William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Page 5 of 665

Future Of AM Radio


There is this prominent blinking wart sticking out of wall, right by the door. It is hideous. The wires that jut in and out of it are a menace.

And it sprays electromagnetic noise like a firehose shoots water.

Get an AM radio within 10 feet of Verizon’s Fios carbuncle and the noise that comes out of the speakers sounds like the “music” played in hip clothing stores.

It isn’t only the cable box, but the damn phone broadcasts electronic noise, too, as do the television even when it’s off, the computers, the microwave, and every other “device” which runs on electricity. Finding a spot where the AM radio can both pick up a signal and not be overwhelmed by noise is becoming next to impossible.

In other news, AM radio is dying. Why?

For one, all that EM racket which is overpowering radio signals. For another, have you tried to buy a radio recently? I mean a radio. Not a “device” which does a dozen things, but a radio. A machine that plays only AM/FM (or possibly shortwave) broadcasts, and doesn’t have slot into which you can plug your cell phone, or that doesn’t have a CD player (do they even make these anymore?), or etc.

Radio Shack is gone, but even they stopped selling many models years before they closed. Major stores sometimes sell clock radios, but these often only play FM. The toys on bedside tables in hotels often have no radio capability, or they have only iffy FM.

Cell phones, some of which play FM, can’t do AM, of course, because of the antenna demands of AM (they need to be big or long or both). And who wants to carry a phone and a radio? (Though I’ve seen plenty of folks with two phones.)

Cars are the last best place to listen to AM, because the engineers responsible for the radios know how to reduce noise.

Programming must account for the other major reason AM is dying. Much programming is geared to people listening in cars, which means listeners who aren’t paying full attention and don’t listen for long. That leads to programming which isn’t especially interesting or which is repetitive.

1010 WINS: “Gives us 22 minutes and we’ll give you the world!” At all-news stations, three times an hour the same stories are rebroadcast, all day long, along with helpful information about which roads to avoid. Helpful to drivers. For those sitting home, it’s not necessary. How many all-news stations are necessary in any one area? Not many, you’d think, but you’d be wrong judging by the number that actually exist.

Sports broadcasts are fresh and evergreen, but sports talk is numbing. It’s far, far worse than even NPR (whose banal tones leak out over FM). You haven’t learned the meaning of the term numbingly repetitive until you’ve listened to “analysts” and “callers” discuss sports.

Political talk is an interesting case. Shows are usually three hours. Three. Is there really three hours worth of new politics to discuss each day? I’ll answer that for you: no. No there is not. Yet three hours of Rush is followed by three hours of Hannity who is followed by three hours of Savage who is followed by three hours of Levin who is followed by et cetera, et cetera.

The lack of new content is partially why half (more?) of every hour is commercials. And those commercials are necessary to prop up the behemoths who bought up all the stations at premium and who are now all near bankruptcy.

It isn’t all politics. Nights and weekends have “Discuss your Financial Prostate Health” shows. And most of these, like the political shows, sound the same. Where is the “diversity”?

It can’t be that syndicating itself is at fault. Think about Sunday nights at seven, which is when most of the nation tuned in Jack Benny, the most popular show of all time.

Benny’s show, like the bulk of programs in radio’s heyday, was thirty minutes. There was also variety back then. Quiz shows, drama, whodunnits, music, comedy, and on and on.

Why can’t AM now have shorter, more varied, more entertaining shows? Shows that are broadcast and later available on-line? Even NPR has a quiz show! Why not AM?

This works. And it’s being done, for example in England. The Archers is a serial that has been airing for decades, and it’s still going strong. As are many other programs.

Radio should have independent producers selling to syndicates, like on television. None of this will happen the way the money is now structured, naturally.

Much more to say on this. Stay, as they say, tuned.

Stream: Why Letting Government Control Money Is Killing our Economy


Today’s post is at the Stream: Why Letting Government Control Money Is Killing our Economy. Or, George Gilder’s The Scandal of Money reviewed. Some snippets:

What is money? Why is letting government create its definition bound to lead to grief? Why are some companies “too big to fail”? Why is it bankers and bureaucrats prosper when Main Street suffers? What is the best way out of the economic mess which by now appears perpetual?

The answers are in George Gilder’s important new book, The Scandal of Money: Why Wall Street Recovers but the Economy Never Does.

In the book is a recipe for the best get-rich-quick scheme ever invented. Here’s how it works: You and I make friends in government then set up as a Bank. As a Bank, we hit up the Federal Reserve for a couple of million, which they’ll just give us because we’re a Bank. We take that money and then loan it to the government at interest.

Here’s the best part. We dip into the interest and award ourselves healthy paychecks, well deserved rewards for our financial acumen. It works! Bankers following the system “collected $2.2 trillion, mostly in bonuses over a seven-year period.”…

People see this and become suspicious not of government, but of “capitalism”, which is the name the press gives this ritualized system of cronyism. “Capitalism” becomes not the freedom to spend your own money as you wish, but a method for the rich to soak the poor. Is it then any surprise we have the rise of presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, who speak to dismay the public has?…

When companies become “too big” or “too important” to fail, and the government rushes in to prop them up, learning does not take place. Strike that: learning does take place. Companies learn that the best way to conduct business is via ever-closer ties to the government, which grows in self-importance and power.

New knowledge always “comes as a surprise”. This is why central planning can’t work. Mixing the economy with the government is a bad idea because the government itself cannot, by definition, fail, and so acquiring the most valuable information (via failures) cannot take place. Stagnation or steady decay results.

Gilder pegs much of the historical blame of the new economics on the shift from the gold standard to a floating monetary policy. The “absence of a legal link between the dollar and any physical reality plunged the world into monetary anarchy.” Since money now doesn’t measure any real thing, it’s value can and does fluctuate wildly, both here and wherever there are floating currencies…

As it is now, “Washington has used monetary policy to effectively nationalize the Wall Street banks and subsidize their borrowing. Enormous sums of investment money are diverted from the real world of learning that builds wealth into currency manipulations and ‘investments’ in government debt. The once-great Wall Street banks in turn subsidize the political campaigns of their Washington benefactors.”…

Go there to read the rest. I mean it. Go.

There’s much more to say about the book, particularly in describing Gilder’s theory of money and his answers to objections to that theory, but I hadn’t the space. This is a topic we’ll return to many times. Wait until you read about the daily amount of currency trading. It’s a number so huge that you’ll have trouble believing it.

Coincidences Don’t Have Odds, Chances, Or Probabilities


The Podcast has been restored! Sorry for the mix up yesterday.

Here’s the story cut short. A woman was browsing a used book stall and came across a volume she owned as a child. The Wall Street Journal asks:

What are the chances? For most of us this is a rhetorical question, expressing our surprise at such a seemingly magical coincidence. But Joseph Mazur, the author of “Fluke: The Math and Myth of Coincidence,” has a more precise answer. The odds that Anne Parrish would stumble upon her book years later in Paris are 3,331 to 1 or, as he puts it, “slightly better than the odds of being dealt a poker hand of four of a kind.” Not so magical, then, after all…

Mazur assigns a probability to each link in the chain of events: the likelihood that Anne would visit Paris in 1929 (0.1, or 10%); the likelihood that she would browse the bookstands (0.3); the likelihood that the book would be there (0.01). The chances that all three would take place and that Anne discover her childhood book are therefore 0.1 x 0.3 x 0.01 = 0.0003, or 3,331 to 1.

This won’t do. Why? Consider this: Briggs assigns a probability to each link: the chance Anne visits the book dealer is 0.987654321; and 0 likelihoods for the rest. Chances she gets her own book are therefore 0.987654321 x 0 x 0 = 0. Hey. Why not? I am a full qualified statistician, holding the coveted posthole digger award.

This means, given my superior prowess at assigning odds, that Anne never got her book, even though she said she did. An investigation is in order.

How did Mazur find different probabilities? He made them up, just as I did. That’s because there are no probabilities “for” this “event.” None, except one. I mean one, as in 1. The probability Anne found her book is 1, because why? Because she found her book. It happened. Conditional on the evidence provided in the story, the probability “Anne found her book” is 1.

Conditional on whatever evidence Mazur made up, the probability is 0.0003. And, to be pedantic, conditional on the evidence I made up, the probability is 0.

All of these probabilities are correct, but only one of them is true. To see that, consider also that the proposition “Anne would have found her book had she tried again” makes no sense, but would have to if we can find conditioning evidence upon which we could agree.

Change the story to this. Anne went to the bodega and bought a lottery ticket, which won. Then, conditional on the evidence of this new story, the probability of “Anne won” is 1. But the probability of “Anne will win” given the evidence she bought a ticket and evidence about the rules of the lottery, the probability can be calculated. That seems like the right answer, which it is but isn’t.

This is because, in both the case of Anne finding her book and winning the lottery, cause is involved. Some (enormous) list of things caused both Anne’s book and Anne to meet at that time and place (and for Anne to have enough money on her). And some list of things caused the lottery to register the numbers that matched Anne’s tickets and some things caused Anne to have those numbers printed on her ticket.

Even though we don’t know the details of the causes of the ticket, we have a fair idea of their nature. This is why we can agree on the evidence needed to form the probability of “Anne will win.” Better evidence exists, however, and that is knowledge of the causes, but we don’t have that (though somebody might, say a physicist in charge of the lottery machine).

We have next to no idea of the nature of the causes of Anne finding her book, which is why we can’t agree, nor should we, on the evidence that gives the probability of “Anne finds her book.”

Anne finding her book feels like a coincidence, yet her winning the lottery doesn’t. Why? Because of our lack of any knowledge of cause in the first instance, and knowledge of the nature of cause (but not precise details) in the second.

We all know that something caused Anne to find her book, but we have no idea what. So it’s hard not to think that some overarching cause guided the event. This might even be true. There is no evidence in the event itself one way or the other. Positing a “guide” is simplifying a complex situation, and that is pleasing in and of itself.

There’s much more to be said about coincidence—which I’ll leave for another day.

Thanks to John Watkins for alerting us to this topic.

WMBriggs.com Podcast 13 April 2016 — Equality!

GOOD NEWS! I’ve restored the broadcast! Both YouTube and MP3 work!

Use Player.fm. Or subscribe (paste this into iTunes or elsewhere): http://wmbriggs.com/feed/?category=podcasts

As the eminent (now deceased) mathematician Danny Stiles proved, if everybody listening were to convince just one friend to listen next week, the audience would double. Do your duty.

To arms, citizens,
Form your battalions,
Let’s march, let’s march!
Let an impure blood
Soak our fields!

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité ou la mort! The order of this slogan was then debated, as now, but we have decided Equality! should be first—and alone. Let’s start with the best authority: Matthew first (ahem), then Paul, then Luke.

It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability.

Not for nothing is this called the parable of the talents. (I swear, if somebody doesn’t laugh at this I will say something nice about PETA.)

To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues.

And some of us are bloggers, which is on the scale of spiritual importance is right up there with cigar salesmen and floor wax manufacturers. As bad as There is no creature loves me; And if I die, no soul will pity me? Well, perhaps not.

Jefferson was wrong. He got away with it because his audience had other things on its mind. He gets away with it now because Equality has paradoxically become axiomatic and humanity’s goal. Yet inequality is built right into the system. There can’t be anything as obvious to us as inequality. After all, you’re able to tell apart your mother from your father, and them from the neighbors across the street, and so on. You even know the difference between males and females, even when some insist on entering the wrong toilet. Differences are the natural state. This being so, it pays to understand inequality and to comprehend why inequality is necessary but hated.

Ineradicable differences cause jealously, and if this emotion is indulged in, the impossible is desired and demanded, which is the State of Equality. No such state can ever exist. And it is insane to pursue what cannot exist.

Maybe the difficulty is in the definition?

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.

There are true senses of equality. Equality of purpose. This was a group of priests, living together, as priests in dioceses still do today. One kitchen with pots and pans used by all, and, as importantly, washed by all. Community of property, which is to say, communism, is, or can be, the ideal solution to singular problems. But not most. Expand the group, even a little, and inequality sets in (and so do bishops). Not all of us can be farmers and manufacturers and priests and physicians and auto mechanics and you name it. Communism works only when the group is singular in purpose and quite, quite small. Most communes fail. And even when small communistic groups exist they rely on inequality-groups (us, dear listener) to supply them with certain needs, parishioners if nothing else.

There are other true senses of equality. We will all die, we all share in human nature. We all have free will—curiously, somebody will now be saying “I don’t!”—and we must choose our ultimate destiny. We all have inherent dignity in being human. We all must eat, and we all need company. But…that’s about it.

Equality under the law? None of us really believe in that, or should. All human beings are human beings, but we treat juveniles and idiots differently than adults, recognizing the manifest inequality. Infants and the ancient do not, and are not expected to, participate in society equally. The test of equality in treatment or some act is whether it is said the ends justify the means—which they don’t. Immoral means cannot be used as a path to some desirable, in itself moral, end. Paradoxically, victim groups, usually centered around mental illness of some kind, want their behaviors treated as if they were equivalent to normal behavior. This obvious inequality is called “equality.”

President Obama yesterday spoke at the new Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument. Let’s hear some of that speech.

Equal pay for equal work? We are not interchangeable machines, so that equal pay for any two people should not be expected unless the job is very narrowly defined, even itself machine-like. In order to prove that a woman is paid less than a man, statistics are of no use, and are harmful. You have to ask the paymaster, “Did you pay this woman less than you would a man because she’s a woman?” And you have to hope he tells the truth. Otherwise, the solid evidence women work less than men for biological reasons trumps sentiment. Why pay a female soccer player as much as a man when fewer people are interested in watching her and she is not as physically capable as the man? Because she is a woman?

Money is one thing, but it’s that latter sentiment about genuine natural inequality Equality abhors. This is why people marched for marriage “equality”. To get it, they had to destroy the meaning of the word itself. The Reality of inequality was hated, and so Reality was chucked.

Yet, as everyone knows, or ought to, inequality is necessary for life, inequality is true diversity. Without inequality, nothing happens.

So why Equality? Montesquieu said “there are certain ideas of uniformity which sometimes take hold of great minds, but infallibly strike small ones.” An insult, but abuse is not necessarily untrue. Even such a personage in favor of experimentation and lover of Equality as JS Mill said:

The demand that all other people shall resemble ourselves grows by what it feeds on. If real resistance waits till life is reduced nearly to one uniform type, all deviations from that type will come to be considered impious, immoral, even monstrous and contrary to nature. Mankind speedily become unable to conceive diversity, when they have been for some time unaccustomed to see it.

Now everybody knows that diversity today means strict, unbending, enforced uniformity. It means sameness. It means mandatory (whether set by law or custom) quotas designed to make every subgroup “look like” the group as a whole. Diversity is dogmatic rigidity. Diversity is uniformity; it is Equality.

The government says so. On that subject, nobody better than Tim Hawkins: The Government Can.

Who calls for Equality? It is not the talented, or men or genius, or even the humble family man content to cling to his gun and religion. Base leaders call on it to rally troops, hoping the mobs they unleash will be controlable. De Tocqueville:

Equality is a slogan based on envy. It signifies in the heart of every republican: “Nobody is going to occupy a place higher than I.”

James Fitzjames Stephen agrees: Equality “is in a vast number of cases, nothing more than a vague expression of envy on the part of those who have not against those who have, and a vague aspiration towards a state of society in which there should be fewer contrasts than there are at present between one man’s lot and another’s.”

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, in his masterpiece Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time, and the source from which I filched some quotations above, said:

No wonder that the modern dictatorships with their “equality in slavery” are so strongly based on the egalitarian system and on mass support, not on elites or existing aristocracies (save those coming into existence through the new bureaucracies).

Equality is, by definition, a leveling force. President Obama admitted it. “A level playing field,” he said. The only way to level Reality is with a bulldozer and dynamite. Equality is destructive. Again, JFS:

To establish by law rights and duties which assume that people are equal when they are not is like trying to make clumsy feet look handsome by the help of tight boots. No doubt it may be necessary to legislate in such a manner as to correct the vices of society or to protect it against special dangers or diseases to which it is liable. Law in this case is analogous to surgery, and the rights and duties imposed by it might be compared to the irons which are sometimes contrived for the purpose of supporting a weak limb or keeping it in some particular position…

The proposition, therefore, that justice demands that people should live in society as equals may be translated thus: ‘It is inexpedient that any law should recognize any inequality between human beings.’

Another used-to-be obvious inequality was that between adults and children.

If children were regarded by law as the equals of adults, the result would be something infinitely worse than barbarism. It would involve a degree of cruelty to the young which can hardly be realized even in imagination. The proceeding, in short, would be so utterly monstrous and irrational that I suppose it never entered into the head of the wildest zealot for equality to propose it.

Alas, poor Stephen had no idea that we would all become wild zealots in the pursuit of that which cannot be reached.

We never got to the poem!

Equality’s a Mystery Sin: for us, there’s no Guffaw–
For it’s the master leveler, defying Natural Law.
It’s the bafflement of all mankind, the Church’s main despair:
For when wey reach the scene of truth–Equality’s not there!

Equality, Equality, there’s nothing like Equality
It’s broken every holy law, it cocks up sexuality.
Its powers of delusion would make a demon stare,
And when you reach Reality–Equality’s not there!
You may seek it in the basement, you may look up in the air–
But I tell you once and once again, Equality’s not there!

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