Saturday, July 29, 2017

Catnip update

The catnip is growing great this year, thanks to our very wet spring and early summer. In fact, it's even sprouting up in the lawn, which is almost dead from last year's several months of drought.

Even better, it looks like the rain has suppressed the aphid farming ants, so there are no aphids on my catnip this year. There do seem to be aphid farmers around, but it looks like they've moved on to farming large red aphids on the majestic 4-foot-high thistles that come up everywhere because of the rain.

As usual, the catnip is attracting all sorts of bees - some honeybees, some small grey bees (i.e. they have grey stripes instead of yellow), tiny needlebees (about as small as a large mosquito but definitely beeish), and yet again stupid cabbage butterflies. And strangely, some carnivorous wasps (i.e. the wasps that truly, no shitting you, eat the dead animals my cat brings home) and hornets.

But not to worry, all insects are very happy and placid when they are drinking catnip nectar. Stupid the cat even swats at the damn things when he's out there.

Strangely, I've seen absolutely no bumblebees all year - except today, where there are what look like smaller bumblebees on the flowers. But the big fat zeppelin-sized ones that we normally have everywhere have been completely absent this year.

Hopefully it's just a population cycle thing, maybe cos of the extremely abnormal weather we've had this year.

Now all I have to do is learn how to re-seed a fucking lawn properly. Cos all I've been doing is growing bigger and bigger weeds.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Philosophical mathematics and economics

Way beyond most of the readership, but this is a blog post I wish I'd read 3 years ago:

Magic maths and money - why mathematics has not been effective in economics.

Suffice to say, modern mathematical economic models try to generate synthetic a priori knowledge (like the relation between A and B).

But if you have some philosophy background, and maybe also know a bit about how math works at the differential equations level and above, then you know that's impossible.

Slapping together a bunch of axioms can't create one whit of knowledge, unless you also know how those axioms work with each other, which (if you're trying to build a model that corresponds in any way with the real world) requires empirical (not synthetic) knowledge.

E.g., a macroeconomic model does these things:

1. assume you can model a labour market in isolation, assume it has certain characteristics, and assume an equation modeling how it works;
2. assume you can model a firm's production in isolation, assume it has certain characteristics, and assume an equation modeling how it works;
3. assume you can model an asset market in isolation, assume its characteristics, and assume an equation modeling how it works;
4. assume there are actors, assume how homogeneous they are, assume different homogeneity doesn't change the results, assume they act a certain way, assume how homogeneous their way of acting is, and assume an equation modeling how they behave;
5. assume you haven't missed anything that changes how this network of countable infinite equations works;
6. assume that none of the above assumptions, if changed, sends the solution off in a completely different direction;
7. if you like, also assume productivity magically increases over time with something we call "A", which is completely exogenous and don't ask us what "A" really is.

Each of those assumptions is wrong, thus the model is prima facie wrong according to any mathematician or philosopher out there. All you're doing, essentially, is modeling a battle between an army of orcs and Chuck Norris. Thus every math prof shits himself laughing whenever he reads an economics paper.

So why do this?:
The answer is rooted in the observation that the 'mathematical' approach is powerful rhetorically: you can use it to convince everyone of almost anything, providing you can make the chain of arguments tricky enough to follow. From a philosophical perspective, Kant distinguished the ‘lower faculties’, such as mathematics, that would consider matters of pure reason independently of the concerns of the state from the ‘higher faculties’, engineering, jurisprudence, medicine and theology, were concerned with matters of authority and would be regulated and monitored by the state. If economics is mathematical it should inform the state, not be directed by the state, if it is not then it will have the same status (and funding) as theology (and, one would suppose, other modern social and human sciences).
Exactly. Economics is meant to order politicians around. That's the whole point of neoliberalism: the death of state sovereignty and the rise of the kleptocratic elite back to their traditional position of absolute power.

It's easier to boss politicians and the government around by using math than by using data, history, and informed judgment.

Friday videos: Alex Jones, no really

Alex Jones rants, turned into a folk song by Bon Iver:

Thursday, July 27, 2017

News for thinking about

Thus assuring nobody will click through and read the stories:

FT Alphaville - on juggernaut companies and profit margins.You can't have economic growth in a kleptocracy: if everyone's not sharing in the winnings, then you end up with a zero growth world.

Reuters - Ohio Democrats know what's wrong with their party. Turns out, Americans don't like elitist plutocrats, even when they're Democrat!:
Many of those interviewed said the party's national leaders have not learned the lessons of last year's defeat, when many voters rejected the party as too elitist and out of touch with working Americans.
No shit Sherlock:
Since Clinton’s defeat in November, Tom Perez, the head of the Democratic National Committee – the body which runs the national party – has conducted a nationwide “listening tour” to hear why so many traditionally Democratic voters defected to Trump last year.

Yet when he came to Ohio, some Democrats said, he didn’t do much listening – just a lot of talking.

In June, the listening tour came to Youngstown. About 75 party stalwarts paid $25 each to attend a “Pizza with Perez” event at a local pizzeria.

“What I saw was a typical campaign event, with the audience doing the listening while Democratic operatives touted their positions,” said John Russo, the former co-director of the Center for Working Class Studies at Youngstown University and a political analyst. “We paid $25 to be told by Perez what he thought we were thinking.”
Which is typical. And when asked if they're being elitist, what did state Democrats say?:
"While some may find it politically advantageous to engage in a circular firing squad, Leader Pelosi isn't in Congress on a shift. She's on a mission to protect the Affordable Care Act," said Hammill, referring to Obama's healthcare reform law which Trump wants to repeal.

Joyce Beatty, a congresswoman from central Ohio, also defended Pelosi. "To just blame Nancy Pelosi is not only wrong, but it's wrong for Democrats to do it.
So the Dems seem to have been taken over by an elitist vanguard who want to lead an army of lemmings, not respond to the interests of the masses. Just like most left-wingers you'll meet in the intellectual elite nowadays, actually. I mean, I'm hardcore left wing, and yet I really just want to punch a lot of these bratty Brampton pseudo-Gramscian bourgeois stormtrooper fucks of today.

If it's one thing elitists want, it's absolute unquestioning obedience from the mouth-breathing masses.And they don't get that the mouth-breathing masses can see this attitude from a mile away. Cos they never grew up among the mouth-breathing masses. So they don't even know how to behave around them.

BBC - interview with Lana Del Rey. Apparently she wrote the entire new album with Rick Nowels? If so, I should go give it another listen. He's one of the most underrated songwriters of our era - kind of like a cool teen angst Instagram-girls version of Max Martin. The only Lana Del Rey songs I ever liked were Nowels co-writes, and the only Lykke Li songs I ever liked were Nowels co-writes. And so on with a lot of stuff that's come out in the last few years. He's really good.

Short $VIX comment

I'm just sitting here wondering when we're going to start seeing the articles screaming that an intraday $VIX of 9.26 is too low.

Cos you know that's going to happen.

And no, I'm not going to go look at Zerohedge.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Feel-good Afghanistan story... wait, WHAT?

der Spargel - Afghanistan's young liberal elites challenge the Taliban.

There is a young educated liberal elite in Afghanistan, as there is in every country. (Actually, I worked with an Afghan engineer, who was educated in Moscow, and he was definitely the type of person you would wish there was a million more of in his old country.)

The problem in all of these countries is getting the young elite to quit fearing their idiotic elders and start building a new country for themselves:

The members of the new, educated elite pursue different goals than the old fighters. They are no longer willing to prolong the ethnic enmities of their fathers, which have shaped the country. These young people are no longer willing to listen to old men and militias who own weapons, but are unable to read or write.

Maybe that's what spurred western Europe into its own enlightenment hundreds of years ago - rejecting the stupidity and hatred of their elders.

And that is why the West is the greatest culture in the world, and why it's a good idea to encourage globalization and Westernization and denigrate traditionalism.

The incentives to exercise problem... economists solved it

Remember my utter shock at the idea that undergraduate social science students could actually get something useful out of first-year economics classes?

The idea being that if you do a study where you offer to pay people $30 for 9 exercise sessions, then of course they're not going to exercise more because you're not paying them enough to meet their reservation price?

Thus social science studies that pay a tiny amount to participants should expect to get little to no result?

Well, this year I had a really great summer prof who actually engages with students, and he's let me know that economists did already talk about this:

Gary Charness & Uri Gneezy - incentives to exercise.

The reservation price for exercise is around $50-$75/hr.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Weekly indicators again

New Deal Demoncrat - weekly indicators.

Everything's alright forever, quit piddling yourselves, Trump and the Republicans haven't destroyed the US economy yet, just buy the S&P and go away for a few years.

In fact, this whole Obamacare repeal fiasco is suggesting that the Republicans have become too incompetent to even be able to destroy an economy anymore..

I mean, how many times did they vote to repeal when Balrog HUSSEIN Taxbongo was in power? But they suddenly can't do it now?

How pathetic is that?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

If Hillary had won: a horror story!

Nate Silver - If Hillary Clinton had won. And y'know, in the long run, that hallucinating shitstain of a failed state south of me might have been worse off:

These storylines — Trump tweeting something inflammatory about Clinton, Republicans investigating Clinton, Clinton feuding with the press — keep repeating themselves. It sometimes seems as though we’ve spent the six months of Clinton’s presidency trapped in the Most Annoying News Cycle Ever, with no chance of escape. But the truth is that there hasn’t been a whole lot else to talk about. With Republicans in charge of both chambers of Congress, Clinton has little hope of enacting her legislative agenda. And although North Korea’s increasingly ambitious nuclear tests are a major concern, Clinton’s foreign policy has largely been a continuation of Barack Obama’s and so has seldom made news. At this month’s G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, for instance, the media devoted more coverage to Clinton’s choice of pantsuits than to the G-20’s reaffirmation of the Paris climate accords. So let’s tune out the noise of the news cycle and consider Clinton’s first six months from a historical perspective.

I actually don't think she would have been allowed to fill the Supreme Court vacancy either. The Republicans would be content to spend years setting fire to shit.

As it stands, the Rethuglicunts get four years to pursue tax cuts for the super-rich and inability to accomplish any fucking single thing else. If the Democrats somehow find things to stand for, they might be able to sweep the lunatic fringe out by 2020.