Bush vs Obama as orators

Wednesday January 28, 2009

Filed under: politics — jackman @ 4:53 pm

According to Andrew Bolt (Melbourne Herald Sun), “Barack Obama’s worshipped words of wisdom sound familiar” because they’re much the same words used by George W. Bush.

Geez Andrew I think you’re out on a limb there, earning your “danger money” with that one. While the occasional passage may read similarly, that is a long way from saying that they sound “familiar”.

My other observation is that say what you want about Obama’s inauguration speech, but IMHO it wasn’t his best. Three crackers include (1) the victory speech in Grant Park on Election Night (YouTube) (2) the DNC acceptance speech in Denver and (3) the “race speech” in Philadelphia. The speech after the Iowa win was pretty amazing too.

Its tough to for me to imagine hearing Bush delivering those lines, even if wanted to, even if they had been written for him.

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R <-> Jags with RJags

Filed under: statistics — jackman @ 10:02 am

I got the following query:

I’m wondering how you manage JAGS on your unix/linux systems. Do you use rjags? Or do you run jags from the command line and assess convergence/process output using CODA functions in R? What is your process?

A minor point: all my machines are Mac, but thats not of great consequence, since its a *nix of a sort when it comes to GNU/GPL’d scientific software.

I do use rjags to handle the communication between R and JAGS. I also use coda for the stationarity/convergence assessments, but a lot of my own hand-written stuff for specific problems (e.g., see the ideal point stuff in pscl, dynamic linear models, when you have *lots* of latent variables, identification is fragile, etc).

My almost finished book has tons of examples from this Mac-based work flow: data setup in R, the hand-off to JAGS via rjags, coda back in R etc on the back end.

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recessionary economics

Tuesday January 27, 2009

Filed under: Australian Politics — jackman @ 3:22 pm

The global recession doesn’t seem to have hit hard here in Australia, for now. Still, there is a lot of media commentary and pre-positioning for the downturn expected later in the year.

There are a few interesting arguments being tossed around in the media here. Under the headline, “Welfare groups call for ‘serious investment’ in social services”, the ABC reports:

Welfare groups say the economy needs more than just a cash injection from the Federal Government if Australia is to survive the worsening global economic crisis.

Representatives from social and community organisations are meeting in Sydney with Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

The president of the Australian Council of Social Service, Lynne Hatfield-Dodds, says the Government needs to look at measures such as increasing the minimum wage to ease the plight of workers.

The general call for improved social services makes sense if you think unemployment is rising. But increasing minimum wages? That can see more firms considering layoffs as a way to survive. If anything, you need a framework that allows wages to adjust down in response to lowered demand, to help stave off layoffs. Its a crappy thing to point out, but labor market rigidities can actually exacerbate layoffs in a downturn.

Indeed, in The Australian, Lenore Taylor and David Uren report that there may be something of a good old-fashioned corporatist deal in the works, with a suggestion that low-income tax cuts be put on the table in an effort to persuade the Fair Pay Commission that only small increases in the minimum wage are required.   

And by the way, this is an interesting wrinkle on the standard corporatist argument. Union density in Australia is now down to about 10-15% or so in the private sector (ABS estimated the rate to be 14% in August 2007). The standard argument is that high union density coupled with a Labor government can deliver wage restraint in a downturn, so as to bolster the impact of Keynsian counter-cyclical pump-priming by the state on employment. Take away the unions, and that part of the argument disappears. Ah-hah, but perhaps institutions generating centralized wage fixing like the Fair Pay Commission play a functionally equivalent role.

The other interesting argument is the status of income tax cuts, which (from memory) didn’t play a role in the standard corporatist argument.

Last thought on this for the day, coming after a quick conversation with USSC CEO Geoff Garrett here at USyd: monetary policy in Australia still has considerable room to move (downwards), whereas the US Fed has no more room to play in. Hence, the US stimulatory story is all fiscal, whereas Australia has more weapons on the table for the time being. Lower cash rates here couldn’t help an already weak Australian dollar (trading around 0.66 USD for a while now), but perhaps isn’t crazy in terms of stimulating demand for Australia’s commodity exports. With so many Australians on variable rate home mortgages, lower interest rates certainly help at the margin when, say, overtime dries up or workers get bumped over to part-time, reduced hours, etc.

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Saturday January 24, 2009

Filed under: general — jackman @ 2:18 pm

106F is over 41C. Thats the current temp at Sydney airport, and its probably hotter at many other Sydney locations right now, further away from the coast.

By spending a good chunk of American summers in Australia (where its winter at that time of the year) its been a long time since we’ve been around that kind of heat.

As the YSSY METAR indicates, there is chance of southerly change, if not a thunderstorm later to cool us off.

Bondi was like a swimming pool this morning, the hot NW wind stomping down any swell.

Picture 3-8

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pianos everywhere

Friday January 23, 2009

Filed under: general — jackman @ 4:09 pm

There was a nice piece on the 7.30 Report last night about the pianos that have been deployed over Sydney public spaces during the Sydney Festival.

Here’s Josephine giving the Centennial Park piano a workout (Janet’s holding the cell phone close to Josephine’s ear so she can hear me offering encouragement…)


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NYTimes graphics

Filed under: statistics — jackman @ 3:26 pm

Sometimes it is the attention to detail that matters. Note how the vertical axes in this 3 panel graph have been calibrated such that the percentage falls in the Pound are equivalent (in terms of vertical units). Very nice.

Picture 2.png

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the great firewall of Sydney

Filed under: computing,general — jackman @ 11:45 am

IT at USyd has the campus locked down very tight. They also pretty much presume you run a Windows machine.

The more general lack of Mac support is frustrating. Email here is on an Exchange server, but they can’t/won’t configure it to place with Apple Mail. “Use Entourage” is the advice for Mac users at this stage. Bleck. But get this, the iPhone Mail program will talk to the Exchange server (just not Apple Mail): WTF?

This is the most frustrating networking situation I’ve ever encountered.

I’m reminded of that line by Al Pacino to Kevin Spacey in Glengarry Glen Ross: “Are you here to help us, or are you here to fuck us up?”

Until very recently, Stanford had a “wild west” approach, which is kind of appropriate given the history of the place in helping to develop the Internet and the whole tech/innovation ethos of the place (cf USyd). Every jack on campus was essentially unprotected, open to the whole Internet. We now have firewalls at the unit level, which are easy to tailor on a host-by-host basis, and in any event, applications like iChat are allowed through the firewall (default rule).

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Obama re-does his Oath of Office

Thursday January 22, 2009

Filed under: politics — jackman @ 5:11 pm

Obama re-doing the Oath of Office got a big run here today. I gave 2GB a few minutes on it this afternoon (mov).

AFAIK: the two previous presidents to retake their oath (that I know of) are Calvin Coolidge (1923) and Chester A. Arthur (1881).

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in the Fin

Filed under: Australian Politics,general,politics — jackman @ 8:07 am

I have an op-ed in the Australian Financial Review this morning (subscription required).

At USSC we’re nothing if not media-forward.

And a couple of hundred people turned out to the USSC sponsored inauguration replay at the Manning Bar at Univ of Sydney yesterday. That is quite amazing, given that it is the dead of summer on an Australian university campus.

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where were the pardons?

Wednesday January 21, 2009

Filed under: politics — jackman @ 6:18 pm

On a huge day, here is something that didn’t get much notice: Bush didn’t unleash a wave of pardons in his last hours as President.

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