Category Archives: Random Musings

Pardon Me

Is that really what's happening in this country nowadays? Is the President of the United States really going to pardon racist sheriffs who repeatedly break the law and willfully violate court orders? The President of the United States is pardoning Joe Arpaio for intentionally disregarding the courts of the United States when they repeatedly instructed him to stop using unlawful practices to target minorities.

We can leave aside how Arpaio is a racist who flouted the law at every opportunity. We have leave aside how Arpaio is so narcissistic he plotted a fake assassination attempt against himself then framed a man for it so he could get good publicity. We can leave aside how Arpaio is responsible for numerous deaths and the continued sexual abuse of many people, including children.

We can leave aside just how horrible a person Arpaio is. It won't change the nature of this case. Arpaio did used unlawful practices as sheriff to target a class of people he didn't like. The courts told him to stop. He responded (metaphorically), "Screw you!" The courts told him to stop again. And again. And again. Each time, he responded, "Screw you!" The courts finally got tired of this and recommended he be prosecuted. He was, and he was convicted.

Then Donald Trump came along and told the courts, "Screw you!" and pardoned Arpaio. Because apparently the President of the United States wants to defend individuals who intentionally engage in unlawful practices to target people he dislikes. Trump basically just told everyone who might want to target minorities, "Hey, don't worry about the courts telling you what you're doing is illegal. Just keep doing it. I've got your back."

I don't have the words.


Post about math is scheduled to go up tomorrow when I'll have time to discuss it/correct errors people might find. In the meantime, I want to share something which amuses me.

In the United States, people have the right to remain silent when questioned by the police. The Supreme Court has ruled to invoke this right, a person must unambiguously indicate they do no wish to speak to the police, such as by saying they want to remain silent. If they do so, the police cannot continue to interrogate them.

To invoke your right to remain silent, you must speak out. Being silent is not invoking your right to remain silent. In fact, remaining silent can actually be a waiver of your right to remain silent:

Thompkins makes various arguments that his answers to questions from the detectives were inadmissible. He first contends that he “invoke[d] his privilege” to remain silent by not saying anything for a sufficient period of time, so the interrogation should have “cease[d]” before he made his inculpatory statements. Id. , at 474; see Mosley , 423 U. S., at 103 (police must “ ‘scrupulously hono[r]’ ” this “critical safeguard” when the accused invokes his or her “ ‘right to cut off questioning’ ” (quoting Miranda , supra , at 474, 479)).

This argument is unpersuasive. In the context of invoking the Miranda right to counsel, the Court in Davis v. United States , 512 U. S. 452, 459 (1994) , held that a suspect must do so “unambiguously.” If an accused makes a statement concerning the right to counsel “that is ambiguous or equivocal” or makes no statement, the police are not required to end the interrogation, ibid. , or ask questions to clarify whether the accused wants to invoke his or her Miranda rights, 512 U. S., at 461–462.
Thompkins did not say that he wanted to remain silent or that he did not want to talk with the police. Had he made either of these simple, unambiguous statements, he would have invoked his “ ‘right to cut off questioning.’ ” Mosley , supra , at 103 (quoting Miranda , supra , at 474). Here he did neither, so he did not invoke his right to remain silent.

I can't get past this. Remaining absolutely silent for three hours while police interrogate you is not invoking your right to remain silent, but speaking out to say, "I don't want to talk to you" is.

Why Did the Civil War Happen?

My last post was more rambly than I care for so I'm going to take the time to make one more post on the subject of the Civil War before moving on. I mostly want to because over the last few days I've been derided, and even labeled a racist, for saying it is wrong to summarize the Civil War by saying, "The Civil War was fought over slavery."

Slavery was obviously an important factor in the Civil War, but for the first two years of the war, slaves weren't freed. More than one Union state had slaves during the war, and the last slaves to exist in the United States were actually ones held by members of the Union. To claim the war was just because of slavery is absurd.
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Not Math

I had a post scheduled to go live today to follow up on the mathematical discussion of my last post. However, the recent unrest in the United States over racial issues, particularly in how they relate to the Civil War, has provoked me to write a different post for today. If you're not interested in such things, or in what's bound to be a lot of rambling, I suggest skipping this.
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What is Correlation?

I've been struggling (a lot) with a series of posts I'm trying to write, and I recently realized the problem is I need to start at the beginning. These posts are supposed to be about how "correlation scores" are being misused and abused within the scientific community. The problem is, what are "correlation scores"? That's where we'll begin today.
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Red is Red, Blue is Blue

I'm supposed to have another post about mathematics going up today, but I can't figure out how to write it. I have all the calculations done, but some good news over the last couple weeks has left me in too energetic a mood to write about slow, detailed stuff. Rather than skip posting, I thought I'd do something different. Here is a recent headline:

Climate denial is like The Matrix; more Republicans are choosing the red pill

Based on that headline, what do you think the article would say? Specifically, how would a person make this comparison work? Continue reading

Happy Independence Day... Sort Of

Hey guys. As you all know, today is a holiday celebrating the independence of the United States. This means explosions, grilled food and whatnot. What it doesn't mean is that today was the day the United States became independent.

I'm not going to go into a lot of detail as I plan on enjoying some grilled hamburgers shortly, I just want to spread a little awareness of something I feel is important: The United States gained its legal independence On July 2nd, 1776. That is the date the Second Continent Congress voted to declare independence for what became the United States of America.

What makes this particularly interesting is people celebrate on July 4th because that is the date on the Declaration of Independence. That is interesting because historians generally believe the Declaration of Independence wasn't actually signed on July 4th, but rather, August 2nd. The evidence supports that idea even though Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson all claimed to have signed it on July 4th later in their lives. The presumption is that they themselves fell into the same trap everyone else has.

I don't know what the truth is. Maybe the Declaration of Independence truly was signed on July 4th, 1776. Maybe not. What's incredible is nobody knows for sure. Americans have celebrated Independence Day on July 4th for over two hundred years not because that is the day the nation became independent (it isn't), but because that's the date listed on a piece of paper, a date which may well be wrong.

I think that's kind of incredible. What I also think is incredible is the smell of what, if I'm not mistaken, are grilled peaches. I'm going to go check. I hope you all have a good July 4th, whatever the day may mean to you.

This is a Bit More Rambly Than Normal

A person on Twitter suggested a recent paper might be of interest to me due to its use (or believed misuse) of statistics. I wasn't going to talk about it, but while reading it, I saw this line:

When it comes to the impact of AGW seriousness and existence beliefs on environmental attitudes and partisan identity, Republicans would be expected to be more likely to engage in motivated reasoning than Democrats.

I can't ignore that. This isn't about statistics. I'm not even going to talk about math today. Today, I'm going to just talk about some basic matters of logic. Because honestly, if you think one side of an argument is more likely to engage in motivated reason than your side, you probably need to rethink the fundamentals of your views.
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The Meaning of Yellow

I recently ran a post about "building bridges" with people with whom you do not get along. The discussion it provoked was interesting, with several people showing up to effectively demonstrate why attempts at finding common ground and building bridges can fail. Yesterday, I had a similar experience when I commnted at The Blackboard. It might be my fault as I am told:

You might want to think about how hostile and petty your contributions sound from the get go.

I'll admit I can be hostile and petty at times. As such, I won't rule out the possibility that statement is accurate. People who care can judge for themselves how petty and hostile this comment is:

I happened to see this post and felt I needed to point something out. I get the analysis in this post is hypothetical, but I feel it is important to note Oregon doesnt require a car clear an intersection to avoid being given a ticket for running a red light. I dont know of any state which does. There may be some, but in the case of Oregon, you only run a red light if you enter the intersection after the light has already turned red.
I couldnt find Jarlstons analysis with a quick search so Im not sure what assumptions he used, but based on the formula this post provides for his analysis, it would appear he has made a non-trivial error. The W/v term should not be included in any analysis of yellow light timing in Oregon.
For what its worth, I tried searching for states where this scenario accurately describes the traffic laws. I couldnt find any. Someone else might be able to. If not, it would appear all red light cameras (in the United States, at least) are triggered only if a car has entered the intersection after a light turns red.
Incidentally, red light cameras generally have a small grace period between the light turning red and them starting to trigger. Ive found reports of them ranging from .1-.3 seconds. I dont know if thats worth including in ones analysis.

As well as the tone of the follow-up comment I posted 15 minutes later:

As a quick follow-up, I found this document providing detail on the analysis in question. I see I was mistaken to say that term shouldnt be included in timing of yellow lights. The reason Mat Jarlston includes that term is because it is relevant for safety purposes. You want vehicles in an intersection while on red to clear the intersection before the next green light comes on.
That just has nothing to do with running red lights. You only get a ticket for it if the light is red when you enter the intersection. If you cant safely stop at a yellow light, you shouldnt get a ticket for running a red light.

I don't think these comments exhibit a great deal of pettiness and hostility. Maybe readers will disagree. I'm not going to worry about that in this post. You see, I've become a bit fascinated by the subject matter discussed in those comments. Originally, I only spent a little time researching this topic. When I wrote those comments, I thought they'd just be taken as a minor point of interest that wouldn't go anywhere.

That wasn't the case. Because of how the discussion played out, I wound up spending quite a bit more time reading up on traffic lights. I even talked to a couple family members who are over for the holiday weekend about traffic lights in a casual discussion. What I came to realize is there is a lot of justified uncertainty and confusion about what traffic lights mean. Given that, today I'd like to discuss a simple question, "What does a yellow light mean?"
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