PhilStock: Topsy-turvy game

Financial Chart and Line GraphWhat a topsy-turvy game playing the stock market has become. In the past (don’t ask me how far) signs of a strengthening economy would point to the likelihood of stocks rising, now it is the reverse. (At least at current, in the short term). As soon as reports are out showing even marginal improvement, the fear that Bernanke will begin to taper the huge monthly bond purchases leads the stock market to plummet (like yesterday). Every time he whispers, let alone speaks, about easing out of the “easing” at some future point, the market drops precipitously. It’s almost as if traders don’t want the economy to start recovering too much, lest Ben stop the feeding. With interest rates low, companies borrow to buy back their own shares, keeping their prices afloat. I’m sure there are other theories, and I’m not any kind of expert[1]—just an outsider, playing from the sidelines. The other strange twist is that the game nowadays has much less to do with predicting the economy or human psychology, than with figuring out the “psychology” of the high speed computers that run the markets. What words would be frequently out there in the news today to trigger the programs to buy/sell (at 2p.m., say)? The high-frequency traders have a huge advantage (but don’t get me started on that)[2].

[1] “The 3 reasons why stocks have skyrocketed”

[2] What are a couple of telecoms low this week, you ask? I will answer only if you remember the PhilStock rule: never, ever act on anything I say on PhilStock.

[A solid, high dividend a few points down: A,T&T (T): $35:47 (pays 5%); S&P 5 star (semi-speculative)unusually low this week: windstream (WIN) $7.89 (pays over 12 %).

Categories: phil stock, rejected posts | 9 Comments


UnknownWINNER OF THE MAY PALINDROME CONTEST: A person who prefers to remain anonymous


Able no one nil red nudist opening nine pots. I’d underline “No” on Elba.

STATEMENT: “Thanks for the book. It was easy to win with just one word. I was never able to get the palindromes before. I underline ‘no’ to the question of who I am.”

CHOICE OF PRIZES: “Error and Inference. Staley’s review sold me”.

Error and Inference: Recent Exchanges on Experimental Reasoning, Reliability and the Objectivity and Rationality of Science (D. G. Mayo and A. Spanos, CUP 2010/11).

The requirement was to  include Elba plus “opening”—yes the contest has become easier. June will also have just one word: contest (plus Elba).

Categories: palindrome | Leave a comment

“No shame” psychics keep their predictions vague

imagesFor some reason, science debunker Goldacre’s blogpost below makes me take him slightly less seriously. It’s as if he’s saying, it’s no shame in giving psychic pronouncments to parents with missing children–people who obviously might be devastated or misled as a result–so long as you’re not found wrong. Does anyone else see it this way?

Shame on you, Sylvia Browne, for telling Amanda Berry’s mother her daughter was dead.

May 7th, 2013 by Ben Goldacre in just a blog 
The story of Amanda Berry’s rescue in Cleveland – after ten years in captivity – is extraordinary. In 2004, popular psychic Sylvia Brown told Amanda’s mother that her little girl was dead. Here is a contemporaneous account of that show.
Amanda Berry’s mother traveled to New York to tell her story to Psychic Sylvia Browne on the Montel Williams Show. The show was a shot at getting her daughter’s picture before the eyes of millions of Americans. “On April 21st 2003, 16-year-old Amanda Berry left her part-time job never to be seen again,” the show began. With that, TV viewers across America now know a girl from Cleveland is missing. But Amanda Berry’s mom wanted more than her daughter’s picture on national TV. She wants answers. “Can you tell me…Is she out there?” Berry’s mother Louwana Miller asked. “I hate when they’re in the water,” Browne said. “She’s not alive honey.” It was bad news from the world-renowned psychic. It’s what Miller didn’t want to hear. “So you don’t think I’ll ever see her again,” Miller said. “Yeah in Heaven on the other side,” Browne responded. “I’m sorry.” Montel took a commercial break and Amanda’s mom broke down.
It has been widely reported in the last 24 hours that Amanda Berry’s mother died in 2006 of a broken heart: certainly she must have endured appalling anguish over her last years. It would be nice if people like Sylvia Browne could deliver their stage entertainment with a bit more consideration. Until hell freezes over, we can at least draw attention to these horrible episodes.
Given that fortune-telling (on TV or live) lacks any scientific validity whatsoever (and the FBI said Browne had never been of any help), what can Goldacre’s chiding mean, except perhaps to suggest that an honorable psychic should be sure to keep her predictions ultra vague? What if she’d predicted her daughter was alive, or what if her daughter had turned out to be dead, would Goldacre declare there was no shame?
Categories: junk science, Misc Kvetching | Leave a comment

msc kvetch: air traffic control cuts?

imagesDoes it really make sense to cut air-traffic control? Weren’t there already too few wide-awake folks in the towers? Here I am delayed at LGA, NY, but I will say that Delta is impressively laying out free cold drinks and snacks. I just don’t see how airlines can function with so much unpredictable regulatory control. Have you noticed airline fares have gone through the roof in the last year? Strangely, I hear no one talking about it, but I’m pretty sure it has a lot to do with airlines being required (by a newly imposed law) to give people 24 hours to change a ticket without penalty–in case they make a mistake– and the huge new TSA taxes, which, incidentally, airlines are required to combine with the base price so you cannot even see how much it is. I’ve also noticed that prices are essentially identical across airlines and travel websites (so far as I can tell), whereas there used to be a lot of variability. Nor is it just that I trade in airlines—in fact airline stocks are at close to their near term highs. Not that the companies themselves are profitable; they’re not. It’s only that they were so low last year (e.g., DAL from ~$7-$17, search philstock in this blog, if interested). My kvetch is  that the U.S.depends on people being able to fly, and yet there’s much more intervention in the “private” airline business than other industries, so far as I’m aware. Well I guess we’ll be seeing those blades and machetes soon (with the new ruling, search my regular blog).

On board the captain apologizes for the lateness, makes it clear it was not their fault but actually required by the FAA, and that we should all write to our representatives in Congress!

Categories: Misc Kvetching | 1 Comment

APRIL 1, 2013

Explaining my April 1, 2013 blog:

I was alone in my beautiful office at Thebes (where I live)*. I really didn’t have the time to spend on a jokey April 1 post, but given this blog has only been in existence a year and one-half, I felt I should try for some kind of “tradition” on April fool’s day, especially in case I had a great idea next year. Last year had many fooled, so lest I let people down, I tried to think of a wild joke that related to our topics, and came across “The Sin of Bad Science” –“bad science” being a frequent theme around here.  But the more I read the Tilberg Report to which it led, and passages from Stapel’s book, the less my idea seemed wild after all, but rather, all-too-believable.  I had no time to come up with something else, and decided to design the post with a productive end: to get people to read section 5 of the Report.

The IG is imaginary, but not so far-fetched (given the interviews in the Report). Thus, the April Fool’s joke is partly on me! Finding the European Association letter (a link to which was only added after Kent Staley’s comment on the post) nearly does derail at least part of (what I thought was) my wild and zany idea.

If people do not see how this state of affairs is promoted by the trends in philosophy of science and statistical practice over the last 15 years or so, they should think again. For examples, scan the blog:

For an index to Jan-Feb:

*Spoof on Diederik’s memoir.

Categories: danger | 1 Comment

PhilStock: DO

Financial Chart and Line GraphIn a PhilStock post of last month (Jan 22), I’d said Diamond Offshore (DO)—mascot of the error statistics philosophy blog– wouldn’t be of interest until it loops back down below $70, so I thought I’d note that today it went below $69.  Once it stops dropping (staying tuned to various cliff  freakouts, looming national and international twists), it could be worthwhile (with its 87 cents a share regular and special dividends). Remember, though: Never ever listen to (i.e., act on) anything I say about the stock market.


Categories: phil stock, rejected posts | 3 Comments

Rejected post: Filly Fury

Whoa Nelly!  When I first heard stories being trotted out last month about the fury over horsemeat in “beef” products in the UK, I thought that given how much is riding on public trust, the complaints would spur food inspection agencies to have reined in the problem by now. But I hear that Britain’s Tesco and Burger King are being saddled with new findings, making a lot of people skittish even here in the U.S. This could prove a boon to McDonald’s long jockeying with Burger King in the fast food market. At first Tesco bridled at the accusations (declaring the rumors “horse%$#@”), but once the equine DNA was tracked, the horse was out of the barn and they had to take out a full page ad to apologize. Possibly from a crude p-value analysis it was concluded:

“The early results from Findus UK’s internal investigation strongly suggests that the horsemeat contamination in Beef Lasagne was not accidental.”

The horsemeat could well have been sold for quite some time it has been revealed, given that tests for horse DNA have not been conducted in donkey’s years!

On Thursday, the scandal deepened further with the news that horsemeat had been found in Findus ready meals made in France, prompting the British government to call it “very distasteful” .

French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said there would be an investigation there: “We need to avoid this idea that there was some desire to hide things,” he told BFM television.

Clearly, they could not have been deliberately hiding things: one of the companies is even called “Findus”.  Nor would they ever try to stall the investigations now cropping up all over.

In an article in the Mirror, the problem is linked to people living hand to mouth:

Findus beef lasagne sold at £1.60 – for 360g of alleged beef, tomatoes, onions, herbs, white sauce and pasta.… Why did none of us work out sooner that if they were flogging it for £1.60 something was amiss?

Elsewhere I read that France’s agriculture minister issued a warning

that companies found to have knowingly misled consumers would be ‘severely punished’.

Possibly even horsewhipped! To ease the fury, some lawmakers in the UK are becoming galloping gourmets:

Two senior lawmakers advised on Friday against eating processed beef products, but Paterson said he would happily eat them and Cameron insisted there was no health risk.

“There is no reason to believe that any frozen food currently on sale is unsafe or a danger to health. It’s not so much about food safety, it’s about proper food labeling, it’s about confidence in retailers,” Cameron said.

Experts say horsemeat could contain traces of veterinary drug phenylbutazone, or “bute”, used as a painkiller, which can be harmful to humans but only in high concentrations.

However, the danger of eating such meat may be slight: “The idea that you might get a clinically significant amount in horsemeat, even after therapeutic administration to the horse is, frankly, daft,” said Colin Berry, a professor of pathology at Queen Mary, University of London.

Perhaps he’s being groomed for a policy post. The following timeline posted in the Guardian shows the race is on to reveal higher and higher percentages!

16 January

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland says beefburgers with traces of equine DNA, including one product classed as 29% horse, are being supplied to supermarkets by Silvercrest Foods in Ireland and Dalepak Hambleton in Yorkshire, subsidiaries of the ABP Food Group.

4 February

Production at a second meat supplier, Rangeland Foods in Co Monaghan, is suspended after 75% equine DNA is found in raw ingredients, the Irish department of agriculture confirms…..

7 February

The Food Standards Agency reveals a second case of “gross contamination” after some Findus UK beef lasagnes are found to contain up to 100% horsemeat. The products were made by Comigel.

The New York Times, also running with the story, reports that the chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Alan Reilly, said that meat was being deliberately mislabeled.

“We are no longer talking about trace amounts,” he told RTE, the national broadcaster. “We are talking about horse meat. Somebody, someplace, is drip-feeding horse meat into the burger manufacturing industry. We don’t know exactly where this is happening.”

But they may now have identified a horsemeat lasagna factory that looks pretty fishy:

Sprawling on a frozen plain in an isolated part of central Europe, the huge Comigel food factory appears a deeply sinister place….

The production plant, accused of being the source of horse meat-laden ready meals which have flooded the UK food market, looks like a cross between a prison and a crematorium.

The Tavola factory specialises in ready-made frozen meals, producing an astonishing 16,000 tonnes a year.

At the end of the article are some interesting charts on the statistics of horse meat production around the world.

No closing the barn door now, the inquiry has taken off!  In the mean time, enjoy your filly cheese steak! Is it horse or not? That is equestrian.

Send me related updates for this post from your neigh-borhood.

News Updates:

(1) Is this a good analogy?

Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said regulators weren’t at fault.

“This is not a regulation failure,” he said. “We have to stop saying that just because there is a fraud. That’s like saying that just because there are police officers around and that an accident happens, there is a failure on the part of the police officers.”

(2) Carmolimp?  Mere labeling issue?

Meanwhile, one Romanian producer that processes horse meat, Carmolimp, called the French assertions against Romanian producers “shameful” and an “unprecedented attack” without merit. “If the horse meat left Romania, then it would have been only labeled as horse meat,” Olimpiu Soneriu, the director of Carmolimp, said in a statement. He added that horse meat and beef were easily differentiated by their texture.

…. “It is just a labeling issue,” Frederic Vincent, a spokesman for health and consumer policy at the European Commission, told reporters at a regular briefing in Brussels. “As far as I know, the meat in question has not been contaminated in any way.”


Categories: Misc Kvetching, rejected posts | 10 Comments

January palindrome winner! Francis Lee

Francis Lee*

Palindrome: G.I. bootstrap able to null “ahs” on lie. Neil, no shallu? Not Elba! Parts too big!

STATEMENT:  “As an unofficial wordsmith (certification pending), it is a tremendous relief to see my efforts bear fruit. My Thanks to the isle of Elba for indulging me.”

CHOICE OF PRIZE: “Principles of Applied Statistics, by D.R. Cox and C.A. Donnelly”.**

*Francis Lee is currently an undergraduate in the University of California school system, and he aspires to investigate mathematical models of risk perception and communication in the medical field.

Congratulations Lee!

**Full title of book choice:

Principles of Applied Statistics (D. R. Cox and C. A. Donnelly 2011, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

The minimum requirement was to  include Elba plus any one of: bootstrap, demonstrate (demonstrable), null. Using two would beat out candidates using just one, even though there weren’t any. During January, there was a humorous dialogue between Lee, the Elba judges, and I:

Elba Judges to Francis: What is “shallu”? Can you send a reference?

Francis: Shallu is a type of grain that I believe originates from Africa, but requires very particular weather conditions in order to successfully grow, hence the rarity of its use. I believe the seeds are rather large though.
1. Here’s a store that sells shallu:
2. And here is a reference by the US Government:

Elba Judges to Francis: Can you please explain your January palindrome?

Francis: An unscrupulous farmer who wears military boots when he farms, lied to the public and claims to have developed a system to grow it more efficiently than was conceivable in the exact same conditions as is typically allowed, when in reality he was just mixing it with more common crops mixed in, and selling it as the more expensive shallu. Being suspicious, an inquisitive scientist snoops around.

Upon further examination of the dirt attached to his boots, they have concluded that the caked dirt was wildly lacking in some characteristic that soil conditions of shallu typically have. Along with other gaping inconsistencies in his story, this evidence warrants a trial and he is quickly convicted. Any professional fascination stemming from his methodology is soon rebuffed.

Nevertheless, there is still a rampant shallu demand from the public due to the effective marketing strategies of the farmer. The current state of affairs is that a task force appointed by the government is figuring out potential locations to grow shallu and meet public demand. One of them suggests our beloved Elba, which is swiftly denied by another on account of shallu being too unwieldly to cultivate on an island the size of Elba.

Mayo to Francis: You are a candidate for winning the January palindrome contest. Congratulations. But can you please explain the phrase “Null ‘ahs’ on my lie”? Thank you.

Francis: Null “ahs” on my lie was my long way of saying that his revealing of the truth removed any sense of wonderment from the public.

Anyone get this? No matter, congratulations Lee!

Categories: palindrome, rejected posts | 1 Comment

PhilStock: Beyond luck or method

Financial Chart and Line GraphA year ago I wrote in a philstock post, “year of the yo-yo” :

“It’s a bizarre kind of comfort to see that stock analysts are much less inclined to tout their skills ever since the crash (of 08-09), admitting that, at least with today’s crazy market, performance is more ‘the result of luck rather than skill‘”.

Although I routinely tell anyone who asks that my successes and failures in the stock market are a matter of luck/unluck, I don’t think stock traders really feel that way.  Surely I don’t.  Yes, the stock market these days feels (to me) like an artificial economy, and yes, it’s the only field I know where recognized “experts” with gobs and gobs of data and ever more technical, technical analysis, regularly and radically disagree.  But in the short term, and long term, and most especially in the quarterly cycling of prices, individual stocks, decently researched, are fairly predictable, except of course for really strange goings on like Chinese solar [i], utterly unforeseen drug disasters, legal problems, manipulations, surprise buyouts or basically anything else you got (unfairly!) tricked on or failed to pick up on in your limited research.

In the year ago post I reported:

“DO (Diamond Offshore), finally back over $60–the deep water driller that was integral to beginning this blog-DAL (Delta) over $9 for a change, STP (SunTech Power)—down around 3.20…If I was to predict risky targets for the year, maybe  $75, $13, and $5-6, respectively.)”

They are now around $73.60, 13.70, and $1.80.

(these have fluctuated since I wrote this post a few days ago)

Reminder: first and last rule on PhilStock posts: Never listen to (i.e., act on) anything I say about the stock market.

My best stocks of 2012? Airlines (JBLU, DAL)—(DAL, I predict has more points to go); [master limited] natural gas pipelines (e.g., KMP—high right now, ~$88,with a dividend ~6% !, since popping after evading avoiding the “fiscal cliff”– I would wait til KMP is back under $80); Apple (AAPL) (buyable under $500) and Diamond Offshore (DO)—the mascot of my error statistics philosophy blog (would not buy til it loops back down below $70). DO got the “mascot” role because the blog began as a forum to discuss papers growing out of the June 2010 conference at the LSE “Statistical Science Meets Philosophy of Science” (see published contributions), and it was during the conference planning in April 2010 that the Macondo well exploded. See, I’d recently bought DO and thanks to the BP spill, it promptly fell from the 80s in March to the 60s in June, 2010—never mind that it had nothing whatever to do with the BP spill.[ii] I spent a couple of months writing my papers using probabilistic examples gleaned from watching the “oil spill cam”, and the (failed) attempts at engaging the blowout preventer, “top kills”, “junk shots,” containment domes, as well as watching the stock go down in price. I used the metaphor of “deep exploration” for my presentation and paper. With the special and regular dividends ~$4 a share, luckily, the loss is recouped even with a moderately restored price–at least in… ~3yrs?[iii]

Apple? A stock that moves between the 400s to just over 700 in 52 weeks is never boring. Anything under $500 is alluring, and it actually grazed $485 a few days ago (at which point I added a little)! It has earnings tomorrow—what do you predict? I think people fear Apple could get “Rimmed” (dropping like Research in Motion (RIMM), after being the leader in smart phones).  I say it goes back to it’s high….unless, of course, it doesn’t. It has a 2% dividend now (a fairly recent change).

Remember, though: Never ever listen to (i.e., act on) anything I say about the stock market.

[i] E.g., Suntech Power (STP) having been propped up by a loan of 500 million euros (of German government bonds) from an entity that didn’t exist dropped precipitously. Long story.  Buying it at 80 cents in the fall helped a lot. Stay away.

[ii] It got hit with (a very unfair) moratorium, and some of its ships had to leave the Gulf of Mexico for Brazil.

[iii] Of course, if one decides to stay in, one has to buy a bit once it’s finished dropping, and on the 2s.d. cyclical drops.

Categories: phil stock, rejected posts | 2 Comments

Msc Kvetch/PhilStock: TSA to remove nudie scanners from airports

headlessTSAOsis Systems (OSIS) up $2.90 to $70.55 today after it reached an agreement with the TSA regarding its Rapiscan Automated Target Recognition software. It’s been creeping up since the drop to around $50*, see my Nov. 18, 2012 post, after it was disclosed that the TSA was investigating whether it had falsified test results of the Rapiscan software used in its backscatter full body (airport) scanners. But I see no revelation one way or another as to whether the company was guilty of manipulating the testing of its system. In fact, Bloomberg reports today that:

“The decision to cancel the Rapiscan software contract and remove its scanners wasn’t related to an agency probe of whether the company faked testing data on the software fix.”

Presumably, the case has disappeared, or so it seems.

TSA to remove nudie scanners from airports because they couldn’t make them less nekkid (POSTED ON JANUARY 18, 2013 BY MARY KATHARINE HAM)

A minor victory for those of us who think security theater shouldn’t look like a Pussycat Theater. If you’re ineffectively protecting us, we should at least have the Continue reading

Categories: Misc Kvetching, phil stock, rejected posts | 1 Comment

Blog at