What is Obama thinking?

Granted, it’s not a spy plane, but it’s not April 2001, either

Beijing – China’s central bank rejected allegations by a senior US official that China is manipulating the exchange rates of its currency, state-run media reported Sunday.

   Su Ning, vice governor of the People’s Bank of China, said the allegation could sidetrack efforts to track the real cause of the financial crisis, Xinhua news agency reported.

   ‘Also, we should avoid any excuse that might lead to the revitalization of trade protectionism. Because it will do no good to the fight against the crisis, nor will it help the healthy and stable development of the global economy,’ Su said.

US Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy Geithner made the charge to the Senate Finance Committee last week. ‘President Obama, backed by the conclusions of a broad range of economists, believes that China is manipulating its currency,’ he wrote, in documents released Thursday.

   Yi Xianrong, a researcher with the financial research center of the CASS, told Xinhua on Friday if the US labeled China a ‘currency manipulator’, it would hurt the concerted action of fighting the global financial crisis.

via China rejects US charges of currency manipulation .

The Economist has joined the army of critics noting that such saber-rattling is insane.  It’s certainly a dangerously unilateral action designed to alienate allies while pandering to the know-nothing wings of Obama’s base.

Now, I realize that Obama promised this sort of thing:

I was just hoping that Obama knew better than to follow-through with it.

Update: James Fallows, deeply in the tank when it comes to Obama elsewhere, adds to the criticism.

Confirmatory research, not physics envy

As part of the roundtable on Clausewitz’s On War, Joseph Fouche makes this point regarding Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan:

One of Taleb’s main themes is the tendancy for specialists in any field to develop physics envy and attempt to reduce the horrifically complex phenomena that they are studying to a deterministic and mechanistic theory complete with complex equations. This doesn’t lead to a higher level of truth and accuracy. It leads to a higher level of systematic self-deception and delusion. It creates financial weapons of mass destruction such as an MBA armed with a spreadsheet and the belief that manipulating rows and columns bestows the ability to prophesy. Vain is the life of man.

Joseph’s mention of ‘physics envy’ is a common put-down against quantitative research by those who enjoy qualitative research. But there is another, better, way of framing the debate: exploratory research and confirmatory research.

Confirmatory research includes the tools that most researchers think of as “quatitative,” such as analysis of variance (ANOVA), multiple regression, chi-square tests, and so on. Confirmatory research is also what we might call Popperian science, after the famous philosopher of science Karl Popper. In confirmatory research, we begin by having a research question, we translate it into null and alternate hypothesis, we device our experimentals, and attempt to reject or fail to reject our null hypothesis, as the case may be. Confirmatory research can be thought of as the process of trying to infer the parameters of a population from the statistics of a sample.

Exploratory research, on the other hand, is an attempt to understand the world so that a sensible research question can be asked in the first place. Some exploratory techniques are also quantitative. Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) and exploratory Principle Components Analysis, for instance, are exploratory statistical techniques without any null hypotheses that allow researchers to examine the various rotations of the hidden factor structure in a data set. Other exploratory techniques may be called theoretical research. In this approach, a researcher goes through large body of research to tease out hidden themes and discover gaps in existing research. Lastly, the sort of qualitative research implied by the initial questions to this problem are exploratory qualitative research. The focus is on understanding a process, rather than estimating the parameers of a population from the statistics of a sample.

While not all quantitative resarch is confirmatory, all qualitative research is exploratory. Hence the intended gist of the questions in this problem. The difference between exploratory research and confirmatory research is that the former attempts to understand a process, while the latter seeks to estimate the parameters of a population from the statistics of a sample. The first of these is always true of qualitative research. The last of these is sometimes true of qualitative research. To phrase it more simply: confirmatory reseach (that is,some of quantitative research) is driven by theory, or should be; exploratory research (that is, all qualitative research, and the rest of quantitative research) drives theory.

The Universal Church

Courtesy of an email from Catholicgauze: It’s a good day for Catholics all over the world, as Pope Benedict XVI has lifted the excommunication of several bishops in the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X… a group of catholics that until recently was schismatic.

Some breaking news on the even, from Damian Thompson:

Other schismatic churches, not yet reunited, include the Chinese Patriot Catholic Association (an open letter to congregates of which is on the Vatican web site) and the Church of England.