Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Wondering is a good start...

Crystal Ball in Cobalt Blue [photo by William McKibbin]

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Well Said...

"What we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking, have banks be deposit takers, have banks make commercial loans and real estate loans, and have banks do something that's not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that's not going to be too big to fail."

~ Sandy Weill

Sanford I "Sandy" Weill (1933- )

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sharing Smiles...

Share your smile by posting a picture of a flower on your favorite social media website right now...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Well Said...

Andrea (Galileo’s student): "Unhappy is the land that has no heroes."
Galileo: "No Andrea, unhappy is the land that needs a hero."

~ Bertolt Brecht, Galileo

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)

Source: Brecht, B (1945), Leben des Galilei (Life of Galileo).

What is Transparency?

Free from guile; candid or open: transparent sincerity.

Source: The Free Dictionary

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Friday, July 20, 2012

US Real Working Wages Stagnate Since 1970

Prof Paul Krugman posted the following chart in the New York Times (2012, July 18) showing long-term stagation in US real working wages since 1970.

Read More

The chart above begs the question: What happened in 1970 that changed the course of real working wages in the US? We know that the US went off the gold standard during the early 1970's. We also know the US went through an oil embargo during the early 1970's. Do these occurences explain why US real working wages have stagnated over the past 40 years? If not, what other explanations should be considered? The answers to these questions are fundamental to understanding the many economic challenges that America has endured over the past 40 years...

Source: Krugman, P (2012, July 18, 2012), Compensation, Too, New York Times.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Learning Statistics Online Recognized

According to David Wessel of the Wall Street Journal, new research has emerged that shows statistics students learn as much in online courses as they can in "bricks and mortar" classes.
In a carefully crafted, foundation-funded experiment that has received less attention than it deserves, Ithaka S+R, a higher-education think tank, enticed 605 undergraduates at six public-university campuses in New York and Maryland to agree to be assigned randomly to one of two courses. Half took a conventional introductory statistics course that met three hours a week. The other half took a computer-assisted course that met once a week and relied on an interactive, online statistics course developed by Carnegie Mellon University's Online Learning Initiative.... To compare outcomes, researchers had students take a standardized statistics test and a final exam that had some of the same questions.... The statistically sound result: Students in the online course did just as well as those who took the conventional course. No better, no worse.
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Online education is increasingly being recognized as a viable cost-effective alternative to more expensive "bricks and mortar" schools in America. At some point, society will have to consider how the advantages of online education might be applied in secondary schools...

Follow the link below to read the original research report produced by Ithaka S+R.

Download Report

Source: Wessel, D (2012, July 19), Tapping Technology to Keep Lid on Tuition, Wall Street Journal.

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The Benefits of R

Prof John Verzani (2001) summarizes some of the major benefits of using R (Project R) for learning and teaching statistics as follows:
  1. R is free.
  2. R is open-source and runs on Linux, Windows, and Apple.
  3. R has an excellent built-in help system.
  4. R has excellent graphing capabilities.
  5. R is a computer programming language.
I will be talking more about each of the above benefits in future posts. For now, let's focus on the first benefit, which is that R is free software. Follow the link below to download and install a free copy of R.

Source: Verzani, J (2001), SimpleR: Using R for Introductory Statistics.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Athene's Theory of Everything

A popular documentary now circulating on the Internet is Athene's (aka Chiren Boumaaza's) Theory of Everything, which purports to unify neuroscience, particle physics, quantum physics, string theory, and other competing theories of the universe. The video follows below.

Assuming I was Athene's science teacher, I would grade the video a "B" for content validity, as the various extant sub-theories presented are indeed grounded in current knowledge and facts. However, I would grade the video an "F" for construct validity given that Athene provides absolutely no empirical evidence or other justification supporting any supposed theoretical construct or framework for analysis. My editorial comment would be to conclude that Athene's Theory of Everything lacks scientific merit.

Athene's Theory of Everything exemplifies the emerging "cult of the amateur" in post-modern society whereby various theories and facts are speciously strung together through a twisted storyline of obtuse themes and plots that ultimately, convolute science and the truth.

Nonetheless, I did find Athene's video to be quite entertaining...

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lawrence Summers: The Future of Higher Education

Americans' Confidence in Television News Drops to New Low

According to Lymari Morales (2012, July 10) of Gallup:
Americans' confidence in television news is at a new low by one percentage point, with 21% of adults expressing a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in it. This marks a decline from 27% last year and from 46% when Gallup started tracking confidence in television news in 1993.
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Looks like the major television news channels need to work on their credibility and reliability...

Source: Morales, L (2012, July 10), Americans' Confidence in Television News Drops to New Low, Gallup.

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The American Dream...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Explaining the Federal Reserve's Complacency

According to Matthew Yglesias (2012, July 10) of Slate:
So why doesn't the Fed ease...? The costs to workers and to the real economy are a quite serious matter. But as for the Fed's reputation, I'm much less sure. It seems sort of odd to think that the Fed is persistently missing its inflation target on the downside while also leaving millions to languish unemployed.... Ben Bernanke has brought us the lowest inflation of any Fed chairman of the postwar period. You may call it prolonged mass unemployment, but he may see it as a huge success.
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Dr Ben Shalom Bernanke (1953- )

My fear is that Dr Ben Bernanke's tightfisted approach to monetary policy has less to do with what is best for society, and everything to do with Dr Bernanke's self-aggrandizement as a champion inflation fighter. History will be the judge...

Source: Yglesias, M (2012, July 10), Explaining the Federal Reserve's Complacency, Slate.

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Monday, July 09, 2012

What is Eccentric?

1. Departing from a recognized, conventional, or established norm or pattern, strange.
2. Deviating from a circular form or path, as in an elliptical orbit.
a. Not situated at or in the geometric center.
b. Having the axis located elsewhere than at the geometric center.

1. One that deviates markedly from an established norm, especially a person of odd or unconventional behavior.
2. Physics A disk or wheel having its axis of revolution displaced from its center so that it is capable of imparting reciprocating motion.

Source: The Free Dictionary

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Well Said...

"Don't let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use."

~ Earl Nightingale

Earl Nightingale (1921-1989)

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Iceland's Success in Battling Joblessness

According to Matthew Yglesias (2012, July 9) of Slate:
Currency depreciation by no means eliminates the pain of an economic crisis. On the contrary, it makes everyone poorer. But by spreading the shock across all citizens and assets, it does a much smoother job of mitigating the secondary trauma of idleness and unemployment.
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Reykjavik, Iceland [photo by Thomas McKibbin]

Clearly, Iceland has taken the utilitarian path of doing what is best for most of its people, which is to depreciate its currency in order to reduce unemployment. In contrast, the US and Europe have generally sought to avoid expansive monetary actions that would likely reduce currency values. In the meantime, the Icelandic experience is instructive for monetary and fiscal policy-makers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Source: Yglesias, M (2012, July 9), Iceland's Success in Battling Joblessness, Slate.

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Friday, July 06, 2012

US Employment to Population Ratio Marks 3-Month Rise

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the US employment to population ratio* for June 2012 rose to 58.9%, up from from 58.7% the previous month, and 58.5% a year ago. The June 2012 increase marks a three-month rise in the US employment to population ratio, which has otherwise been trending downwards since 2000.

Many economists believe that reporting the number employed as a percentage of the civilian population provides a more accurate description of the current state of employment than conjecturing the number of "unemployed" in a population. The US employment to population ratio reached an historical peak of 64.4% on an annual basis in 2000.

*The BLS defines employment and population (civilian noninstitutional) as follows:
Employment consists of all persons who, during the reference week (the calendar week including the twelfth day of the month), (a) did any work at all (at least 1 hour) as paid employees, worked in their own business or profession or on their own farm, or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a member of the family, or (b) were not working but had jobs or businesses from which they were temporarily absent because of vacation, illness, bad weather, childcare problems, maternity or paternity leave, labor-management dispute, job training, or other family or personal reasons, whether or not they were paid for the time off or were seeking other jobs.... The civilian noninstitutional population consists of persons 16 years of age and older residing in the 50 States and the District of Columbia who are not inmates of institutions (for example, penal and mental facilities and homes for the aged) and who are not on active duty in the Armed Forces.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Independence Day


The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

~ John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr, Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr, Thomas Lynch, Jr, Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Generational Cohorts in US Society

Dr Michael O'Neill (2010) parses US society into five distinct generational cohorts based on differing beliefs and values as follows:

[click image to enlarge]

Note that Baby-Boomers are divided into two sub-cohorts: Traditionals (born 1945-1954), and Generation Jones (born 1955-1964). This attitudinal break within the ranks of baby-boomers has major implications for generational marketing and politics in the US. Follow the link below to read the entire report.

Source: O'Neill, M (2010), Generational Preferences: A Glimpse into the Future Office, Knoll.

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