Thursday, 25 June 2009

Goodbye to Scarlett

Oh well.

Needless to say, I am not a Masterton woman. However, it occurs to me that the NSB actually *is*...

Oh well. It was nice to dream for a while. Back to work *sigh*.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

What Google thinks of you...

Exploring the new features of Google, I came across the Wonderwheel, which allows semantic navigation based on search terms.

I'm very boring. Litbrit is an isolated little puppy with nobody who likes her. Amanda Marcotte appears to have a fan club, Melissa McEwan is still, alas, still considered to be Amanda's sidekick, The Dark Wraith might be getting fans of Terry Brooks very confused, and PZ Myers isn't an academic at all.

Any other interesting results?

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Some nifty statistical sleuthing here...

I've been suspending judgement on the Iranian election so far; some (few) reports have suggested it might have been a reasonable result.

Now we have this.

So what can we make of Iran's election results? We used the results released by the Ministry of the Interior and published on the web site of Press TV, a news channel funded by Iran's government. The ministry provided data for 29 provinces, and we examined the number of votes each of the four main candidates -- Ahmadinejad, Mousavi, Karroubi and Mohsen Rezai -- is reported to have received in each of the provinces -- a total of 116 numbers.

The numbers look suspicious. We find too many 7s and not enough 5s in the last digit. We expect each digit (0, 1, 2, and so on) to appear at the end of 10 percent of the vote counts. But in Iran's provincial results, the digit 7 appears 17 percent of the time, and only 4 percent of the results end in the number 5. Two such departures from the average -- a spike of 17 percent or more in one digit and a drop to 4 percent or less in another -- are extremely unlikely. Fewer than four in a hundred non-fraudulent elections would produce such numbers.
But that's not all. Psychologists have also found that humans have trouble generating non-adjacent digits (such as 64 or 17, as opposed to 23) as frequently as one would expect in a sequence of random numbers. To check for deviations of this type, we examined the pairs of last and second-to-last digits in Iran's vote counts. On average, if the results had not been manipulated, 70 percent of these pairs should consist of distinct, non-adjacent digits.

Not so in the data from Iran: Only 62 percent of the pairs contain non-adjacent digits. This may not sound so different from 70 percent, but the probability that a fair election would produce a difference this large is less than 4.2 percent. And while our first test -- variation in last-digit frequencies -- suggests that Rezai's vote counts are the most irregular, the lack of non-adjacent digits is most striking in the results reported for Ahmadinejad.

Each of these two tests provides strong evidence that the numbers released by Iran's Ministry of the Interior were manipulated. But taken together, they leave very little room for reasonable doubt. The probability that a fair election would produce both too few non-adjacent digits and the suspicious deviations in last-digit frequencies described earlier is less than .005. In other words, a bet that the numbers are clean is a one in two-hundred long shot.

That's easily enough evidence to justify a do-over under close outside observation. If Iran was a working democracy. I have to conclude that it isn't, that the Revolution failed, and the kids in the streets are right to fight.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Why the wind is cold

As an update to the piece below, note this post from Brad DeLong about the worrying state of the US economy.

The money shot is this:

My third--unrelated--point is that the policy innovations of the past year have created a potentially dangerous weakness in the Federal Reserve system. The Federal Reserve's balance sheet has more than doubled over the past year, as it has acquired an enormous and bizarre menagerie of assets. On the liability side, it has funded this acquisition by expanding the monetary base, and has increased private-sector willingness to hold this monetary base by paying interest on reserves. This has added a fourth motive--profit--to the three traditional motives for holding reserve deposits at the Fed: the transactions demand, the emergency liquidity demand, and the speculative demand.

As long as the dollar remains the safest currency in the world, as long as the dollar remains the linchpin of the global financial system, there is no problem in the Federal Reserve's funding by what is essentially overnight borrowing the expansion of its balance sheet and the purchase of private securities that will vary up or down in market price with an eye toward holding them to maturity.

However, at some future time the dollar will cease to be the linchpin of the world financial system, in which case the Federal Reserve's financing its balance sheet via overnight borrowing will leave it vulnerable to the mother of all bank runs. It would be very good to fix this now: to give the Federal Reserve now the option to borrow not in what are essentially demand but rather in time deposits--to grant the Federal Reserve the power to issue its own bonds. This diminishes the chance of a great financial crisis in 2050 or so, with no downside that I can see.

I'd be really dubious about any asset backed by the US government and denominated in dollars right about now. If I had any investments with which to be dubious about.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Cold wind blowing

From Chris Hedges, the sound of bells.

I especially note the US asking to sit in as observers - and the SCO saying "no". A while back, the wingnuts were freaking out about a New World Currency. They should have been worried about the old ones.

The NZ free trade agreement with China is looking wiser and wiser.