Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Quotes of the day

So large a part of human life passes in a state contrary to our natural desires, that one of the principal topics of moral instruction is the art of bearing natural calamities. And such is the certainty of evil, that it is the duty of every man to furnish his mind with those principles that may enable him to act under it with decency and propriety.--Samuel Johnson

In the United States, the two groups that most ardently support Israel are Jews and evangelical and fundamentalist Christians. Jewish support is easy to explain, but why should certain Christians, most of them politically quite conservative, be so devoted to Israel? There is a second puzzle: despite their support for a Jewish state, evangelical and fundamentalist Christians are disliked by many Jews. And a third: a large fraction of African-Americans are hostile to Israel and critical of Jews, yet Jewish voters regard blacks as their natural allies.--James Wilson

Paychecks from private business shrank to their smallest share of personal income in U.S. history during the first quarter of this year, a USA TODAY analysis of government data finds. At the same time, government-provided benefits — from Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps and other programs — rose to a record high during the first three months of 2010.--Dennis Cauchon

Unionized pubic employees swarmed Trenton on Saturday to protest Gov. Chris Christie’s cuts in the state budget — and his “Cap 2.5” proposal to limit local property taxes. The unions warn that a tax cap will lower the quality of the Garden State’s public services, such as schools. Is that right? For the answer, we can look at Massachusetts, which enacted a similar property tax reform back in 1980. As I discuss in a report out this week from the Manhattan Institute and the Common Sense Institute of New Jersey, that reform has led to slow growth in taxation and spending compared to other states. But Massachusetts is the clear national leader in educational outcomes, showing that a well-designed property tax cap can constrain taxes and spending while maintaining high-quality government services.--Josh Barro

The future of US medicine under ObamaCare is already on display in Massachusetts. The top four health insurers there just posted first-quarter losses of more than $150 million. Most of them blamed the state's decision to keep premiums at last year's levels for individual and small-business policies, when they'd proposed double-digit hikes to match the soaring costs they've seen under the state's universal-coverage law.--Sally Pipes

In what universe is an economy with 39.68 million Americans on food stamps considered to be a healthy, recovering economy? ... How can the U.S. real estate market be considered healthy when, for the first time in modern history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together?--Michael Snyder

Using the rule of 16 and the 1/3 trading days time frame, the following translations should be committed to memory:
* VIX of 16 – 1/3 of the time the SPX will have a daily change of at least 1%
* VIX of 32 – 1/3 of the time the SPX will have a daily change of at least 2%
--Bill Luby

I've recently decided that statistics lies at the intersection of measurement, variation, and comparison. ... my claim is that, to be "statistics," you need all three of these elements, no two will suffice. My point here, though, is that as statisticians, we teach all of these three things and talk about how important they are (and often criticize/mock others for selection bias and other problems that arise from not recognizing the difficulties of good measurement, attention to variation, and focused comparisons), but in our own lives (in deciding how to teach and do research, administration, and service--not to mention our personal lives), we think about these issues almost not at all. In our classes, we almost never use standardized tests, let alone the sort of before-after measurements we recommend to others. We do not evaluate our plans systematically nor do we typically even record what we're doing. We draw all sorts of conclusions based on sample sizes of 1 or 2. ... We say it, and we believe it, but we don't live it. So maybe we don't believe it. So maybe we shouldn't say it? Now I'm working from a sample size of 0. Go figure.--Andrew Gelman

People often demand to know why it is that we as a society consent to pay movie stars and professional athletes such obscene sums of money, while teachers and other people clearly providing greater benefit to society are paid so very little. There are a great many economic and social explanations one can go into, but one basic point that probably bears pointing out is that society does not in fact spend more on Hollywood or on professional sports than it does on teachers. ... Entertainers make so much money because modern means of communication allow large numbers of people to enjoy the performances of a comparatively small number of people.--Darwin

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