Monday, June 23, 2008

CO-2 Lockdown

If you build-smart, you can put CO-2 on lockdown, by "fixing" cement:

When portland cement is mixed, about 33% of the CO2 , that is released in the kilns, is sequestered back into its “micro-crystal” formation during the curing period, that lasts upwards of 100 years.

When MgO Ceramic Cements are mixed, close to 200% of the CO2 that was released in the kilns is sequestered, during the curing period, lasting only 180 days. And even more is possible with the introduction of bio-mass (the best being Hemp), creating more minerals and space to “petrify”, sequestering even more CO2!

In 2006, the United States produced an estimated 101 million tons of cement,* resulting in the direct release of 50.5 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. This calculation is independent of the gases released by the combustion of fuels consumed in making cement, which can equal the amount produced by calcining.

Concrete is the principal building material in regions where wood is unavailable.

We lack the will and coordination, not the means ... The energy future is bright, if we can get past the barriers to seizing it.

It may prove a bigger problem easier to fix than "healthcare", even. "Ha!", as Chris Matthews would say.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Senate Race 2008

Here's a look at the perceptions of how the senate races on the GOP might shake out. Some interesting outcomes. Mitch McConnell isn't bid very high to win, but neither is his challenger...

On the Dem side, Mary Landrieu is the only one who has attracted some trading volume. On these figures, Alaska is set to go blue ... ?

It looks like these numbers are inefficient and ripe for making some profits, if you get the outcomes right (I don't particularly like binary bets, so ...).

GOP SenatorsPr
Virginia-Warner, John (R-VA)10543%9011%
New Mexico-Domenici, Pete V. (R-NM)20-2533%806%
Mississippi-Lott Trent (R-MS)28044%6071%
New Hampshire-Sununu, John E. (R-NH)28.5-3.529%7520%
Colorado-Allard, Wayne (R-CO)35-6.530%8030%
Alaska-Stevens, Ted (R-AK)47.5-3021%579%
Kentucky-McConnell, Mitch (R-KY)50-3538%3023%
Minnesota-Coleman, Norm (R-MN)52.53.512%47.516%
Oregon-Smith, Gordon H. (R-OR)60-159%4516%
North Carolina-Dole, Elizabeth (R-NC)70-20.2-1%4529%
Maine-Collins, Susan M. (R-ME)70518%3033%
Texas-Cornyn, John (R-TX)70-2022%3067%
Nebraska-Hagel, Chuck (R-NE)70.1-14.920%29.967%
Idaho-Craig, Larry E. (R-ID)75.2-11.819%2075%
Kansas-Roberts, Pat (R-KS)802514%18.424%
Tennessee-Alexander, Lamar (R-TN)85-1011%1567%
South Carolina-Graham, Lindsey (R-SC)90-55%1050%
Oklahoma-Inhofe, James M. (R-OK)90-23%1050%
Georgia-Chambliss, Saxby (R-GA)90-53%1030%
Wyoming-Barrasso, Jim (R-WY)90-25%1050%
Wyoming-Enzi, Michael B. (R-WY)9005%1050%
Alabama-Sessions, Jeff (R-AL)9503%560%
Mississippi-Cochran, Thad (R-MS)9940%1050%

n.b. there are two Mississippi contracts traded ...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Growth in Intragovernmental Debt

Here's a breakdown in the growth under the Bush Administration of what the government owes to itself, using trust-fund accounting.

While Social Security has grown as a percentage from 40% in 2000 to 50% today, other programs have had remarkable growth.

DOD-Medicare has grown from $18 billion in the first year of 2003 to $92 billion in 2007. This has more than swamped the programs that were eliminated or consolidated...

The Pension benefit and nuclear waste disposal program have also shown strong growth.

Program Title - Balance in $Millions
/ 2000%
SSAFederal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund17%1,968,26250%/40%
OPMCivil Service Retirement and Disability Fund5%687,66517%/22%
HHSFederal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund13%319,3778%/8%
SSAFederal Disability Insurance Trust Fund13%213,8305%/5%
DODMilitary Retirment Fund4%190,2325%/7%
DODDOD Medicare-Eligible Retiree Health Care Fund100%92,1712%/%
DOLUnemployment Trust Fund-2%74,9232%/4%
FDICThe Bank Deposit Insurance Fund9%47,5151%/1%
DOENuclear Waste Disposal Fund18%39,4351%/1%
HHSFederal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund-2%39,2481%/2%
DOLPension Benefit Guaranty Corporation34%35,7751%/%
OPMEmployees Life Insurance Fund7%32,9651%/1%
OPMPostal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fundn.a.
HUDFHA- Liquidating Account4%22,4051%/1%
TreasExchange Stabilization Fund7%16,436%/%
OPMEmployees Health Benefits Fund16%15,890%/%
DOSForeign Service Retirement and Disability Fund5%14,378%/%
DOTHighway Trust Fund-9%12,205%/1%
VANational Service Life Insurance Fund-2%9,752%/1%
RRB:Railroad Retirement Account-14%
DOTAirport and Airway Trust Fund-14%
FDICThe Savings Association Insurance Fund (SAIF)-14%

Other programs and Funds7%86,3732%/3%

Total Intragovernmental Obligations

source: US Treasury (taking over reports from Bureau of the Public Debt), GAO

Monday, June 16, 2008

Punditocracy weigh in on Electoral map calculations

Bloomberg's Al Hunt:

Given the insights from doing combinatorics (just below), do you understand his first point? It seems like a nonsense "what-if", to me, but I'll give the benefit of the doubt...except that BBC says dreams of CA and NJ are ... dreams.

Both camps talk about expanding their party's universe this year, competing in states that used to be out of reach. Disregard most of that; if Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican candidate, wins California or New Jersey or if Obama takes Texas or Georgia, it will be a landslide like 1964, 1972 or 1984.

Past as Prologue

Realistically, the best starting point to look at the electoral map is the 2004 contest, a narrow Republican victory but one that today suggests an Obama edge.

Of the bigger prizes, Obama eyes two red states, Ohio and Florida, and McCain has his sights on two blue ones, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Pennsylvania, with its progressive suburbs, leans to Obama and Florida still looks better for McCain. The other two are tossups.

Obama has changed the dynamics in medium-size and smaller states from four years ago. There are more than half a dozen 2004 red states -- Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, Nevada, Missouri, even Indiana and Montana -- where Obama is competitive. There are very few -- New Hampshire and Wisconsin -- that McCain can turn from Democrat to Republican.

The BBC weighs in.

2004 Retrospective ...:

Other states to watch

Possible Red to Blue: Indiana, North Carolina, and Georgia. As for Florida, McCain leads there and Republican Governor Charlie Crist is very popular - but the economy is hurting, especially in South Florida, so the state could possibly show signs of swinging later.

Possible Blue to Red: Oregon. Some Republicans think that New Jersey, California, and Minnesota can go their way, but they are definitely wrong about the first two.

Obama's man-with-the-plan talks:

Well, we're certainly unintentionally topical on this blog, today, yes?
"You have a lot of ways to get to 270," Plouffe said. "Our goal is not to be reliant on one state on November 4th."

Plouffe has been pitching such a new approach to the electoral map in calls and meetings, according to several people who discussed the conversations on the condition of anonymity because they were meant to be private. Plouffe confirmed the descriptions in the interview.

Plouffe and his aides are weighing where to contest, and where chances are too slim to marshal a large effort. A win in Virginia (13 electoral votes) or Georgia (15 votes) could give Obama a shot if he, like Kerry, loses Ohio or Florida.

Plouffe also has been touting Obama's appeal in once Republican-leaning states where Democrats have made gains in recent gubernatorial and congressional races, such as Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Montana, Alaska and North Dakota.

Was Hillary Right?

At the end of the extended-race charade, Hillary made a public plea to superdelegates, in a memo that outlined her campaign's strengths.

Was she right?

We can ask that for two reasons, at least. First, it's interesting to those who are interested in winning, and it seems that a dispassionate assessment is easier now than before. Second, one ought to avoid the pitfalls of blogging just one perspective allatime.


Her team proposed that there would be a smaller battleground, whether that was accurate or not. She's got only 106 votes up for grabs, with team-blue having just a slight advantage of 217-215, implying magic numbers of 53 and 55.

There would be 19 ways to get exactly 270 EVs and chances would split only slightly in favor of blue.

BlockCombs to Reach
270 exactly
Probably of
270 or more
Win Probability

The odds presented are clearly not as strong as the prior opportunity set. Even throwing Florida to team-red in the prior set would still leave chances slightly better than those here, 56-44 to 52-48.


Florida takes on a greater importance, with the reduced set:

State Percent of Battleground EVs
Florida 25.5%
Michigan 16.0%
Missouri 10.4%
New Hampshire 3.8%
Ohio 18.9%
Iowa 6.6%
Minnesota 9.4%
New Mexico 4.7%
West Virginia 4.7%

It becomes almost a must-do for team blue, with a win percentage dropping to 23% for team-blue if the GOP pick up the state:

Table 3b. Shows winning combinations if battleground state goes "red" or "blue". Shows the number of exactly 270 combinations for both red and blue, for each outcome. Also indicates all the winning combinations as a percentage, adjusted for the fact that one team must win.

270 CombosRed Wins / Blue Wins State
StateBlue WinsRed WinsBlue 270 CombosBlue Win %Red 270 CombosRed Win %
New Hampshire712642%658%
New Mexico109643%357%
West Virginia109648%352%

That result emphasizes the riskiness of having a smaller set to work with from the start, perhaps. The comparative set shows considerably less sensitivity to Florida.

Looking at the combos required if Florida was lost by team-blue, you can come close to reaching the conclusion that a bet on Hillary is/was very much a bet that she could bring home that state, with its older voters, women, and Hispanics.


The major changes from the prior analysis would be to put PA, AR, WV, FL and OH into the "blue column", while putting most everything else either red or battleground.

For the purpose of this analysis, I've chosen to put OH and WV into the battleground, and chosen to go along with the comparative assertion that MN would be a battleground and WI, VA, and NC would go to team-red.

BattlegroundBlue StatesRed States
2008 ElectionFlorida, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, West VirginiaMaine, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, WashingtonColorado, Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wyoming

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Battle in the Battleground States


Looking at the electoral map, some commentators suggest that Democrats have a better chance to win this fall. What's the best numerical representation of that chance?

Separating states into "battleground" and "safe" for each party (see table at bottom), team-red needs 96 votes from the battleground states, about 1.5 for every one that team-blue needs. Put another way, team-blue needs only about 40% of the remaining votes; team-red, 60%.

But votes aren't combinations. People intuitively think that there might be a jaggedness to the electoral college, so that a single win in this or that state might tip the balance fairly dramatically, beyond the state's percentage in the college overall.

Following on the excellent work done (and shared :-) here, one can show exactly how many ways there are to win. There are 105 ways for either blue or red to get to 270 exactly. What's not intuitive, perhaps, is that the winning number of 270 is very near the cumulative probability of 50%.

Table 1. Combos and Win Percentages each party
BlockCombs to Reach
270 exactly
Probability of
270 or more

If you "cross out" the red states and just look at team-blue's opportunities (their 208 "safe" plus the 156 "battleground"), there are 54 ways to get exactly to 270 and just 37% of all the combinations are winning ones (270 or more). For team-red, the figures are 51 and 13%.

This suggests that team-blue has a 3-to-1 advantage, rather than the 1.5-to-1 advantage, based upon the way the cards can fall, so to speak.

I think that, technically, it would be "okay" to adjust these probabilities for the fact that someone must win, in which case their relative chances would be better expressed by 74%-to-26%...


Some commentators (and campaigns) have suggested that the big states are must-haves or crown jewels. What's the best numerical representation for such a claim? Suppose you were getting paid big bucks for strategy consulting and your boss asked you?

Well, if you just rank-ordered them, you'd end up with a like like this, based on how much of the battleground vote they represent. Surprisingly, perhaps, this simple ranking holds up well as a representation of how important each state is to winning. Sometimes simple is better.

Table 2. Battleground weight by EV
State Percent
Florida 17.3%
Pennsylvania 13.5%
Ohio 12.8%
Michigan 10.9%
North Carolina 9.6%
Virginia 8.3%
Missouri 7.1%
Wisconsin 6.4%
Colorado 5.8%
Nevada 3.2%
Maine 2.6%
New Hampshire 2.6%

Still, we can look at combinations and use that to justify a fee ... maybe.

One way to judge the importance of each battleground state would be to look at how many winning combinations there are after one side or the other picked it up. Here's that table (Table 3), ranked according to the win percentage for team-red (just because). Another way to judge the importance would be to exclude the state from consideration altogether and tally the impact - I've done this, but I'll keep this note brief, because the results are similar.

Table 3a. Shows winning combinations if battleground state goes "red" or "blue". Shows the number of exactly 270 combinations for both red and blue, for each outcome. Also indicates all the winning combinations as a percentage.

270 CombosRed Wins / Blue Wins State
StateBlue WinsRed WinsBlue 270 CombosBlue Win %Red 270 CombosRed Win %
North Carolina45603132%2917%
New Hampshire50552935%2614%

Here is the same, with the probabilities adjusted for the fact that someone must win:

Table 3a. Adjusted win probabilities

270 CombosRed Wins / Blue Wins State
StateBlue WinsRed WinsBlue 270 CombosBlue Win %Red 270 CombosRed Win %
North Carolina45603165%2935%
New Hampshire50552972%2628%

Clearly, Florida is a must-do for the GOP. Without it, their win percentage - the total number of combinations that lead to 270 or more - drops to 4%. With it, the total number of combinations that equal 270 jumps to 76 (for either party), 38 each for red and blue; and blue-team chances jumps to 22%, closing the gap to just 6% behind team-blue.

The blue percentages are all more "robust", grouped in a fairly narrow corridor, reflecting the advantage that team-blue has (on this set) before the battleground are contested.


Giving Florida to the GOP and then playing dice for them, one can come up with these 270-vote, odds-off "death-spirals" for team-blue:


I read those as McCain campaign taking a serious look at the "Michigan route" to the nomination.

Another interpretation of these results is to reinforce the notion that the advantages of modeling the race in terms of discreet outcomes are small, compared to just using the average chances of winning each state and effectively contesting, if not with a 50-state strategy, some portion larger than 50% of a winning number of EVs.


Here's a picture of how states that are likely to be hotly contested by the major political parties. This shouldn't be too controversial, at this date. Some lists include Iowa.

The net impact of the breakdown is that the "score" of the game is 208-174, a 34 point "lead" for team-blue. Given 270 to win, the "magic" number for team-blue is 62 and for team-red, 96.

'08 Battleground'08 Blue States'08 Red States
2008 ElectionColorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, WisconsinCalifornia, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, WashingtonAlabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming