William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Page 394 of 547

Pajamas Media: The VAT Man Cometh: It Will Happen. How Bad Is It?

Today’s post is at Pajamas Media: “The VAT Man Cometh: It Will Happen. How Bad Is It?

Pajamas Media

I have a ghost of an old song—big band days—hiding in the back of my head into which I know I can insert

    The VAT man’s on his way.

Got it!

The Lullaby of Beltway

Come on along and listen to
The lullaby of Beltway,
The hip horray and ballyhoo,
The lullaby of Beltway.
The rumble of a Harry Reid,
The rattle of Pelosi,
The pols who make us bleed
The Obamas and Hillarys.

Goodnight baby,
The VAT man’s on his way.
Sleep tight, baby,
Sleep tight,
There goes all our pay.

Listen to the lullaby of old Beltway!

Thanks, as always, to editor David Steinberg at Pajamas.

What Can Volcanic Dust Models Tell Us About Cap & Trade?

Say Eyjafjallajokull three times fast. I wish I could say it once. I’ve heard it in so many different forms since it blew its stack that I can’t be sure how its pronounced.

But pop off it did, spewing, as volcanoes are wont, a mass of tephra, gas, and other nastiness into the atmosphere.

You’ll have already heard that the extra-state bureaucrats that run Europe closed down the air space over that continent. This was probably wise immediately after the eruption.

But the closure order was allowed to linger, stranding many and costing much. Airlines complained, as you’d expect them to; some flew test flights to show all was well. Angry voices were raised.

The question is: why did EU bureaucrats maintain the impenetrability of their air space so long?

According to Christopher Booker it was because of an “over-reliance on an inadequate computer model”.

Here’s the meat (emphasis mine):

Within two days, the amount of ash over northern Europe was at barely one per cent of the official danger level. But the authorities were locked by international rules into a rigid bureaucratic system, based on a computer model, which gave them no alternative but to close down air traffic for days longer than was justified. The real flaw in the system was that it made no provision for testing that crude computer model against actual real-life data, which could have shown that the computer was vastly exaggerating the risk.

Having to fit together a jigsaw puzzle of non-interlocking bureaucracies did not help:

Responsibility for responding to the Icelandic eruption lay with a bewildering hierarchy of national and international authorities, starting at the top with a UN body, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), working down through the European Commission and Eurocontrol (which is not part of the EU), to national agencies, such as our own Civil Aviation Authority, the National Air Traffic Service and, last but not least, the UK Met Office, owners of the relevant computer model.

In music, a particularly lovely or revealing theme always bears repeating. So it is in prose: our betters who run the EU made no provision for testing that crude computer model against actual real-life data.

I’m tempted to, in the modern musical style of repeating a phrase ad nauseum, cut and paste this statement until it is pounding in your head. For it tells us all we need to know about what’s wrong with governments that wants to rule us via reliance on superior brain power.

The idea of creating a model of volcanic particle dispersion is sound, interesting, and valuable. The fact of foisting it untested on a people as the deciding factor in governmental decisions is silly.

Undoubtedly, the scientists who coded the model, who drew up its equations describing the gentle curves of air flow, love their creation. They would hate to hear anybody call her “ugly” or “useless.”

Their reaction, upon hearing these slights and slurs, would be, as it always is with jealous lovers, to strike back. “We are scientists!” they would say, “With PhDs. We work hard; we can integrate manifolds blindfolded; we work hard. Our model has been peer-reviewed and all of us find her beautiful!”

And they would also say, “Our model runs on a computer!” Gasp!

These chants—so-called because they work as well as any incantation—cause bureaucrats to cower and defer. “Those scientists are smarter than we; therefore, we must not question them” is their cloak. Pulling intellectual rank works better than holy water on a vampire.

I have not seen every rule and regulation that the agglomeration of European government agencies have created to lord over commercial air travel, but I would bet $5,000 at even odds that nowhere is there a proviso that says something like, “In order to be considered reliable, all models will be tested on independent data and demonstrated to be skillful.”

Where, as always, “independent data” is defined to mean data that was not used in any way in the design or testing of the model.

And so we consider Cap & Trade & Tax & Spend—now on hold because the Obama administration wants to stir up leftist sentiment over immigration as a means to stop the bleeding of Democrat votes.

Do we ever hear how, if Cap & Trade is implemented, it will be phased out if the models turn out to be in error? The creators of climate models are so sure of themselves that the mere thought of error is anathema, heretical.

But do all models speak ex cathedra? Not hardly. Yet since most are convinced that “things are worse than we thought” these laws may be inflicted upon us.

We should insist that a cut-off switch be grafted onto them. This is an appealing political tactic. When passage appears inevitable ask for the commonsense inclusion of tests of model validity.

Insist that the laws automatically expire if the temperature of the Earth (suitably defined) does not increase, or the models lack skill.

There are no reasonable objections to this request.

Harvard Classes: Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball

Yesterday, we pointed out that Cornell has some odd courses on its books, subjects which are not consonant with typical expectations of a classical education.

So, in the interest of fairness, we now look at what your tax and tuition dollars bring you at Harvard, that eminent institution of higher learning.

Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality 96-ABL. Off the Page and Into the World: Feminist Praxis in the Community. “This course will involve students in experiential learning in community agencies that serve women, girls, and/or gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. The course will require students to apply feminist theory to the challenges of organized social change.”

Sorry straight men: no “communities” for you. Barring the recent output from Washington, have you seen more frightening words than: “apply feminist theory to the challenges of organized social change”? Brrr.

Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality 1154. I Like Ike, But I Love Lucy: Women, Popular Culture, and the 1950s. “Taught from a cultural studies perspective, the course focuses on gender politics in print media, film, television, and rock of the early cold war era. Topics include: the bomb and TV…early civil rights movement, beat generation, Hollywood dreams of true love, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball…”

True love! But, wait: no news anchor hairdos?

African and African American Studies 163. Beats, Rhymes, and Life: Hip-Hop Studies. “Class begins with a history of hip-hop’s four elements: DJing, MCing, break dancing, and graffiti art.”

Ah, yes, criminal vandalism as “art.” I don’t advocate this—because it’s wrong—but it would be justice if the professors who use non-ironically the term “graffiti art” had their houses, cars, and other property tagged indelibly with gang emblems or words such as “Joni Suckz!”

Sociology 24. Introduction to Social Inequality. “Examines individual and structural explanations for the generation and maintenance of inequality in the US with comparisons to other societies.”

You, not yet having developed a tolerance, probably read that fast and missed the key word “maintenance.” Perhaps not coincidentally—I swear this is true—as I write this airs a radio commercial in which a teacher, or an actress portraying one, whines that unlike other classrooms she does not use “grades that labels kids winners and losers.”

Hers is a smaller classroom where she can take home a bigger paycheck. The ad is to encourage signing of a petition or to vote in favor of a teacher’s union or organization. I apologize that I missed which (on KSFO about 6:24 am PDT). If I hear it again, I’ll update this page.

Sociology 98B. Race and Crime How “and why criminal justice policy in the US has such a powerfully differential negative impact on African American communities.”

Say! It looks like all we need do is make a few tweaks in “criminal justice policy” and the discrepancy in criminal activity between the races will disappear. We can ignore behavior, and the influence of classes like this, altogether.

Sociology 140. The Sociology of U.S. Foreign Policy “US actions toward other nations since the World War II, then explore…the consequences of US actions for issues of class, race, and gender in the affected nations.”

This presupposes that the US is a big bully, sadistically pushing other countries into lockers as it slumps down the hall. That is obvious in the use of the word “affected.”

Its the influence of the bully on class, race, and “gender” that is important. Economics aren’t in it; neither is security. Or science, or true culture, and on and on.

It’s difficult to find a class at Harvard that doesn’t fret furiously over these standard leftist tropes (I should say, standard reason-enthroning, state-loving tropes).


Update I originally had a discussion of the word “gender”, which I have removed; mostly because it distracts from the main point of this article. Including it forced a tedious, and very long, digression into genetics and certain genetic abnormalities and syndromes.

Suffice to say that I prefer the term “sex” to indicate “biological sex” and that “gender” is best kept to describe the declension of nouns.

Cornell University to Offer Degree in News Anchor Hairdo Studies

Ezra Cornell, a generous man concerned deeply about his country and its culture, when he created his eponymous university in 1868 said, “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.”

Professors at Cornell (my grad school alma mater and partial source of rent) have stretched old Ezra’s words to the limit. How? The “English department will begin offering a new concentration in cultural studies to English majors. The concentration will allow students to study different mediums and forms of culture, including literature, film, the Internet and music in terms of ‘historical, social, and political contexts’.”

That’s the problem with words, isn’t it? People are apt to interpret them too freely. This is why lawyers give over their lives to writing nauseatingly precise contracts. Failing to specify what “pay in full” means in less than three pages ensures some clown will find a loophole.

Old Ezra—and academia in general—now has to suffer the consequences of failing to be exact in what he meant by “any study.” For Cornell will indeed offer Bachelor’s of Arts in “English” with concentrations in the study of news anchors’ hairdos.

Parse this:

“The field of cultural studies examines how culture makes a difference in how we live, and how differences in how we live make culture,” Prof. Debra Fried, English, said in an e-mail. “If you take an active interest in how any form of culture shapes your response to everyday life, you’re already beginning to think and question as cultural studies invites you to do.”

Hey, cultural studies has issued invitations! It would be boorish to turn it (them?) down. Thus, “English” majors who opt for the concentration may “study nearly anything that impacts society and the cultures of different regions and time periods.”

Examples include “comparing Ithaca’s coffee shops to how a ‘news anchor’s hairdo and clothing can contribute subtly to how the news is ‘spun’ on a TV news report,’ Fried said.” The emphasis is added to be ensure readers don’t miss the hairdos.

Parenthetically, Ithaca (by my memory) has about three or four coffee shops: applying scholarly rigor to them won’t take long.

Anyway, why put in all those long hours studying engineering, when you could write a thesis on how the transgendered interact with their iPhones in coffee shops?

Why indeed? Word is out: students are “excited ” and are already lining up to enter the program. How will Cornell be able to handle the influx?

To start, two new professors were hired: Jane Juffer, a specialist in “Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies” and ex-Director of Penn State’s “Director, Latina/o Studies Initiative,” and Grant Farred, a specialist in “Africana Studies” and presenter of the talk “Yao Now: The New Racism in the Age of Globalization.”

Juffer will teach “Theories of Popular Culture”, which she says is often “perceived to be unworthy of academic study.” This is false, she claims, because popular culture is important “for the production of both pleasure and politics.” (She neglected displeasure.)

She’ll explore “television, film, the porn industry, baseball, popular music, and Starbucks coffee shops.” And she’ll ask, “what feelings of desire, pleasure, fear, and disgust does popular culture generate?” Anybody have an answer for that one?

The popular “Food, Gender, Culture” course will also count towards the new concentration. The catalog says, “In addition to nourishing the body, food operates as a cultural system that produces and reflects group and individual identities.”

Food also—you knew this was coming!—helps “shape our sense of gender, race, sexual orientation”. Makes you think about “carrot cake” in a while new way, doesn’t it?

Where else can you earn credit for asking, “How do factors such as gender, class, race, and religion shape the foods we eat and the circumstances in which we eat them? How do writers use the language of food to explore issues such as gender, sexuality, class, and race?”

It’s unclear whether the important course “Body as Text: Pleasure and Danger” will be an elective. Did you know that we ” experience our bodies as so much a part of who we are that we take them for granted”? It’s true. “This class looks at how the idea of ‘the body’ gets constructed over time…[and] What makes bodies pleasurable and dangerous?”

To discover these important matters, the films “Freaks” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” will be screened.

The best news is that students will largely be spared the horrors of actual reading. Do you have any idea how much time it takes to read a book? That time could be much better spent remarking on the hairstyles and sexual proclivities of reality show contestants and their relation to racist salad bars (my proposed thesis).

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2014 William M. Briggs

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑