William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Nazis, Communists Now Support Occupy Wall Street

Mr Obama said this weekend that Martin Luther King “would want us to challenge the excesses of Wall Street” but perhaps MLK would not want us to “demonise” bankers, even though those “with power and privilege will often decry any call for change as divisive. They’ll say any challenge to the existing arrangements are unwise and destabilizing.”

The left-wing Washington Post noticed Mr Obama’s wink: “President Obama and his team have decided to turn public anger at Wall Street into a central tenet of their reelection strategy.”Communist Party Supports OWS

Nancy “Our Legislation Must Remain Secret” Pelosi said of the movement, “God bless them … it’s young, it’s spontaneous, it’s focused and it’s going to be effective.” That quote is actually a beautification of her real statement, which was as meandering and unfocused as OWS is. But did you notice her emphasis on “young”? Are the mature disbarred from making their views known? Or is it that only youthful ideas of directionless rebellion to be automatically celebrated?

Anyway, the good news is that the American National Socialists—i.e., the official Nazi party—have thrown their support in with the establishment and media. From their official statement:

After all – JUST WHO – are the WALL STREET BANKERS? The vast majority are JEWS – and the others are SPIRITUAL JEW materialists, who would sell their own mother’s gold teeth for a PROFIT. And MORE and MORE people are AWARE of this truth, are not only NOT afraid to TALK ABOUT IT – they’re shouting it on WALL STREET!

I urgently URGE all of you to TAKE PART and JOIN IN when these protests hit your neck of the woods. Produce some flyers EXPLAINING the “JEW BANKER” influence – DON’T wear anything marking you as an “evil racist” – and GET OUT THERE and SPREAD the WORD! Put as a “contact point” on your literature, our www.ANP14.com address – it won’t immediately “scare off” some of these scaredy-cats for even looking at our FACTS – for FACTS they ARE!

Note the sly use of capitalization.

Even though the author’s contact with sanity is dubious, he did get one fact perfectly correct: lots of people are “shouting” about the Jews and bankers.

It’s become so blatant that even Al-Jazeera took notice and said that anti-protesters were exploiting fictional anti-Semitism. The paper says that there really isn’t any anti-Semitism, and instead, “Panicked conservatives are labeling the Occupy protests as ‘anti-Semitic’ in an attempt to break up the movement.”

The JTA has a one-minute compilation video containing a sample of lunatics convinced that the Jews are responsible for all our financial ills.

But there is some good news amongst all this bad. The communists have arrived!

The Daily Caller (with video) quotes John Bachtell, an Illinois-based community organizer and Communist Party USA board member:

“I bring greetings and solidarity from the Communist Party,” Bachtell said to hoots and applause. “We are here, marching side-by-side. We’ll sleep here. We’ll be with this movement ’til the very — ’til we make all the changes that we know we have to make.”

One their website, these international socialists say:

A big challenge for the CPUSA and left, progressive movements is to link these demonstrations with the labor led all-people’s coalition and help deepen understanding that the path to progress must be through electoral and political action including defeating Republican Tea Party reaction in 2012.

A search of the CPUSA website did not reveal who these fine folks would kill first once they took over. Don’t scoff. The invariable modus operandi of every communist takeover thus far has been to offer human sacrifices to bless the transition to class-free society. Doubtless the list is a party secret.

Update To assume that because Mr Obama and Nazis have embraced OWS is not to intimate that Obama is a Nazi or communist. It is to show how silly it is to align oneself precipitously, especially with people who are only protesting because they enjoy protesting and who have no clear goals in mind.

Update Via HotAir, Howard Stern’s crew interview some of the thoughtful people on OWS. Language warning.

In another video, a protester claims that that USA has more disparity and inequality than anywhere. Anywhere. This is the level of mind that camps in the street.

Romney and Holdren Sittin’ In A Tree

Update: Somehow—I don’t know how—the beginning of this piece has disappeared. I’ll try to find it. Yeesh.

Mitt Romeny, when Governor:

Massachusetts continues to be committed to improving air quality for all our citizens.These carbon emission limits will provide real and immediate progress in the battle to improve our environment,” Romney said.

“They help us accomplish our environmental goals while protecting jobs and the economy.” Massachusetts is the first and only state to set CO2 emissions limits on power plants. The limits, which target the six largest and oldest power plants in the state, are the toughest in the nation and are designed to lower emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury from power plant smokestacks

Battle? As in bloody warfare? The belligerent rhetoric soars when he says his new laws are the “toughest in the nation.” And notice as with all let’s-make-the-government-larger bureaucrats, he claims that increasing the regulatory burden of business will “protect” jobs and boost the economy.

So, did it boost the economy and increase the electricity supply? According to HotAir:

So what has happened to Massachusetts’ electrical production since signing these regulations into law? According to the EIA, whose latest data is for 2009, it dropped 18% in four years, from over 46 billion megawatt hours to 38 billion. International imports, however, went from 697 million megawatt hours in 2006 to 4.177 billion megawatt hours two years later, and to almost 5 billion megawatt hours in 2009, more than twice the amount imported in any of the previous twenty years.

Unstated is that imported electricity is more costly than home-grown electricity, after adjusting for lost jobs, etc.. The power plants targeted by the new law lowered their outputs, sure enough, and the amount of effluvia released in the atmosphere was decreased in Massachusetts. But it was increased elsewhere, more or less balancing out. Mr Romney must have been shocked to learn that his policies had the opposite of their stated goals. John Holdren

John Holdren is Barack Obama’s, just as he was, and might yet be again, Mitt Romney’s Science Advisor. Holdren himself is a follower of Paul “The End Is Near—And This Time I Mean It” Ehrlich. He and his idol wrote a paper in 1969 in which they said that if “population control measures are not initiated immediately, and effectively, all the technology man can bring to bear will not fend off the misery to come.”

Population control measures (except in China; keep reading) were not initiated. Yet the misery failed to arrive. This is what is known as a busted forecast, which says that the theory underlying the forecast was wrong. As in false. As in untrue. As in not to be trusted nor relied upon. Which is why, of course, Holdren has not changed his mind and still believes the theory.

He believes it so strongly that no amount of evidence can dissuade him. His textbook discusses the eugenical use of “forced sterilization” for women who have more kids than the government-alloted maximum. That’s China’s policy, of course.

For these views, he won a MacArthur Fellowship “genius” award in 1981. The folks at the American Association for the Advancement of Science thought so much of him they elected him President.

Holdren is sympatico with James Hansen and blames the rise of skepticism about global warming eschatology on communications professionals employed by oil companies to spread disinformation, etc.

The ideology-driven Holdren has been preaching “peak oil“—roughly the belief that we have now reached the peak in oil production, which means that tomorrow it must begin decreasing—since the late 1970s. Each year he makes this prediction, he somehow forgets that he made the same one last year, yet each year oil production rises.

The man will not abide critics. He especially loathes moderate Bjørn Lomborg, who, Holdren fumes, “needlessly muddled public understanding and wasted immense amounts of the time of capable people who have had to take on the task of rebutting him.”

Well! This argues for creating a new law which bans people saying things which Holdren believes are not true. If only we could silence critics, everything would function smoothly. Mankind would reach its true potential. This might require eliminating the odd undesirable through government-planned birth control, true. But you can’t make a Utopian omelette without breaking a few eggs.

This is the man President Obama chose to advise him on what is best scientifically. Will Mitt Romney continue Holdren’s tenure?

Occupy Sacramento!

Occupy Sacramento


The movement began with a rally on the Capitol steps, then proceeded by parade to Cesar Chavez park, at 10th and J streets, where it mingled with the folks who had gathered for what was reported as the Indigenous Day of Resistance.

Occupy Sacramento consisted of those pictured above and one gentleman off camera. Their leader was Stephen Payan (on the right), an earnest young man who told your reporter that the rally was off to a late start.

Mr Payan took the steps at 2:10 PM on Friday, 14 October and addressed the assembled crowd. This consisted of your reporter, a man who was lost and who interrupted Mr Payan to ask for directions, and a visiting high school photography class, four members of which who were intent on photographing a distinctive stain left by a leaf on the sidewalk.

The speech consisted of naming the event and giving marching orders, describing the route to Cesar Chavez park.

After the ceremonies wrapped up, I was able to talk to Mr Payan. I asked him if any organizations helped sponsor his event, who paid for the electronics, and so on. Mr Payan named the Indigenous Day of Resistance and the MEChA coalition.

MEChA is “Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán” (Boys and Girls student movement of Aztlán). The “@” symbol is purposeful, stripping the grammatical gender from the noun. It helps to know that Aztec is the Nahuatl word for “those from Aztlá”, a mythical place of origin.

I asked further details, but as Mr Payan was in a hurry, he gave me his email address and asked me to write my questions. He would email answers later.

At the time this story went to press, Mr Payan had not replied to the questions. But when and if he does, I’ll include his answers as an update below.

The young lady in the photograph stayed with the equipment and busied herself by texting on her iPhone. Mr Payan and another gentleman (not pictured) loaded a dozen bottles of water in a red Radio Flyer wagon (the model with wooden sides) and toddled off down 11th, passing on the way the gorgeous Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament where a large Filipino family milled on the steps, readying themselves for a wedding. The wedding party did not notice the Occupy Sacramento forces.

In the park there were small knots of people, some of which might have been protesters. One was a gentleman lying on a park bench. He had apparently not washed for some time and was oblivious to the teeming events around him. Another man, bearded, sat at the entrance to a small blue pup tent. He was speaking incessantly but there were no listeners within earshot.

There were two groups of size. As prelude to some future event, one group was donning traditional costume, some of which was quite beautiful. These performers did not pay attention to the Occupy Sacramento folks.

The second group was larger. A speaker was standing in the sun by a picnic table in front of a group of about thirty spectators. Behind the speaker were five gentlemen acting as either support or body guards; all had their arms folded across their chests. A sixth man walked to and fro, waving a bundles of sticks which was on fire and which created much smoke.

I could not catch all the speaker said, except for these words, “That’s what Hopi and Mayan prophecies mean. This is going to happen.”

In the shade were a group of five officers from the Sacramento Police. One was on a bike giving directions. Another was chatting on the phone. A third was looking into space, clearly bored. A Sergeant and an officer stood by a picnic table.

I spoke to the Sergeant and asked whether he knew of the Occupy Sacramento movement. “When did this happen?” he asked, “Last week?” I told him it was happening now and pointed to Mr Payan, who was lingering at the park entrance with his Radio Flyer, engaged in conversation.

Today?” he asked. He then said with a smile, “Well, we’re working today anyway, you know. We’re happy to be here.” Clearly a politician in the making.

I left them then, warning them to be careful. The cops laughed and thanked me, and I hurried off to catch my train.

British Judge Rules Against Bayes’s Theorem

A British judge has thrown a use of Bayes’s rule out of his court. Not only that, his honor (Lordship?) ruled “against using similar statistical analysis in the courts in future.”

A ruling to which this dedicated Bayesian says, “Hear, hear!” Bayes's rule

My opinion may be in the minority: the Guardian quotes Professor Norman Fenton, a mathematician at Queen Mary, University of London: “The impact will be quite shattering.”

“We hope the court of appeal will reconsider this ruling,” says Colin Aitken, professor of forensic statistics at the University of Edinburgh, and the chairman of the Royal Statistical Society’s working group on statistics and the law. It’s usual, he explains, for forensic experts to use Bayes’ theorem even when data is limited, by making assumptions and then drawing up reasonable estimates of what the numbers might be. Being unable to do this, he says, could risk miscarriages of justice.

“From being quite precise and being able to quantify your uncertainty, you’ve got to give a completely bland statement as an expert, which says ‘maybe’ or ‘maybe not’. No numbers,” explains Fenton.

Fenton in his objection has hit upon the key reason I support the judge: no numbers! Let me explain.

Bayes’s rule is so simple that it can be proved using the most elementary of arguments. Even frequentist theory admits Bayes’s rule. It is, given the axioms of probability, simply true. How can any judge ban what is both true and trivially so? Here are the details of the particular case:

In the shoeprint murder case, for example, it meant figuring out the chance that the print at the crime scene came from the same pair of Nike trainers as those found at the suspect’s house, given how common those kinds of shoes are, the size of the shoe, how the sole had been worn down and any damage to it. Between 1996 and 2006, for example, Nike distributed 786,000 pairs of trainers. This might suggest a match doesn’t mean very much. But if you take into account that there are 1,200 different sole patterns of Nike trainers and around 42 million pairs of sports shoes sold every year, a matching pair becomes more significant.

All probabilities, including of course those used in Bayes’s rule, are conditional on given evidence. For instance, we can calculate, using the rule, and assuming the suspect is guilty, the probability his shoe prints match that from a pair of “random” tennis shoes.

But to do this requires knowing how many shoes are “out there.” And just what does that mean? The evidence that Nike “distributed 786,000 pairs of trainers” in the years 1996 to 2006 was given. That’s fine, and using that information will give us, after inputing them into the formula, the probability we want. A deliciously precise number, too, to as many decimal points as we like.

But why use 1996 as the starting year? Why not 1995 or 1997? Why not start in June of 1998? Nike might have distributed that exact amount of shoes—and chances are this number is only an approximation—but how many were actually sold? What about other shoes not manufactured by Nike but which are similar? And how many were sold to residents living in just the area in which the suspect lived or murder took place?

And what it is “the area”? Ten blocks? A square mile? How many shoes sold elsewhere were bought on Ebay, say, and shipped to the area? Do all the shoes leave prints at the same rate? Some might have deeper treads and thus are more likely to leave a trail.

It doesn’t matter which assumptions you make. Any set of assumptions will give you, via the formula, a precise answer. That is, an answer which appears precise and which has the imprimatur of science behind it.

But each set of assumptions will give you a different precise answer. Which set of assumptions is just the right one? I have no idea, and neither do the lawyers. But the jury might know.

They form a combined common sense and can better judge what this kind of evidence might mean. The prosecution and defense can bring up the points which they consider salient, and Bayes’s rule can still be explained without the use of explicit formulae—the difference between the probability of guilt given the shoe prints match and the probability of shoe prints matching given guilt can still be highlighted.

But showing the jury some impressive mathematical apparatus which when invoked spits out exact numerical results isn’t, as the judge rightly ruled, fair. The math is not and should not be evidence because some might assume that the complexity of the math is itself proof of the results of using the math. And in this case, the assumptions are so varied and so vague that insisting on precise answers is silly.

Actually, the judge did not ban Bayes’s rule: he banned unwarranted precision. He “decided that Bayes’ theorem shouldn’t again be used unless the underlying statistics are ‘firm’.” To which I again say, Amen.

(Incidentally, I would ban p-values for the same reasons.)

Thanks to readers Andrew Kennett and Mr Anonymous who suggested this post.

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