Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

Copyright Notice

Everything that appears on this blog is the copyrighted property of somebody. Often, but not always, that somebody is me. For things that are not mine, I either have obtained permission, or claim fair use. Feel free to quote me, but attribute, please. My photos and poetry are dear to my heart, and may not be used without permission. Ditto, my other intellectual property, such as charts and graphs. I'm probably willing to share. Let's talk. Violators will be damned for all eternity to the circle of hell populated by Rosanne Barr, Mrs Miller [look her up], and trombonists who are unable play in tune. You cannot possibly imagine the agony. If you have a question, email me: jazzbumpa@gmail.com. I'll answer when I feel like it. Cheers!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

State of the Union

President Obama's final State of the Union address has received generally high marks - at least from people who think with their brains and not the nether reaches of their alimentary canals.  But there were a couple things in it that troubled me.

One was his enthusiasm for the TPP.  Undoubtedly, it has some good features.  But it's features were kept secret far too long; and it was never adequately explained to the American people.   Especially troubling is the prospect of foreign corporations being able to sue the U.S. for lost profits due to our internal decisions and rule making.  TransCanada is already using NAFTA provision to sue us for lost profits due to our refusal to let the Keystone XL pipeline go through.   Who knows how much more liability we might face under TPP, and what types of courts or tribunals might make those decisions

Do the proposed benefits of TPP outweigh the potential downsides, which might include direct challenges to U. S. sovereignty? Does TPP benefit U. S. workers, or trans-national mega-corporations? How can anyone decide these question intelligently?

The second was his moment of abject humility over his alleged failure to bridge the partisan gap with the Republicans - as if they hadn't met on the night of his first inauguration and mapped out a strategy to make him fail.  This crystalized for me as I listened to Thom Hartmann while driving home last night. Obama has spoken repeatedly about Dolores Kearns Goodwin's book 'Team of Rivals," which tells the story of the opposition members Lincoln installed in his cabinet. This seems to have influenced him since he said that a greater president, like Lincoln or FDR, would have been able to unite the differing parties.

This is not only false, it is so wrong it makes me sad.  Evidently Obama is still operating under the delusion that the Republicans will work with him to achieve anything.  They've already been blocking the appointment of new ambassadors for well over a year, have slow-walked judicial nominations for as long as they've had the majority, and now will approve no more during Obama's term in office.

When Obama spoke those words on Tuesday, I turned to my lovely wife and said, "For the thousandth time Obama extends an olive branch across the aisle, and for the thousandth time it's dashed to the ground and stomped into splinters."

Lincoln might have worked with members of the opposition, but it was an outspoken opposition sympathizer and anti-abolitionist who murdered him.

FDR, on the other hand, had no regard for bipartisanship.  In a 1936 campaign speech he famously said, "I welcome their hatred."  Then he went on about his business.




I don't know what Obama was thinking.  Maybe this is one more move in his game of 11 dimensional chess.  Certainly he is savvy and far more intelligent than the Republicans who oppose him.

But it looks to me that the time for conciliation is several years past its expiration date; and Obama needs to start educating the American people who their real enemies are.

That would make him a whole lot more like FDR.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Movie Review - Star Wars, Episode VII The Force Awakens


We saw The Force Awakens Tuesday night, guests of my step son Doug.  So thanks to him for the treat, and to my lovely wife for reminding me to take my ear plugs so I could survive the mayhem of the previews of coming destructions with my hearing still more or less intact. 

I’ve never been a fan of the Star Wars series, and went in fully prepared to hate this installment, but was relieved when that didn’t happen.  I assume everyone who cares has seen the movie, perhaps multiple times by now, so I shouldn’t be too concerned with spoilers.  But if I’m wrong, and that would bother you, then don't read beyond the fold.

To me, Star Wars has always been a series of mediocre check-your-brain-at-the door action-adventure stories filled with tropes that were banal centuries ago, wrapped up in mediocre plotting and truly dismal science fiction. This is the sort of stuff that writing school would tell you to avoid like the plague.  That it has become a multi-billion dollar franchise spanning decades and generations of die hard fans tells you exactly why you don’t ever want me in your focus group.

That said, I enjoyed the movie quite a bit - rather more than I actually liked it; and no, I’m not quite sure what that means.  The story has a lot of little treats packed in it for fans - cameo appearances by the ever annoying C3PO and a comatose R2D2, a trash compacter reference, and I’m sure lots of other echoes of earlier entries and tidbits that flew past me.

I walked out of it feeling that I had just rewatched Guardians of the Galaxy.  [I’ll leave the compare and contrast exercise to the interested reader.  Hint 1- there is no Groot analog that I am aware of.  Hint 2 - the Andy Serkis character.]  The plot was a herd of rabbits drawn from hats, and it seems that Abrams, et al, have a firm grasp of Dan Brown’s first law of success via bad story telling - keep the action moving at lightning speed and the audience won’t have a chance to fall through the plot holes.

Nits first, big complaints later -
  • Storm troopers still cannot hit any target - moving or stationary, despite their intense training from early childhood
  • Their armor still provides absolutely no protection beyond anonymity
  • Sound and flames still carry and burn in the vacuum of outer space - still and always unforgivable
     

Monday, January 4, 2016

Detroit Lions - A Tale of Two Seasons

Not two separate seasons, but the Lions' season before and after their week 9 bye.   The differences are stark.   In the first 8 games, the Lions went 1-7.  The 8th game was played in London, against a Chiefs team that at that time was 2-5.   This winnable game proved to be the low point of the Lions' season, as they not only lost, but got blown out 45 - 10.   [It was also the turning point for the Chiefs who went on to win all the rest of their games.]  This was the first game with the Lions' trio of new assistant offensive coaches.  Their predecessors had been fired just before the team boarded their trans-Atlantic flight, so their opportunities were limited.   The team looked to be in disarray.

Mercifully, the next week was a bye.  And the Lions did more than lick their wounds with the time off.  Owner Martha Ford sacked team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew.
This couldn't have effected the play on the field very much. I'd like to say that promoting Jim Bob Cooter to offensive coordinator was they key to the Lions' second half success, as the Lions averaged 18.6 points per game through game 8, and 26.1 from game 9 on. But that might be less than half story.

Here are the results of the Lions' games this season.


Game Lions Opponent W – L
1 28 33 L
2 16 26 L
3 12 24 L
4 10 13 L
5 17 42 L
6 37 34 W
7 19 28 L
8 10 45 L
9 18 16 W
10 18 13 W
11 45 18 W
12 23 27 L
13 14 21 L
14 35 27 W
15 32 17 W
16 24 20 W

Graph 1 shows the production of the Lions' offense in points per game.  Also shown are a 4-game average, and season average to date.


Graph 1 - Lions Points

The first game was not bad for the offense, as they scored 28 points, but they lost anyway as the defense gave up 33 to the Chargers.  Week 6 was by far the best game of the first half of the season. Stafford threw for 405 yds. - 166 of them to Calvin Johnson - as the Lions eked out a 37-34 O/T win at home vs the Bears.   The rest of the first half was close to an offensive drought as the Lions' next highest score was only 19.

They remained stuck on 18 in games 9 and 10, then exploded for 45 against the Eagles in game 11. That's when the new offensive presence made itself known; and the Lions went on to score at least 23 points in all the remaining games, except for a 21-14 loss to St. Louis in game 13.   The Rams finished the season number 13 in point prevention, allowing 20.6 per game.

The red line gives a rolling 4-game average, significantly higher in the 2nd half of the season, and still climbing at the end.  The yellow line is season average to date.  This perked up in game 11, and continued a slow climb from there to the end of the season.

I didn't realize this until I took a look at the numbers, but the 2nd half improvement in the defense was even more impressive.  In games 5 and 8 they gave up 42 and 45 points, respectively. In only one of those first 8 games did they hold their opponent under 24 points - and that was a 13-10 loss to Seattle where they got stiffed by the Zebras, who somehow neglected to give them a first down at the Seattle 1 yard line with 1:45 left in the game.

After the bye week, no opponent scored more than 27 points - a total reached twice.  The first time was the result of a heroic hail Mary completion by Aaron Rogers following yet another horrendous gaffe by the the Zebras, who gave Green Bay a free play with no time on the clock, following a phantom face mask call by an official who was approximately 3 miles from the action.  The second was against the Saints in game 14, but the Lions scored 35 to secure the win.

Graph 2 shows the opponent's scoring, same color and detail as in graph 1.

Graph 2 - Opponents Points

The defense did pretty well in games 2, 3 and 4, but was dismal the rest of the first half.  After the bye week, they did much better, knocking 16 points off the 4 game average from game 8 to game 16. Both the 4-game average and the average to date peaked at the game 8 debacle in London.  After that, the defensive turn around was stunning.   The Lions finished the season 23rd in point prevention, allowing 25.0 per game.  The first half average was 30.6 points, while the 2nd half average was 19.9.

None of this takes into consideration the quality of the opposition - something I might [or might not] take up an a follow-up post.  But the turn-around after mid season gives me hope for the future. The fact that the team improved dramatically in both offense and defense is very encouraging.

The Lions finished the season 7-9.  But this should have been no worse than 8-8, and almost certainly 9-7, but for the inexcusable ineptness of NFL officiating.    Matt Stafford is probably not a top 5 QB under any circumstances.  But he was excellent in the season's final few games.  With him and a few other skill players in key position I think the Lions can become a play-off team again next year.

Addendum:  The Lions played one of the toughest schedules in the NFL this year, facing 8 teams that made the playoffs - including Minnesota and Green Bay, who they each played twice.  Next year they have 4 games with teams from the NFC East and AFC South, this year's weakest divisions.   This is just more good news.



 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Chronicle of Death

Here it is from the Guardian - 994 mass shootings in 1004 days.

This includes all incidents in which 4 or more people were shot, irrespective of whether there were any fatalities.

The link.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Heard - Detroit

On Saturday, Chicago based sculptor, dancer and performance artist Nick Cave brought his raffia soundsuit creation THE HEARD to Detroit.

The event took place at Milliken State Park in downtown Detroit, right by the river walk.

We captured video of it in 4 segments.  The first is the entrance, the second is just horsing around, the third is the choreographed portion, and the fourth is the exit.

Granddaughter Amanda was the lead part of the lead horse in the entrance, red in front and black and white behind.

Videos follow.




Part 1 - Entrance




Part 2 - Horsing Around



Part 3 - Dancing and Prancing



Part 4 Finale and Exit

An unusual event, to be sure.


Blood Moon

Some pics of last night's event.

Half way to total eclipse.


Within a minute the clouds rolled in.


During the time it was total, the clouds opened up again for a clear view.

Almost there.


Complete.


Afterward, it clouded up again so I couldn't get any pics on the way out.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Household Debt Service vs GDP Growth

In conversation at Art's we wondered about the relationship between household debt service payments as a percentage of disposable personal income and YoY GDP growth.  A scatterplot of the quarterly data from FRED, covering Q1, 1980 to Q1, 2015 looks like this.


Graph 1 - FRED Plot

There's a broad hint of an overall negative slope.  But if you lop off a few points on the right and the left, the remaining central cluster is relatively shapeless.   But, there does seem to be some negative slope to at least certain line segments, so that might mean something.

My first cut at figuring this out was to download the FRED data and make a new plot - Graph 2 - with line segments separated in what I hope is a coherent fashion.  I did this by eyeball, then labeled the segments according to the dates they include.   In the process I inadvertently reversed the axes, but this shouldn't change whatever conclusions might be drawn.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Tigers and the Slough of Despond - 2015 Edition

Latest rumor I've heard is the Tigers dumping Brad at the end of the season, and hiring Ron Gardenhire, an over the hill manager with a mediocre track record.   Early in his managing career at Minnesota, Gardenhire did well with a low payroll team.  But from 2011 through '14, his best record was 70-92 (.432)

I suppose a disappointing season might generate a knee jerk reaction. If it were to be this, I see very little merit in the action.

Let's take a look at the Tigers season and see if we can identify problems.

Tigers have given up 5.06 runs per game. That's a run differential of -102, as of today. Only Colorado and Philadelphia are worse. They've actually exceeded their Pythagorean win expectation by 5 games. By the BaseRuns metric, they're exactly where they should be.

It comes down to pitching, not Brad.

One criticism is he leaves his pitchers in too long.

Brad's dilemma is - if you take a starter out, who are you going to replace him with? Hardy (57 Innings Pitched, 1.26 WHIP) and Wilson (65.1, 1.06) are the only decent relievers in the stable, and they can't go out every day. Next best is Verhagen (15.1, 1.37) but his sample size is small. League Average WHIP is 1.3 to 1.4. By this metric, everybody else is from below average to Awful. Also, per WHIP, the only decent starters are JV and Norris, but Norris is on the DL.

It's pitching, not Brad.

In games decided by 1 or 2 runs, the Tigers are 31-31. In games decided by 4 runs, they're 8-11. In games decided by 5 or more runs, they're 17-27. I would expect that if managing is gong to make a difference, it would be in close games. They're dead even there. The story of this season is giving up tons of runs, and getting blown out.

It's pitching, not Brad.

Tigers are tied for the highest batting avg in MLB with KC, at .271; 4th in OBP at .326; 4th in slugging at .427; but 11th in runs scored, 159 behind No 1 Toronto. Baseball statisticians do not believe that clutch hitting is a thing. All this hitting with a lower than expected scoring rate actually comes down to bad luck.

I don't see any rational reason for dumping Brad.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Quote of the Day

Jesus was a homeless brown-skinned liberal who gave out free health care and free food and spoke no English. Which is why Donald Trump would have proposed a wall between Judea and Galilee to keep people like Jesus out.
                                          ---  Badtux the Snarky Penguin


Sunday, August 16, 2015

History In a Nutshell

Update, 8/24/15:  Quote of the day, via Robert Reich on Face Book:

"In all civilized as well as barbarous countries, a few rich and intelligent men have built up nobility systems by which, under some name and by some contrivance, a few are enabled to live upon the labor of the many. These ruling classes have had many names -- kings, lords, priests, fund holders, bankers -- but all are founded on deception, and maintained by power."

-- Amos Kendall (1833)


A Brief Summary of Human History

History is the chronicle of human cruelty.   There are two over-riding and inter-related themes:  Oppression and War.

Oppression

In every place and time there has been a struggle between a small elite group possessing wealth and/or power and the rest of the population.   The elite use their advantage to dominate, oppress and exploit the labor of the majority for their own gain.  Although there have been brief, occasional, exceptional periods when the playing field might have appeared to be more or less equal; by a large margin, the elites have stayed way up on top.   The tools they use to maintain their advantage are execution, incarceration, overt brutality, brainwashing, propaganda and scapegoating minorities.  And there are always willing servitors to do the dirty work of the elite in exchange for some advantage in status or creature comforts. These advantages are large from the perspective of those who come to enjoy them, but insignificant from the perspective of the elites, who grant them with the flick of a finger. Sadists and sociopaths naturally migrate into those rolls. 

[As an aside, I’ll mention the U.S.A in the few decades following WW II as one of those exceptional times.  I can’t pin down a specific date when it ended: historical corners are never turned in such a crisp and definitive manner.  But if you peruse the tool list above, it’s clear that the exceptional period is over and the oligarchs are once again in the driver’s seat.]

War

War is armed conflict between or among differing groups. There are three types of war: conquest, civil war, and revolution.

Conquest

One group, usually a nation, state or tribe, wants something that another group has - material wealth, land, natural resources, a population to be enslaved - and engages in armed conflict in an attempt to take it away from them.  Generally, the aggressor group uses some cover to incite the population and get them ready and willing to die on the next hill.  Nationalism, racism and religion, alone or in combination are usually all that it takes.  

Civil War

One group inside a country or region wants to dominate the other group.  In general, neither group has any particular merit.  Death, rapine and mayhem ensue until one side is either destroyed or gives up.  Regionalism, clannishness, racism and religion, alone or in combination are usually all that it takes.

Revolution

This one is different.  The oppressed minority somehow manages to acquire enough man power and weaponry to challenge the ruling elite and their servitors.  Usually, by the time is’s all over, there are no good guys left.

So there you have it: all of human history in a nutshell.  Did I nail it or slam the hammer down on my thumb?


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

In Which Trump Proves My Fallibility

A few months back I predicted that by September Donald Trump would be the Herman Cain of the current Rethug presidential field - a quirky, mildly offensive, moderately amusing performance artist whose star quickly rises, then goes poof in the middle of the night. Well, we’re only 1/3 of the way through August and I have to admit I got this wrong. And not by a near miss, either. My prediction was the the very antithesis, the exact polar opposite of correct.

Draft dodger Trump broke St Ronnie’s 11th commandment by speaking ill of a fellow Rethug, and in the process dissed the military service and PoW status of one who in conservatard circles is considered to be a war hero. And his poll numbers went up.

Trump has made a series of blatantly stupid and gratuitously hateful statements that are either racist or misogynist. And each time his pole numbers went up.

Now, he has taken on Fox news - that bastion of right wing punditry and thought control - and Fox backed down.

Let me make this crystal clear: Trump feuded with the official propaganda arm of the Rethug party, and won!

Presumably it was H. L. Menken who said, ”"No one in this world, so far as I know - and I have searched the record for years, and employed agents to help me - has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.”

Well it wasn’t my money on the line, but I certainly failed to underestimate the intelligence - or perhaps gullibility, or maybe the amorphous bitterness and self-defeating, wrong-headed bigotry and hatred of America’s plain citizens, those simple people of the earth, the common clay of the right wing - you know: morons.
___________________



"Now that Donald Trump and Roger Ailes have reconciled after a brutal 96-hour-long estrangement in which both sides said many things they lack the moral capacity to regret, the GOP presidential hopeful was free to appear on 'Fox & Friends' this morning to complain about, among other things, ISIS’s superior Internet connections."

Notes:








Thursday, August 6, 2015

Religion in the Modern World

This morning I had a tiny epiphany regarding the IOKIYAR [It’s OK if you're a Republican] cliche.  Of course, this is just tribalism - that much has always been obvious.  What struck me today is the connection of Tea Party Rethuglianism to Christian religious fundamentalism.

The basic concept of Christian fundamentalism is that once you accept Jesus as your personal savior, you’re in - you’re saved, you’re going to heaven: end of story.  They way in which you live your life - your sins vis-vis your good works - becomes irrelevant.

Implicit in this concept is the notion that Jesus will inform your life in such a way that you will then live it according to the ideals that Jesus preached constantly and exemplified continuously in his own life: love one another, take care of those in need, forgive, and don’t judge.

But we all know how that works out.  

Of course, the antitheses of all of these is greed and hatred. What I see among self-righteous, self-professing Christians in the pubic sphere is boundless greed, hatred on steroids, utter contempt for those in need, and harsh - indeed merciless - judgement for those who do not meet their approval, for whatever reason.

Then what I see among the Christian community at large [with the notable exception of the current Pope and his minions - but the fundamentalists don’t believe Catholics are real Christians anyway, so that doesn’t count for much] and most notably the Christian right, is agreement with and approval for every bit of this. But since they’re saved, it’s all good.  

So here’s the connection: when you’re in the tribe, whether it be the Christian or the Rethug Tea Party variety, anything you do is OK, because - well, just because.  And, to a large extent, these two tribes are really just one.

So now you see Donald Trump making stupidly outrageous comments on a wide variety of topics, and surging in the polls.  Because he is not only a Rethug, but playing to the ignorance and prejudice of a base which is largely the religious right.

The hypocrisy - it burns.