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!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Regarding the Lions

Lions football – Desolation of Smaug – Which is the vaster, more devastated waste land?

Ever on the alert for new ways to lose, the Lions, rather than waiting to blow the game in the waning seconds, blow it with fully 9 minutes left.

Then, the big challenge – could they hang on to this loss against the hapless Vikings?

YES! Yes they could.

It’s yet another 4th Qtr collapse, but a new variation on the never-ending theme. With 10 min left the Lions, ahead 13-7, had the Vikes pinned deep in their own end. They punt, Lions get the ball to mid-fieldd but NO! – a penalty on the run back takes them back near the 20.

On 4th and 16 the Loins [not a typo] punt FROM THEIR OWN END ZONE: 48 Yd punt — 52 Yd return back to the 7. Two plays later the Vikings get a TD and extra point to go ahead by 1. This is followed by 9 minutes and 19 seconds of pointless anticlimax.

Thus endeth yet another tragic season.

Regarding Tauriel

I suppose if you're going to invent a gratuitously plot-extending character out of whole cloth, you could do worse than a beautiful and totally kick-ass warrior elf-maid. Such characters are not unknown in the cannon.

And given the precedence of fluidly poetic elf names like EƤrendil the Mariner, Elrond Halfelven and Luthien Tinuviel, couldn't Tauriel have been given a more elaborately Elvish appellation; maybe something along the lines of Elvangien Lilliel?

Granted, that might seem a bit over-blown for a common wood elf.

But since the whole thing was overblown, it at least has the virtue of thematic consistency.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Smaug Alert

"The Desolation of Smaug" runs 2 1/2 hours.

Three hours of that involved an intricate game of hide and seek deep under the mountain. [Smaug is THE most bad-ass dragon EVAH!]

Ten or so minutes consumed melting [or perhaps smelting] gold.

Another hour and a half involved hand to hand elv-orc and dwarve-orc combat in a variety of locations, and the mandatory beheading of orcs - which, I will grant you - is always a cool thing.

Exploring Dol Guldor - less than an hour, I think.

The really, really deep look into the depths of Sauron only took a few seconds.

The Athelas quest, only a few minutes, but the pig was annoyed.

You totally lose track of time in a spider cocoon, so I won't even guess.

Wholly made up adventures of 1) Bard, and 2) the absolutely totally platonic relationship between the unfortunate Kili and the lovely she-elf whose name I can't remember - Maybe a half hour.

Dwarve jail break was a barrel of fun that took less than 1/2 hour.

White water adventures - 10 minutes.

Hanging cliffs - 17 minutes, 27 seconds.
Gandolf - check.
Smaug - check.
Arkenstone - check
Kili - check
Bard - check
Legolas* - check

Did I miss any?

All of that said, though it was a bit overblown, I really did enjoy it.

* Yeah Legolas - deal with it.


Lyonnaise (adj): Cooked with onions. Ex - The Lions played today as if they once again ate too many lyonnaise potatoes at lunch.

Lionize (v): To treat as an object of great interest or importance. Ex - Now who will lionize the Lions?

Leonine (adj): Of or resembling a lion or pride of lions. Ex - Once again, the Lions were not leonine today.

Lie on (verb phrase): To recline on top of. Ex: Once again the Lions were found to lie on the ground.

Lionesque* (adj): Failing for no apparent reason. Ex: The Lions were certainly lionesque again today.

* H/T to my ivory-tickling friend Ryan.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

We don’t let gravity keep us from building bridges.

Steve Randy Waldman, while talking about the economics of inequality, mentioned in passing that the poor die with negative wealth.

Doesn’t this imply that their spending needs were greater than their ability to spend?

Doesn’t that suggest that if they had a little more, they would spend every penny of it?

Nor does it have to be technology driven. Maybe they get a third meal one day a week, a better pair of shoes for the kids or a new pair more often, a five-year-old instead of a seven-year-old used car.

Still – the economic and the moral considerations converge at the low income level. It’s true that economics is not a morality play. However well or ill we understand it, econ, as a natural phenomenon, is a brute force, like gravity. That’s why humans with a moral compass need to intervene. We don’t let gravity keep us from building bridges.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Going Nuclear

This post at LGM reminded me of my "Party of No" post from almost 4 years ago.

I've updated the graph, and maybe made it a little easier to read.

From Congresses 65 [1917-18] through 91 [1969-70] there were never more than 7 cloture votes in any two-year session.  The line rising up from the bottom left of the graph shows what has happened to votes per session since.  It's color coded by the party with the minority in the senate, Red for Rep, Blue for Dem.  The yellow dot shows the 44 cloture votes to date for the current 113th congress. 

 Filibusters use is down from the 112 cloture votes of the 110th congress.  But the 73 votes of the 112th congress is still above the pre-Obama high of 61 in the 107th congress.  With more than a year left in the current 113th session, it was on a pace to exceed the total of the 112th.  However, that will probably now not come to fruition.

Dems have used the filibuster, but typically about as often as the current norm.  Reps have been responsible for the vast majority of the increased filibuster use over time.  The squiggly red and blue lines [same color code, right scale] indicate the number of senators per party at a given time, counting independents who caucused with the party as being of that party.

It's pretty clear that abusing the filibuster has not been a problem over the entire span of the last century.  It clearly has become one now.  Filibuster use more than doubled as soon as BHO became president.  Using it to block appointments has been particularly egregious, prompting the current change in senate rules.

For additional context, he alternating blue-red line at the top of the graph shows the sitting president's party affiliation.

I see Kevin Drum at Mother Jones has covered this subject as well.

Money quote:
The last straw came when Republicans announced their intention to filibuster all of Obama's nominees to the DC circuit court simply because they didn't want a Democratic president to be able to fill any more vacancies.

Cloture vote counts and make up of the Senate from Senate.gov.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Inflationary Derp

Once again, Krugman takes on the inflationistas, aka your typical derpy Republicans.  Their tired story goes this way:

Vice Chair Yellen will continue the destructive and inflationary policy of pouring billions of newly printed money every month into our economy, and artificially holding interest rates to near zero. This policy has been in place far too long.

Of course, it's nonsense.

PK shows this from FRED, here as graph 1.

Graph 1 - Monetary Base and Inflation since 2009

Sure, enough, a big, big change in Money and a pretty flat non-response in Inflation.

But this is only short term, since the Great Recession [GR].  Lets take a longer view in Graph 2, using the same FRED database.  Here the two data sets are on opposite axes, to let Inflation more visibly inflate.

Graph 2 - Monetary Base and Inflation since 1970

Aside from the Great Inflation Dragon, ca.1980, it's been a rather steady and featureless climb for Inflation up until the GR wiggle.  The Monetary Base had a slightly faster than linear rise, until the three recent big steps up.  

PK's point, then, is well taken.  Let's look at it a different way.  Here in Graph 3 is Inflation as a function of the Monetary Base.

Graph 3 - Inflation vs the Monetary Base, 1970 on

Pretty dramatic.  In the past, it would have seemed that increasing the Monetary Base correlated with rising Inflation. Suddenly, though, when the GR arrived, that stopped and stayed stopped.   More likely, though, both variables just trended up over time, each for its own reasons.

Here is the same graph, with the GR truncated.

Graph 4 - Inflation vs the Monetary Base, 1970 through 2007

But if you look at annual changes, a somewhat different picture emerges, as seen in Graph 5.

Graph 5 - Inflation vs the Monetary Base, Annual % Change

 It's hard to see an overarching pattern here, but at a detail level, it seems that the movements are contrary.

That appears to be an illusion, though.  The scattergram in Graph 6 below, with Inflation on the vertical axis, suggests that there is no relationship at all.  Note that this data set is truncated at 2007, so there is no effect from the GR.

Graph 6 - Annual Change in Inflation vs Annual Change in Monetary Base, Through 2007

There are big changes in the Monetary Base with almost no change in Inflation; and big changes in Inflation when the change in Monetary Base is small.   In post WW II America, there is no broad correlation between Monetary Base growth and Inflation..

Including 2008-13 in Graph 7 emphasizes just how different those years really are.

Graph 6 - Annual Change in Inflation vs Annual Change in Monetary Base, Through 2013

Just to demonstrate that the money measure doesn't matter much, Graph 7 shows the annual Inflation rate vs the change in MZM.

 Graph 7 - Annual Change in Inflation vs Annual Change MZM, Through 2013

Now the Christmas tree shape is leaning hard to the left, suggesting, if anything, that the relationship between Money supply growth and Inflation might be negative.

What this leaves us with is very few things inflating these days, other than the money supply and Republican derp.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Debt Service Ratio

Via CR we find the Fed report on household debt Service ratio, just out today.

The household debt service ratio (DSR) is an estimate of the ratio of debt payments to disposable personal income. Debt payments consist of the estimated required payments on outstanding mortgage and consumer debt.
The household debt service ratio (DSR) is an estimate of the ratio of debt payments to disposable personal income. Debt payments consist of the estimated required payments on outstanding mortgage and consumer debt.
Read more at http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/#BHACpsgJPrkXpjCY.99
The household debt service ratio (DSR) is an estimate of the ratio of debt payments to disposable personal income. Debt payments consist of the estimated required payments on outstanding mortgage and consumer debt.
Read more at http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/#BHACpsgJPrkXpjCY.99
The household debt service ratio (DSR) is an estimate of the ratio of debt payments to disposable personal income. Debt payments consist of the estimated required payments on outstanding mortgage and consumer debt.
Read more at http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/#BHACpsgJPrkXpjCY.99

This is based on estimates, so it's less exact than we would like, but as a time series ought to be illustrative.

This is just what I've been looking for, since I think of the debt burden in terms of ability to pay, and that is determined by the percentage of disposable income required for debt servicing.

CR shows a graph of DSR aggregated over homeowner and renters (red line) and mortgage and consumer obligations for homeowners only, reproduced below.  The red line is mislabeled on the CR graph as DSR for homeowners only.  It is corrected in the accompanying text, though.

Graph 1 from CR, Note misidentified Red Line

I took closer look at the red line, and added trend channels.  This is displayed in Graph 2.

Graph 2 - Household debt service payments as a percentage of disposable personal income; seasonally adjusted

I like to find a narrative that makes sense of the curve.  Since data before 1980 isn't included, we don't have earlier values.  But there is an immediate, though small drop, due to deleveraging during the early 80's double dip recession.  There is a sizable increase from '84 to '87, perhaps due to changing regulations and loosening lender requirements.  I  don't know what to make of the slight decline for the rest of the decade.  The next big deleveraging occurs starting in Q2 '91, after the '90-'91 recession had officially ended, and the bottom extends into 1994.  After that, it's good times and irrational exuberance, with only a slight down tic at the next recession, lasting from late '01 through mid '04, then up again to the ultimate top at the end of '07.  Then came the crash and a huge delveraging that might now start to level off at a new low around 9.8 to 9.9%.  The previous low of 10.43% is indicated by the purple horizontal line.

That's my attempt to understand the data.  What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Political Incorrectness

These days there is some well-deserved critical attention being paid to the name of the Washington D.C. professional football team.   The name has been around since 1933 when George Preston Marshall, one of the original owners of the at-that-time 1-year-old Boston Braves, changed the team name to the current racial epithet.  In 1937 he moved the team to D.C.

Marshall was by all accounts a virulent racist who deliberately chose a  team name that would be overtly offensive.  Make no mistake, this was done knowingly and willfully.  1933 was not some innocent, halcyon time.  Racism in those days was more explicit, vicious and violent than anyone born in the civil rights era would be able to imagine. 

Marshall also refused to let African-American players participate on his team, until finally relenting in 1962, 13 years after the rest of the league began drafting black players.  Even then, he relented only under a direct threat of having his stadium lease revoked.  It's no coincidence that for most of Marshall's tenure, the Washington team was the southernmost in the NFL.

You can have whatever opinion you like on this matter.  But the fact remains that the team name is a racial epithet, offensive per se, and specifically selected to be so.  In my opinion, every bit of that is inexcusable. 

A couple of weeks ago I heard a radio host rant about this topic, going on to likewise condemn the names of the Florida Seminoles, Illinois U. Illini, Cleveland Indians, etc.etc.  Also included in this rant was criticism of the Altlanta Braves.  There is considerable validity to this point of view, but it's possible to take it too far.

The radio host went on to say that there are no mascots that are caricatures of white people.  But, without too much dedicated thinking, I came up with the Minnesota Vikings, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Michigan State Spartans, and Southern Cal Trojans.  That pretty much deflates the argument.  Also, the Oklahoma Sooners and Nebraska Corn Huskers, though not ethnic groups, specifically refer to the white settlers in these areas.

The other part of it is that team names, or mascots if you prefer to think of them that way, have as eponyms entities known for courage, valor, tenacity and fighting spirit.  Consider those chosen from the animal kingdom:  Lions and Tiger and Bears, oh my, Eagles, Falcons, Hawks, Sharks, Wolverines, Badgers, 'Gators; on and on it goes.  No sheep, lemmings, flamingos or squirrels, though the Cardinals and Ducks might make you stop and go, "hmmmmm."

So I think harping about the Braves is protesting too much.  In between, there is a broad, gray area.  The Cleveland Indians Chief Wahoo is certainly pushing it.  But is that really any more out of line than the pugnacious leprechaun representing the Fighting Irish, the horn-helmeted Viking, or Herbie Husker?

As I said before, you can have any opinion you like.  Mine is that the Washington D.C. professional football team should either change their name to something non-offensive [or at least LESS offensive] or adopt a new logo.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rethugs Against Government

Via Ed Schultz on FB, a list of the 18 Senators who voted against reopening the government.

Coburn, Tom - (R – OK)
Cornyn, John - (R – TX)
Crapo, Mike - (R – ID)
Cruz, Ted - (R – TX)
Enzi, Michael B. - (R – WY)
Grassley, Chuck - (R – IA)
Heller, Dean - (R – NV)
Johnson, Ron - (R – WI)
Lee, Mike - (R – UT)
Paul, Rand - (R – KY)
Risch, James E. - (R – ID)
Roberts, Pat - (R – KS)
Rubio, Marco - (R – FL)
Scott, Tim - (R – SC)
Sessions, Jeff - (R – AL)
Shelby, Richard C. - (R – AL)
Toomey, Patrick J. - (R – PA)
Vitter, David - (R – LA)

 A rougue's gallery of fools, tools, thieves, thugs, and idiots.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Tale of Two Sluggers

I took a look at life time stats for David "Big Papi" Ortiz of the Red Sox and Miguel "Miggy" Cabrera of the Tigers.

Ortiz is older and has been around longer.  In the following graph, I eliminated his first three years when he had limited plate appearances.  For both hitters, I've looked at home runs and doubles.  The idea is that for sluggers like these guys, a double is a hit that didn't quite have enough oomph to make it out of the park.  [I've omitted triples, because these are big, slow guys who never get more than a couple per year.]

What I'm probing here is the possibility of drug induced enhanced performance, looking for a trade off between doubles and home runs.

Here are Miggy's stats for at-bats, HRs and doubles.

Here is a graph of HR's and 2Bs per at-bat; HRs in blue, 2Bs in pink, average of the two in yellow.

Doubles vary a lot from year to year, but exhibit no discernible trend.  HRs clearly go up over time, as he approaches his prime and his slugging improved.  The average of HRs and 2Bs also increases, laregely due to the HR increase.  Doubles are way off this year, since lower body injuries have made it mpossible for him to run at times.  HR production in September was close to non-existent, so he really was on fire the rest of the year.

Here are similar stats for Big Papi


Note the huge shift from HRs to 2Bs from 2006 to 2007, the year MLB got serious about PEDs.

Here is the graph, same color coding.

Two striking things about this graph are different from Cabrera's.  First, the big drop off in HR's in 2007, and second the HR-2B trade-off indicated by the contrary motion from 2002-2007.

Note that the average of HRs and 2Bs remains fairly constant.

This is strongly suggestive that, despite his denials, Big Papi was using PEDs.

And Miggy was not.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday Night Music - Glow

Not sure what's up with the wreckage, the floating, nor the hospital gown.  But this is pretty mellow for Kaki King, Just right for a Friday night.

Tux, in the comment, offers some insight that is to good to moulder there.  So I bought it up to moulder here, instead.

What happened was that she created a rock band for her previous album (Junior), and found out that touring with a rock band is a lot more expensive than touring with just herself and her guitar. So the new album (Glow) was written for just herself and her guitar to tour, though the album itself has other instrumentation on it. And most of the songs on the new albums are instrumentals like back when she was starting out because she can't do fancy guitar picking and sing at the same time, it just gets to be too much. So that's the story on why the album has so much acoustic instrumental guitar work on it. As for the video itself, beats me :).

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A New Look at Real GDP - Part 2

Part 1 took a hard look at GDP growth after 1955.  Part 2 will take a hard look at Volatility.  The usual measure of volatility is the Standard Deviation.  Graph 1 is a scatter plot of Standard Deviation [St Dev] vs RGDP growth over an 8 year period.  The X-axis value is the average RGDP over the previous 8 years [32 quarters] while the Y-axis value is the standard deviation of RGDP growth over the identical period.  There's nothing magical about using an 8 year period, you get a similar picture using a 15 year period.

Graph 1 - RGDP Growth and Volatility

When I looked at the 15 year graph I noticed something that made me want to use an 8 year period, and that is the data trend over presidential terms.  The last data point in the term represents the performance of a given 8-year administration, and the trend over the term can offer contrast to other administrations.

Since the major trend over time has been decreases in both RGDP and St Dev, the data set starts at the upper right, and moves generally down and to the left over time.  The blue points at the start of the data set represent the Kennedy-Johnson administration from 1963 on.   JFK inherited high volatility from Ike, and during the Democratic term, RGDP growth increased while volatility decreased from 2.95 to 2.09.  During Nixon-Ford [purple], volatility jumped back up to the 2.5 range while average RGDP growth plummeted from 4.8 to 2.7%.  During the Carter administration [light blue], RGDP growth increased to 3.6%, then fell again, while volatility remained fairly constant in the 2.5 to 2.7 range.  Interestingly, the moribund Carter administration at it's best gave us average RGDP growth equal to Reagan's, at it's best, with much lower volatility.

During Reagan's term [red], RGDP growth fell, then rose. Both RGDP growth and volatility reached their maxima in Q4, '84 at 3.5% and 3.06, respectively.   During George H. W. Bush's term [yellow], average RGDP and St Dev didn't change much, despite the sharp RGDP drop in 1991.  By Q2, '95, RGDP growth stabilized, and grew slowly from there for the rest of Clinton's term [blue] while volatility dropped dramatically from 2.5 at the begiining of the term to 1.3 at the end.  During the George W. Bush term, volatility remained low while average GDP growth took a nose dive from 3.8 to 2.3%.

Then the Great Recession happened, and during Obama's term we've seen RGDP growth and volatility both stabilize.   While the Std Dev has settled in at an intermediate level, average RGDP growth has never been lower during the period under study.

This demonstrates what I've believed for a long time:  the Great Moderation is a myth.  The only meaningful declines in St Dev took place during the Kennedy-Johnson and Clinton administrations - what I call the two little moderations.  You can attribute this to good policy or good luck.  But the Great Stagnation is real.  Only during the Kennedy-Johnson and Clinton administrations did we experience increasing GDP growth along with falling volatility.

Now, I'm gong to introduce the concept of Relative Standard Deviation [RSD] this is simply the standard deviation divided by the average of the data set on which it is based.  You might think this is a novel concept, but analytical chemists and quality engineers use it all the time.  Think about it this way.  If the St Dev is two and the data is clustered around 10 that's one thing, but if its clustered around 2, that's something quite different.  The denominator provides context for the numerator.

Graph 2 shows the RSD of RGDP growth, again based on a moving 8 year kernel.

Graph 2 - Relative St Dev of RGDP Growth

I've included the grand average [0.735] in yellow and some trend lines. At the beginning of the series, RSD falls sharply to a low of 0.418 in Q4, '69.  From there it's a bumpy rise to the top at 1.35 in Q4, '82.  But the value remains below the average for 9 years from Q4 '65 to Q4, '74.  Following the peak, there is no meaningful breach of the average again until Q1, '97.   In other words, after the peak, volatility remained high for 7 years, and at or above average for 15.  From 1990 through '96, the values cluster close to the average line.  After that, values stay below average until Q4, '98, 12 years later.  What we have are two roughly symmetrical, approximately decade long periods of low volatility - the little moderations - surrounding two above average decades that include two volatility bumps and one brief excursion into ultra-high high volatility in 1982-3.  The low volatility of the little moderations results from avoiding recessions - periods when volatility goes up while GDP growth declines.  The 1982 peak is an artifact of the double dip recessions of  '80 and '82. The whole key to having low volatility has been, up until recently, to avoid recessions.

As I said, I think the Great Moderation is a myth.  It's entire existence is predicated on 2 things: 1) a brief ultra-high volatility blip due to a double dip recession; and 2) completely ignoring the existence of the first little moderation. 

But what's happened since is truly remarkable.  We now have what some people consider to be [and applaud as] remarkably stable GDP growth.  But what we actually have is the lowest non-recessionary GDP growth ever recorded, coupled with historically high RSD.  This is a truly ugly economic environment.  Anyone graduating now is the unluckiest of all.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A New Look at Real GDP

At Art's Place, Marcus Nunes presents his argument that 1982, despite being the all time high in unemployment, was a great time to enter the work force, "just as the Volcker adjustment took effect, ‘eradicating’ inflation from the system and stabilizing the economy, paving the way to the Great Moderation."  He presents some charts with trend lines that I think are conceptually incorrect.  Putting a single straight trend line through a data set that clearly has an inflection point near 1982 obliterates the change resulting from that inflection.  The right method, in my opinion, is to connect peak to peak and trough to trough, as I did here in My Graph 1.1, for a more extreme example.

But for this post, I want to focus on RGDP, the basis for part of Marcus' Argument.  His claim is that, taking 1982 as an inflection point, volatility was high in the early period and low in the later period, while both periods exhibit the same mean.  There is certainly a volatility difference, with standard deviations of 2.789 and 2.000 for the early and late periods, respectively.

But, the mean is only the same [3.42 vs 3.39] if you truncate the late period at the end of 2007, and eliminate the Great Recession.  One could argue for this, I suppose, if there is an assumption that the Great Recession were an aberration and not the end game of the Great Stagnation.  But I don't believe that is true.  In fact, RGDP growth was already faltering by Q2 of 2004, and had dipped to 1.4% by the beginning of 2007.  Plus, this all follows a rather anemic recovery from the 2001 recession.

Graph 1 shows YoY RGDP growth from 1955 thought Q2 of 2013.  The grand average of 3.37, is shown in pink.  The '55 to '82 average of 3.42 is in yellow, the late period average of 2.94 is shown in bright blue.

Graph 1 - RGDP - YoY % Change

Aside from the post recession spike of 8.6% in Q1, '84, and the bump from Q4, '95 through Q2, '01, the entire post-82  period up until the Great Recession looks rather bland. 

One way to tame jumpy data is to take a moving average.  Graph 2 zeros in on 13 [purple] and 21 year [blue] moving averages from 1967 on.

 Graph 2 - RGDP - YoY % Change with Avgs

The averages reach their all time highs in Q2, '74 and Q1, '79, respectively.  I've placed a trend channel in brown around around the 13 yr average line.  The orange mid-channel line turns out to be the lower boundary for the 21 year average line.  There's basically sideways motion from the late 80's through the early naughts in both lines, then drop-offs starting in 2003 for the 21 yr averages and 2007 for the 13 yr average.  These declines begin before the onset of the Great Recession.

There's always more than one way to look at data. Two years ago, I charted the the YoY % change in the 5 year average of quarterly RGDP data.  That is shown in graph 3.

 Graph 3 - YoY % Change in % Yr Avg of RGDP Growth

The line is color coded by presidential administration.  Make of that what you will.  I didn't put a trend channel on this graph, but you can eye-ball one easily enough, with a clearly downward slope.  Also included in yellow is a 13 year average of the red-blue line.  Clearly, there are two regimes, with an inflection near 81-82, and lower growth after.

The point of all this is to demonstrate that there is more of a difference between the pre- and post 1982 periods than simply a volatility reduction.  There is also a decline in RGDP growth, if you dig into the numbers to find it.  The Great Moderation really was the Great Stagnation.  And it culminated in the Great Recession.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tigers and the Slough of Despond

Looking forward to the playoffs with fear and trepidation, I'm also trying to get over the mental and emotional breakdown I suffered due to the Tigers season ending sweep by - not of - the 100 loss Miami Marlins.  Even worse, they scored only 3 runs in that 3 game series.  Even worser, they got no-hit on the last game of the season.  Adding to the worsitude, their 4th game from the end of the season was a 1-0 shut out of the Twins.  The Tigers scored a grand total of exactly 4 runs in their last 4 games of the season.

In the first game of the Marlins series it was pretty clear Leyland didn't care about the W-L result.   In fact, he sort-of went with the program I outlined here, using lots of pitchers and platooning the non-starters.  It's not at all clear that he wasn't trying to win the last two games - though he didn't put everything on the line to do so.  As a result, they wound up only one game in front of the red hot 2nd place Indians, who ended their season running away from the 3rd place Royals with 10 straight wins.

I ended my August wrap-up saying, "Scoring is down a bit, and that might be a concern going forward."  Really, I had no idea.  Graph 1 shows how scoring has declined over the season.  The purple line is season average to date.  The yellow line is the average of the last 34 games.

Graph 1 - Season Scoring

From game 34 through game 62, the 34 game average stayed in the relatively narrow range of 5.26 to 5.68 runs per game [RPG].  Then, through game 80, there was a steep decline to 4.24 RPG.  After that came a climb to a double peak culminating in the season high of 5.74 RPG at game 115.  Since then, the bumpy slide into the slough of despond, and the season ending 4.35 RPG.

Season average to date [purple line] is a lot less volatile, but shows a similar pattern.  After a double bottom at 4.93 RPG at games 71 and 81, the high for the 2nd half of the season came at 5.18 RPG in game 106.  But from there was a slide to end the season at 4.91 RPG, the lowest reading since May 1st.

Despite having a stretch where they won 11 of 15 games, September was a very poor month for the Tigers, ending with a 13-13 record.  Three of those 13 wins came against the Royals, and 1 against the Red Sox.  The rest were against the hapless White Sox, Twins and Mariners.

Two defects have characterized the Tigers play for most of the season: ineffective relief pitching, and an inability to score runs late in games - and, as it turns out, late in the season, too.  Those problems were mitigated in August, but came home again in September.  In August, the Tigers outscored the opposition by 150 to 113.  In September, with 4 fewer games, it was 97 to 94.  Four fewer games, 57 fewer runs.  RPG for the month took a nose dive from 5.0 to 3.73.  Opponents RPG only slipped slightly from 3.77 to 3.62.  The Tigers got 31% of their September runs after inning 6, which is not awful, but down from August's 35%.  They gave up 41.5% of their runs after inning 6, which is awful, and up from August's excellent 26.5%.  From the 6th inning on, the Tigers have been outscored 53 to 34 in September.  Clearly, starting pitching is not the problem.

Seven of their 13 September losses were by 1 run.  In those 7 games, the opponents averaged 2.4 RPG.  Anemic late scoring and inept relief pitching are death in close games.  In their 13 September wins, the Tigers averaged 5.9 runs; in the loses, 1.54.  They were shut out an astounding 4 times in September, and 12 for the season.  The 2012 Tigers were shut out twice.  This year's Tigers scored 796 runs, second only to Boston's 853.  I just discovered that the Tigers 3-0 win over the Red Sox on labor day was the 11th time the Sox were shut out this year.  There is no way to make sense of this.

Graph 2 shows runs scored per inning in September.  I've used a 30 run vertical axis all season, since the Tigers have topped 25 for a given inning a few times, starting with 28 in inning 4 in April.

Graph 2 - September Runs per Inning

 Graph 3 shows runs allowed in September.

Graph 3 - Runs Allowed in September

Graph 4 shows Tigers runs per game in September.

Graph 4 - September Runs per Game

The blue line is runs for the game, yellow line is 5 game average, green line is season average to date

Last year, after the 4 day lay off before the world series, the Tigers came out flat and got swept away by the Giants.  Historically, these lay-offs have not been kind to the resting team, while their opponents keep fighting it out.  This year, the Tigers ended the season on such a low note that a lay-off can't possibly do any harm.

The A's strategy in the playoffs should be to run up the pitch count for Tiger's starters and dig into the bull pen as quickly as possible.  That ought to get them a ticket to the next round.

The first 150 games

August Wrap up

July Wrap up [includes links to June, May, and April]

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Night Music

There are only a few moments of Friday night left.

Bach and Michael Hedges - a match made in heaven.

End of Season

The Tigers finish their season with a three game series against the dreadful Miami Marlins. The notable thing about this - other than the disparity between a team with over 90 wins and a team with over 100 losses - is that it is interleague.

I have mixed feeling about interleague play, but we'll let that go for now, except to say that in the past, all the interleague play happened at the same time, while now it's scattered randomly across the season, which makes it much less of an event.

The presence/absence of the DH makes game strategy very different in the two leagues. Just imagine the difference between Victor Martinez batting 5th vs Justin Verlander batting 9th, and you get the picture.  In these 3 games, the Tigers will either have to give up a big bat, or start Martinez as catcher.  That is not necessarily a bad outcome, but you probably don't want to do it for all three games. That would double his catching load for the year.

Then you get to the issue of pitchers batting and running the bases.  In the NL, they do it all the time.  For AL pitchers, this is wandering into terra incognita.  The chances of injury might be small, the the consequences could be devastating.  Imagine a pitcher in the batter's box getting hit on his hand like Jose Iglesias was recently. 

Another thing to consider is the 4 day lay-off between end of season and start of play-offs.  These gaps have not been kind to the Tigers in the past.  You could end up with several of your pitchers not having played in well over a week.

Since the outcomes of these games mean nothing, and the upcoming play-offs mean everything, if I were managing, I'd adopt a very unorthodox approach. 

I'd be reluctant to let a pitcher bat.  At all.  I'd be eager to swap out a pitcher every third inning or so and get my non-starting position players some at-bats.  Of course, in this specific situation, you might want to rest your regulars and start the bench.  That idea is pretty appealing in itself.  I'd probably mix and match over the three game series, and make sure everyone got some playing time.

If I did let a pitcher bat, and he got on base, I'd be quick to insert a pinch runner.  I don't know how likely an injury on the base paths is, but I'd bet it's higher for somebody who is not used to being there, and isn't going to be a skilled base runner anyway.

The Tigers have 16 active roster pitchers.  Eliminating the previous two starters and, Benoit reduces the available pitchers to 13.  I'd give every one of them some mound time.

Of course, this is all abstract, and in-game situations can have an influence on specific decisions.  But I'd be focused on the facts that this weeks results mean nothing and next weeks results mean everything.

But really, isn't this just about the worst scheduling gaffe imaginable?  MLB should be hanging their heads in shame.

I drafted this a few days ago, and see that Leyland is more more or less thinking along the same lines.

The Republicans of 2013


The split in the Republican Party is between, on the one hand, ignorant, mean-spirited ideologues with a contempt for governance who refuse to accept the legitimacy of twice elected President Obama's presidency and are willing to ruin the economy and the country as a whole to make invalid political points; and, on the other hand, totally bat-guano-insane psychopaths.


In case there was any doubt, if Obama or his minions do anything -- seriously, ANYTHING -- it is a priori* wrong.

* my Latin isn't too good - I think this refers to revealed knowledge.

What the Hell?!? Friday - "It's What's for Dinner" Edition

A different sort of Big Gulp

Alas, not eye of newt, but if you're up for bat wings and toad skins, you can get them both here in one swell foop.

Toads and bats seem to have a mutually destructive relationship.

I had no idea they were that human.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Quote of the Day

I usually keep my blog slanted towards the clean side, but some things are to good to pass up.

From Gin and Tacos on Facebook.

Sarah Palin was Dan Quayle with tits. Ted Cruz is Sarah Palin with a dick. Paul Ryan is Ted Cruz with scales and a cloaca.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Different Views of Real Median Household Income and Recessions

Using data from Census Bureau Historical Income Table H-08 and CPI data from FRED (index 1982 to 84 = 100), I was able to calculate real median household income (RMHI) from 1984 to 2011.  Graph 1 shows the results - annual data.

Graph 1 RMHI - First View - 1982-4 $

Except for the bump during the housing bubble, it been a downward track for this century.  During the alleged recovery from the great recession, median income has dropped badly.

From this post at EconoSpeak,I found out that Census Beareau Table H-06 has a greater data range, from 1975 to 2012, and also an RMHI calculation.  So I plotted their data in Graph 2.

Graph 2 - RMHI - 2nd View - 2012 $

Instead of CPI, the Census Bureau uses CPI-U-RS, a research series based on constant 2012 dollars.  So the numbers are different, but the picture is the same.  I've added a trend channel, because I'm amused by that sort of thing.  Presumably, the Great Recession [GR] ended in 2009, but that's the year that the RMHI value fell below the trend channel lower boundary - possibly forever.  A channel violation that severe almost always indicates that the previous trend is well and truly dead.  The new trend looks pretty dismal.  Welcome to hard times.  By my calculation, RMHI is down by over 8% since 2000.

As far back as the data goes, RMHI has taken a hit in every recession.  In days past, RMHI would recover to a new high after the recession was over.  There was no recovery after the 2001 recession until the bubble years of 2005-7.  That ephemeral gain to a new lower high was completely wiped out by the GR in 2008.  Since then, things have only gotten worse.

In the Econospeak post linked above, poster Econoclast suggests that the standard way of viewing the start and end of recessions is flawed.  His alternative is to consider that a recession is occurring when and as long as RMHI is falling.  He then presents this table.

Table 1 - Two Views of Recessions

If we consider recessions as he suggests, then the oxymoronic concept of the jobless recovery can be discarded - and good riddance.

Via Mish, I found Doug Short's article on the Deflating American Dream.  He presents longer view graphs based on data from Sentier Research, who estimate RMHI on a monthly basis.  Short did a lot of homework, and was able to graph RMHI back to 1967.  He also compared the two inflation series and found that CPI-U-RS understates inflation, relative to the CPI.  The difference is miniscule in recent years back to the mid 90's, but expands quickly as you go back into earlier years.  Graph 3 shows RMHI as adjusted by these two indexes, and also a third, PCE from BEA.  There's a lot more in the linked post by Short and in this one, as well.  Both are highly recommended.

Graph 3 - RMHI Growth - Three Views

The three curves don't disagree much on the timing of declines and advances, just on the magnitudes. By my count, using CPI as the adjustment index and Econoclast's idea of recession timing, we have been in recession for 21 of the previous 46 years, or 46% of the time.

There's your great moderation - I mean stagnation - in one simple, easy to understand picture.

Krugman points out that, "Adjusted for inflation, the income of the top 1 percent rose 31 percent from 2009 to 2012, but the real income of the bottom 40 percent actually fell 6 percent."

By my calculation, based on the data in Graph 2, RMHI fell by 4% from '09 to '12.  So the folks below median got hit even harder. In the words of an old song, "There's nothing surer, The rich get richer and the poor get laid off!"

I've come to believe that greed really is the root of all evil.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Misguided Right Wing

One of my friends invited me into a FB debate on BHO.  There is certainly a lot to criticize in this administration, but very little real opportunity to legitimately criticize from the right.  This, I believe, accounts for a lot of the birtherism, and Muslim-Commie-socialist-fascist nonsense.  With few legitimate complaints, they just make $h!+ up.

Even without getting into wing-nut fantasy land, there is a lot the right wingers simply know about BHO and how he has ruined America that simply does not stand up to the harsh light of reality.  They blame on Obama things that have been going on since Reagan.  They blame the "left" [which is laughable - there is no political left in this country] for the actions of the Rethug dominated house.   The simple fact is, their minds are made up.  They will only hear things that reinforce their views, and contrary facts will only make them dig their heels in harder.  This is epistemic closure, aka DERP.

To an extent, this is human nature.  We all love our revealed truths and most cherished concepts, no matter where they came from. But open mindedness is a specifically progressive characteristic. None of us is immune to derp, but it is inherently more deep and pervasive among those who call themselves conservative, but are in fact regressives.  Reading a bit of Russell Kirk and my own observations have convinced me that the four pillars of conservatism are ignorance, prejudice [these come directly from Kirk - and he's proud of it!], denial of reality [global warming, New Deal Denialism], and magical thinking. Conservatives generally seek simple solutions, can't be bothered with complexity, and grasp at cleverly framed right wing talking points.  This all by itself accounts for the popularity of the Reagan mythology.  And these are the GOOD conservatives.  Tea Bagging Regressives are far, far worse.

You can argue until eternity with regressives, but you can't set them straight, because they will have none of it.  A Progressive, when confronted with new data, changes his opinion. A Regressive, when confronted with new data, changes the data.

Or simply ignores it

Regressives blame Obama for a variety of real and perceived ills.

Ruining the value of the dollar.
The trade weighted dollar index declined over 30% under W, then gyrated during the Great Recession.  Since then it has been dead flat.  Still, It's Obama's fault.

Graph 1 - Trade Weighted U.S. Dollar index

Decreasing the median income of households.

This has been going on since Reagan.  In nominal dollars, the rate of increase in median household income was lower under Bush II than under Reagan and Clinton, and has been flat since the recession.  Inflation adjusted, household income has zig-zagged to nowhere since the 70's.  The two most recent increases occurred first, and dramatically, under Clinton, and then only a bit from 2004-2007 during the housing bubble.  Recessions in '91, '01, and '08 have been devastating. The trend from 2000 on has been steeply down.

Graph 2 - Real Median Household Income

Income Data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Table H-8.  Inflation data from FRED

But to blame the recent decline on Obama rather than the decades-long assault on the middle class we call Reaganomics, the destruction of American manufacturing during the Bush regime, and House Tea Party Rethug obstructionist efforts to shut down the goverment and impose arbitrary debt ceilings takes a type and degree of blindness that simply cannot be penetrated by any wavelength of light.

Ballooning the debt

I've already put several stakes through the heart of the zombie idea that Obama is spending us into perdition - here, here, and here.  If you seriously believe that we have a debt problem due to Obama's spending, then please take the time to read and understand these three posts.

The debt results from a ledger imbalance, and both spending and revenues come into the equation.  Since the Recession ended, government spending at all levels is down.  Federal spending is dead flat and state and local govt spending is dead flat.

Graph 3 - Government Debt

Federal Debt annual growth ballooned to over 20% early in Reagan's first term, and was never less than 10% per year during his presidency.  It dropped every year under Clinton, who ran a surplus at the end of his term.  Under Bush, it was never less than 5% per year and peaked first at 10% in 2004, then over 20% in Q1, 2009.  Strangely, nobody on the right was complaining about debt growth when there was a White Rethug in the White House, and V.P. Cheney famously said, "Deficits don't matter." Which is true, as long as the Rethugs are in control.  During Obama's entire term, debt growth has been on the decline.

Graph 4 - Year over Year % Growth in Federal Debt

But debt is still growing - only at a slower rate.  If spending isn't the cause - and clearly, it isn't, then inadequate revenues have to be.  And they are.  This comes from two factors.  First, slow income growth and business activity leads to slow growth in tax revenues. We're living through the worst recovery in at least a century.   Second, tax receipts are inhibited by tax rates and policy decisions.  All things considered, progressive taxation on personal income is close to non-existent, and collections from corporations are deeply depressed because of loopholes and off-shore evasion gimmicks.  The right wing talking points that we are overtaxed and this taxation inhibits growth are simply lies.

Decimated our Credit Rating

Moody's reaffirmed U.S. debt at AAA rating in July, and upgraded  the outlook for government debt to stable from a negative watch.  Danger to our credit rating comes from Rethug debt ceiling and government shut-down threats.  But now, if our credit was bad, the interest rate on federal debt would be soaring.  It's up from about 2.6% to 3.75% since last summer, but about where it was two years ago.  This is just market fluctuation in a trend channel.  Except for a dip during the Great Recession lower, the interest rate is lower than at any other time since the 60's.

 Graph - Interest Rate on 30 Year Government Bonds

 This is just a bit of the nonsense my friend's friend spewed forth in an ignorant, but passionate, anti-Obama rant.

What took him a few seconds to blurt has taken me hours to refute.

This is why simple lies always have an advantage over the truth.

And then, the liars and their fellow travelers just move along to the next talking point.

We are so screwed. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Tigers-Mariners Series

The Tigers have won 7 of the last 9, and just took 3 of 4 from the Mariners. Why am I so worried?

Taking 3 out of 4 from anybody this time of year - even the dreadful [18 under .500 coming in] Mariners is not a bad outcome.

But dig a little deeper. Two wins barely eked out, and the middle one a nail-biter into the 8th inning.

And the loss - OMG: an 8-0 thrashing in a game where Verlander had a decent, but not outstanding, start.  I don't know what I feel worse about, the 2nd most powerful offense in MLB [5.02 runs per game] getting shut out for the 11th time, vs only twice last year, or giving up 8 runs to the 25th best offensive team in MLB, with an average of 3.8 runs per game.

Plus, today's win might have been due to a bad call at the plate. None of the replay views I saw was definitive, but Prince was probably out.

[As an aside, I don't feel bad about aggressively running Prince from first on a double down into the left field corner. It takes perfect execution by three defenders {and the umpire} to get even the slow-footed Prince out.]

In the series, the Mariners actually outscored the Tigers, 16-15.

Fifteen runs in 4 games is a paltry 3.75 per.

Looking for a bright spot, 7 of the Tigers 15 runs came after inning 6 in this series, and they're at 30% for the month in late inning run production.

On the downside, the Mariners also got 7 runs after inning 6 - though 5 of them were in the 8-0 blow out.

The Tigers were really lucky to get three wins in this series against a team that they should have been able to toy with.

And that is not encouraging.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tiger Tracks - The Previous 150 games

With twelve games to go, the Tigers are 6.0 up on the 2nd place Indians.  Blowing it at this point is not impossible, but would take a break down of epic proportions against a series of very weak opponents.

I just took a rear view mirror look at the rest of the season.  Though I've been following the Tigers pretty closely, what I saw surprised me a bit.  At 87-63 (.580), they're 24 games above 500.  But every bit of that came in two hot streaks.  From game 21 to game 30 (April 26 - May 5) they won 9 out of 10 to go 8 over.  They then played exactly .500 ball for the next 66 games, and after game 96 (July 20) were again 8 over.  They then went on a 16 of 17 tear, and were 23 games over after game 113 (August 8).  They were again 23 games over after game 149 (September 15).  Since taking the first of a 4 game series with the Mariners last night, they're now 24 games over .500 for the 4th time since game 130 (August 25).  If they can win 8 of these last 12, they'll end up 95-67 (.586) and 28 over.

So - except for two hot streaks totaling 27 games (16.6% of the season), the Tigers have played exactly .500 baseball for the other 124 games to date.  They dipped to only 20 games over at game 144 (September 9), and have since taken 5 out of 6 to regain the season high.

Graph 1 shows how games over .500 have tracked across the season. The two long .500 stretches at 8 and 23 over are indicated with red lines.   I've also included a projected target line in bright blue to a season end at 28 over (95-67), based on taking 2 out of three in each remaining series.  Against the Mariners, White Sox, Twins and Marlins this shouldn't (!?!) be too much of a challenge.

Also included is a linear trend line through the first 96 games.  If the Tigers had continued along that line, they'd have finished the season with 88 to 90 wins, about where the Indians will end up.

Graph 1 - Games over .500

9/18 AFTERTHOUGHT As ridiculous at this might sound, the graph traces out an Elliott Wave.  The 9 of 10 and 16 of 17 streaks are both 3rd waves one trend level down from the top.  The 16 of 17 is third wave of the top level third wave.  Sixteen is as close as you can get to 1.62 times 10 when you're dealing with integers.

The gains in the first, third and (projected) fifth waves are 9, 19 and 8.  The third wave is close to double the first wave, and the first and third are near equal. 

The wave 1 top is at game 49.  Wave 2 includes the sideways motion to the bottom at game 81.  , and Wave 3 ends at the game 130 top.  Wave 4 ends at the game 144 low.  It even exhibits long-short counter-current wave alternation from 2 to 4.  The third of third wave is the most powerful upward thrust.

The second wave retracement is from 9 over to 5 over, close to the Fibonacci 8/5 ratio.  The second retacement is from 24 to 20 over, very close to the .786 ratio that is the square root of the golden ratio .618.

The lengths of waves 1 and 2 are close to a 5/3 ratio. 


Graph 2 shows how the win percentage has tracked over the season.  After game 20 (April 25) they never fell to .500 again.  But during those long red line stretches in Graph 1, the winning percentage slowly regressed back toward .500.  The end of season target of .586 is indicated with a red dot.

Graph 2 - Tigers Win percentage

Scoring has been anemic in September, despite two barrages of 9 and 16 runs.  Over the remaining 12 games, they've only averaged 3.1 runs.  But - except for one horrible night in Boston - the pitching has been stellar with the opponents only averaging 2.1 runs per game.

Still, scoring efficiency needs to improve.  The September average of 3.8  runs per game results from 9.9 hits and 7 left on base per game.  A dismal 0.38 runs/hit, or 2.6 hits/run is horrendous, and will lead to a quick exit in the post season, even if the pitching holds up.

The Last 12 Games

The Tigers have 12 games left against what should be a very easy schedule: three games each against the Mariners, White Sox, Twins and Marlins.  So far against the other AL teams, their record is as follows.

Mariners (66-84): 3-1
Sox (59-91): 10-6
Twins (64-85):  9-7

The Tigers, even playing at their current .500 level, should easily be able to take 2 out of three from each of these awful teams.   But the Twins have fared better than their season record against the Tigers.  There are no sure things here.

They close out the season against the absolutely dreadful Marlins (55-95) who will have to finish way over their heads to avoid a 100 loss season.  If the Tigers can't sweep them, I will have to do some serious drinking.

They should [should!] easily win 8 of these 12 games, though continuing their season-long .580 win percentage would only give them 7 wins.  That would be enough to hold on to the Division pennant no matter what the Indians - currently 6.0 behind - do.

If they only win six while the Indians win out, the division ends in a tie.  This nightmare scenario is fortunately highly unlikely.  The Indians close out against the Royals, Astros, White Sox and Twins, and should win the majority of those games.  Winning out is not impossible, but I'd rate it as a less than 10% chance.

I always say each W you get early is one you don't have to fight for in September.  The Tigers were only 14-14 in May, when they had 7 games (6-1) against the Astros and 5 (3-2) against the Twins.  But they lost 2 to the Nationals, and 3 of 4 each to the Pirates and Rangers.

If you're going to lose to the good teams, you have to do a better job of beating up on the bad ones.