuff giving simple explanations climate change recently. Skeptic Magazine has an excellent article entitled ”How We Know Global Warming is Real and Human Caused” by Donald R. Prothero and The New York Times Dot Earth Blog has links to some videos by The National Research Counsel explaining climate change.
Prothero’s article out lines the major pieces of evidence for climate change as and debunks the major arguments of climate deniers. I’ve excerpted part of the intro of Prothero’s article here:
On January 27,2012, the Wall Street Journal ran an Opinion Editorial written by 16 people who had challenge the evidence of climate change. Most of the authors of the editorial were not climate scientists. Predictably, the Rupert Murdoch-owned Journal refused to run a statement by 255 members of the National Academy of Sciences, although a “Letter to the Editor” by 38 of the world’s leading climate scientists was published. The letter pointed out the numerous errors, mistakes, and fallacies in the editorial. It included a scathing rebuke by climate scientist Kevin Trenburth, whose remarks were quoted out of context to make them seem the opposite of what he actually said. As the Trenberth et al. letter argued, the 16 authors of the of the editorial were so far out of their depth in discussing the topic that they were the “climate-science equivalent of dentists practicing cardiology.
Dot Earth links to a video and booklet explaining the basic’s of climate change. This is an excellent resource to point people to if they need a basic introduction to climate change. The videos are also on Youtube:
“A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident, than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection …” – John Locke, Second Treatises of Government
One of the most fruitful concepts to come out of the political theorist John Locke was the idea that in the State of Nature everyone is equal; there are no Kings, no Aristocrats, and no Plutocrats; everyone is the same. That’s not to say he believed that everybody was equally strong, or smart, skilled; rather he believed that everybody in nature had equal opportunity to pursue their talents and an equal right to justice and rule of law.
The philosophy of Locke was a great inspiration to the Founders who wished to restore some of the freedom of the State of Nature without restoring much of the anarchic conflict that also occurs in nature. Jefferson was drawing direct inspiration from Locke when we wrote those famous lines “all men are created equal”.
I could talk to you of the brave fight our Founders had for their own rights but I would like to emphasize some often ignored. Today we have far too many people who like to talk of their rights and will go on at great length about what they deserve, but it is rarer to find someone who goes out of their own way to defend the rights of others. I would like to honor my favorite examples of a Founder’s unswerving sense of justice and the universality of rights.
If it takes a great man to ignore the his own selfish interests to defend the rights of others, how much greater is the man who ignores his own interests for the sake of his enemies rights, but John Adams did just that. After the Boston Massacre no lawyer would defend the solders responsible, having exhausted many possible choices they finally asked John Adams. So strong were Adams’ views on justice that he believed every human has the right to a free and fair trial, regardless of what they’ve been accused of or who they are. In his view, were the nation to deny due process even to enemies of America, it would be a grave injustice, a violation of American values, and a victory for mob rule.
The next morning, I think it was, sitting in my office, near the steps of the town-house stairs, Mr. Forrest came in, who was then called the Irish Infant. I had some acquaintance with him. With tears streaming from his eyes, he said, “I am come with a very solemn message from a very unfortunate man, Captain Preston, in prison. He wishes for counsel, and can get none. I have waited on Mr. Quincy, who says he will engage, if you will give him your assistance; without it, he positively will not. Even Mr. Auchmuty declines, unless you will engage.” I had no hesitation in answering, that counsel ought to be the very last thing that an accused person should want in a free country; that the bar ought, in my opinion, to be independent and impartial, at all times and in every circumstance, and that persons whose lives were at stake ought to have the counsel they preferred. – John Adams, February 26, 1770
Adams successfully argued that the solders felt threatened by the crowed and fired in a fit of panic. He got acquittals for six of the solders and the other two were charged with manslaughter and branded on their thumbs. Adams considered the event one of his bravest decisions.
I have reason to remember that fatal night. The part I took in defence of Captain Preston and the soldiers procured me anxiety and obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly, and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country. Judgment of death against those soldiers would have been as foul a stain upon this country as the executions of the quakers or witches anciently. As the evidence was, the verdict of the jury was exactly right. – John Adams, January 5, 1773
This is one of my favorite moments in history, for although it is often ignored, it illustrates something people often forget. Often I hear people talk of rights as something only they have, that others must respect their rights while they have no respect for the rights of others. But if we wish to truly fulfill the Founders dream of a country built around a social contract, a country built around consensus and compromise as opposed to one based on “subordination or subjection“; if one truly believes in rights as envisioned by the Declaration and Constitution one must believe that all Men, Women and Children have rights. That Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Atheists have rights. That not just Americans, but all human beings have rights; that everyone whether friend or foe has rights.
To denigrate the rights of others is tantamount to denying rights. If there is no expectation you will respect the rights of others, then why should you expect that others would respect your rights?
As the atrocities of the Assad regime pile up, the question on everybody’s lips is what the international community will do about it and will everyone agree to the solution. What ever the answer to that question, we have to ask ourselves what things should we be looking out strategically with regard to this situation. We also need to ask ourselves what a conflict with Syria would be like. We will look at the basic military situation, then that of the rebels, and finally the Geopolitical situation.
Comparing the Syrian military to that of the military’s of several recent conflicts we can make an educated guess as to what a conflict with Syria might produce. Unfortunately I could only find statistics for Syria’s military for 2003, nonetheless it is useful for comparison purposes. As we can see in terms of troop levels Syria is closer to Iraq than Libya and Afghanistan and Syria has more armaments than Iraq had.
Select Military Statistics For Several Countries
|Armed forces personnel||303,000 (2003)||72,000 (2003)||80,000 (2001)||397,000 (2002)|
|Weapons Holdings||11,480 (2003)||5,050 (2003)||2,180 (2001)||7,080 (2002)|
|Military Expenditures (2008 Dollars)||2,490 (2011)||1,116 (2008)||—||—|
|Land (sq kilometers)||183,630||1,759,540||652,230||438,317|
|Troop/ Arable Land Ratio||6.65||3.97||1.01||6.90|
Sources: CIA World Fact Book https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook
Another important way to look at the data is the troop land ratio. The reason being that it gives you an idea of what size area is being defended by a certain number of troops. It has a huge impact on how defensible a country is. A higher troop/land ratio not only means your troops are less spread out but also a small country indicates that it may be easier to deploy troops to another region. As we can see Syria is better armed than any of are recent opponents and is much more geographically compact.
Another concern about Syria’s Geography is that it is much less isolated than some of the other countries we have been in conflict with. Syria, is not only compact, allowing for better defense, it is more densely populated and shares borders three major US allies Turkey, Jordan, and Israel as well as with its former protectorate Lebanon and the unstable Iraq. A conflict in Syria that spread out side of Syria would place pose a grater potential risk then at least Afghanistan and Libya did.
That said as a problem this may also be an advantage for the international community. It places the Syria problem in the sphere of influence of two major powers who are likely to play a major role in any international intervention. Turkey as showed excellent willingness to step into the fray and it is highly doubtful that Israel likes having this ruckus on its front door step.
Syria not only is less Geographically isolated, it is less politically isolated. Much has been made of the Russia and China’s support of Syria however it is important to note that unlike the Taliban and Saddam, Syria has not been through years of sanctions and the economy is in a better state. For example in 2002 the Iraqi GDP per capita PPP (in 2011 dollars) was about $3,100, by comparison Syria’s is currently about $5,100, roughly 64% higher. (from the CIA world Fact Book) Meaning that at least in the short run the county can better economically deal with a war.
The news as also announced Russia has also been supplying Syria with arms so Syria has up to date armaments. On the other hand it is nice to note that Russia has finally agreed to support some sort of peace agreement, but the degree of support and whether Russia will stop supporting the Assad regime is still unclear.
Finally the Rebels, are not as encouraging as one might think. Although the presence Rebels should be a boon to the United States, unlike those in Libya, the Syrian Rebels seem far less useful. One is hard pressed to list any of their victories and they seem plagued by infighting.
I am not advocating or rejecting intervention in Syria although the US has already started with some intervention and it is both unlikely and against US interests to the US will ignore the situation. But Syria unlike Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya has the potential to be a prolonged campaign, the situation will have to be approached differently and with greater caution.
The new Foreign Affairs has a fascinating article called ”Why Iran Should Get the Bomb” by well known neo-realist political scientist Kenneth Waltz. Waltz makes an excellent argument for why Iran obtaining nuclear weapons would not be the horrable catastrophe many believe.
As a neo-realist Kenneth Waltz primarily views international relations as a constant anarchic balancing act. In his view Israel’s nuclear monopoly in the middle East has created an imbalance of power. He states on Israels air strikes on other counties:
Israel’s proven ability to strike potential nuclear rivals with impunity has inevitably made its enemies anxious to develop the means to prevent Israel from doing so again. In this way, the current tensions are best viewed not as the early stages of a relatively recent Iranian nuclear crisis but rather as the final stages of a decades-long Middle East nuclear crisis but rather as the final stages of a decades-long Middle East nuclear crisis that will end only when a balance of military power is restored.
He goes on to make important points that I’ve been agreeing with for years. The first is that “Iranian policy is not made by “mad mullahs” but by perfectly sane ayatollahs who want to survive just like any other leaders”. This is of course an appeal to the traditional concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). The idea behind MAD is that when you have two States locked in a power struggle, obtaining nuclear weapons can bring relative stability because the costs of war become so high it ceases to be a reasonable option. The critics you claim that the Iranians are to religiously irrational for MAD to apply clearly have not been paying attention to foreign policy.
This theory was one of the major reasons that the cold war lasted for so many years without a direct conflict between the United States and the USSR. As former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara stated in his book “In Retrospect“, two impotent lessons were learned during the Cuban Missile Crisis:
(1) in this age of high technology weapons, crisis management is inherently dangerous, difficult, and uncertain; and (2) because of misinformation, misjudgment, and miscalculation of the kind I have just enumerated, it is not possible to predict with confidence the consequences of military action between Great Powers. Therefore, we must direct our attention and energies to crisis avoidance.
In other words, enemy nuclear states tend to become more cautious in their interactions with each other, not more bellicose. The danger of nuclear catastrophe hangs over them preventing war.
Waltz discusses a more current example of maintaining peace through nuclear armament:
In 1991, the historical rivals India and Pakistan signed a treaty agreeing not to target each other’s nuclear facilities. They realized that far more worrisome then their adversary’s nuclear deterrent was the instability produced by challenges to it. Since then, even in the face of high tensions and risky provocations, the two countries have kept the peace. … If Iran goes nuclear, Israel and Iran will deter each other, as nuclear powers always have. There has never been a full-scale war between two nuclear-armed states.