I do not like making accusations of dishonesty. I have done so plenty of times, but each time I did, I first put significant effort into trying to find an alternative explanation. Today's post is for that. I have encountered data with properties I cannot explain. I am hoping someone can find an explanation for me that isn't, "Someone fabricated data."
Readers will know I am not a fan of Donald Trump for a variety of reasons, like him constantly saying things which aren't true. That he was elected as president obviously bothers me. I've been trying not to talk about that though. The point of this site is ultimately to explore my belief the world is insane, but Trump's election is too obvious an example.
Still, I can resist only so much. It would be fun to talk about how Trump managed to issue an executive order in a more incompetent manner than has ever been seen before. It would be fun to talk about how Trump claims the cancellation of his meeting with the President of Mexico was mutual because on Twitter he said:
And the guy responded by canceling the meeting. I mean, not only is that an incredibly strained definition of "mutual," it is hard to resist talking about how Trump apparently thinks he negotiated this cancelation via Twitter. Still, I managed. I managed right up until I saw this tweet:
I had to check for myself because that seemed too funny. How could the government fail to include one of its three branches on its White House website? I don't have an answer for that, but I can confirm it is true. The judicial branch no longer has a web page on the White House website.
I've chosen to not get involved in discussions of the current Syrian civil war. Unfortuantely, I am exposed to theses discussions anyway because of the people around me. Normally, I just ignore it. However, sometimes something comes up that I cannot ignore. One examplel is this tweet I came across earlier today:
This tweet includes a screenshot from a piece written by a Nassim Taleb. I've seen his name name has come up in some discussions, but I know almost nothing about him. All I do know is his reporting shown in that screenshot:
Note 2. Recall that I am a statistician. When I took a look at the statistics of the conflicts, most appear to be fabrications inflated by Qatari-funded think tanks and their useful idiots?—?by a mechanism the Indians call “Salma told Sabrina”. For instance, we know that Hama’s toll was not the 30–40,000 people report but the only real evidence is closer to 2,000.
Is wrong and should not be taken seriously. Given Taleb is downplaying a massacre, I thought I'd write a short post about this. Because, you know, downplaying massacres is a bad thing.
I've owed you guys a post for a little while now, and I apologize for how long it's taken. I just can't get past a certain problem. As you may recall, I recently discussed how "correlation is meaningless" in relation to a paper which claimed to demonstrate climate change "deniers" possess certain characteristics. For a quick refresher:
The reason the authors can claim there is a "statistically significant" correlation between these two traits is they collected almost no data from anyone who "denies" climate change. The approach the authors have taken is to draw a line through their data, which is how you normally calculate the relationship between two variables, then extrapolate it out far beyond where their data extends.
There are a lot of ways of describing this approach. When I've previously said correlation is meaningless, I used an example in which I demonstrated a "statistically significant" correlation between belief in global warming and support for genocide. It was completely bogus. I was able to do it because I used the same approach the authors used. Namely:
1) Collect data for any group of people.
2) Determine views that group holds.
3) Find a group which is "opposite" the group you study.
4) Assume they must hold the opposite view of the group you studied on every issue.
This will work with literally any subject and any group of people. You can reach basically any conclusion you want because this approach doesn't require you have any data for the group of people you're drawing conclusions about.
Today I want to move beyond simple correlation coefficients and get into some of the more complex modeling the authors performed. There's a problem though. You see, the results the authors published are impossible to achieve.
I had planned to upload a post today continuing my discussion of the misuse and abuse of statistics to claim to prove groups of people possess certain traits. I'm scrapping that plan though. My head has been killing me the last few days. That makes it too difficult for me to try to explain issues involving multivariate regressions in a clear manner.
Instead, I'd like to discuss something simpler. You may know I hold a rather negative view of the recent rise in "fact checkers" as I view what they publish as usually being little more than op-eds using the fig leaf of "fact checking" to try to gain more credibility than they deserve. Yesterday, I came across a piece discussing that via this tweet:
I know Jose Duarte a bit due to his criticisms of certain papers used in the global warming debate. Given I knew he and I share some views, I was curious to see he had to say about "fact checking." Unfortunately, what he said is quite wrong.
I've written a post titled, "Correlation is Meaningless" once before. It makes the same basic point I made in a recent post discussing the PhD dissertation by one Kirsti Jylhä. I'm going to continue my discussion of Jylha's work today to examine more of a phenomenon where people misuse simple statistics to come up with all sorts of bogus results. In Jylha's case, it undercuts much of the value of her PhD.
Today's post is going to be about petty and stupid nonsense in the climate debate. If you think talking about such is a waste of time, I suggest you skip it. If you think truth, accuracy and perhaps even proofreading are desirable and worth campaigning for, I suggest you read on.
I had a different post planned for today, but the reactions to my last post make me think I should spend a little more time on some things. As you may recall, the last post discussed how the United States often enters treaties with other nations under what is called an "executive agreement." Under U.S. law, the President can enter into these executive agreements without the approval of anyone else in the government.
This is important because the U.S. Constitution says one of the branches of Congress, the Senate, must consent to all "treaties" by a margin of two-thirds. The proprietor of The Blackboard, lucia, has used that requirement to justify insulting a journalist and what he's written about an international treaty known as the Paris Agreement.
There is some confusion here because under international law the Paris Agreement can be a treaty even though it is only an executive agreement under U.S. law. This confusion contributed to lucia writing a completely misguided post. Rather than correct her errors, lucia has since double down on them by making up quotations and even flat-out saying the U.S. Constitution says things it does not.
For today's post, I'd like to review some things people have been saying and set the record straight on a number of factual matters. I don't expect it to do much good, but I can't just ignore people making things up.
I saw an odd post over at The Blackboard today. I want to discuss some of what I saw in it. Given my recent history over there and the... questionable nature of what is being said at that site of late, I thought it'd be best to make a new post for this.
The topic of the post was an article written by Paul Voosen, in which he discusses what Donald Trump may or may not be able to do about climate change policies as President of the United States. This is an interesting topic. Unfortunately, the response to it at The Blackboard is quite poor. I will try to give a better one.
I thought it would be best if I took a little break so I didn't write about how it is obscene Donald Trump got elected as the next President of the United States. I figured I'd use the break to do some research on a few issues and flesh out my notes on them. Part of that process was reviewing things I've looked at before to refresh my memory, get quotations and things like that.
It may not be apparent, but I spend way more time doing background work like that than I do on writing anything. I think most writers are that way. We just don't talk about it that often because it's just part of the "job." I only bring it up today because it explains why I came across something that is just weird.