Truth test

While the local news was covering our local riots last night, a field reporter had asked one of the organizers what she thought about the vandalism and property damage that was happening.

The organizer said something like (paraphrasing), “If you’re more concerned about minor property damage than loss of life, that’s part of the problem.

If anyone says anything like this, ask if you can take a look at their phone.

When they hand it to you, throw it to the ground and stomp on it.

When they get mad and ask why you did that, just let them know you that was your protest against loss of life and see if they really believe what they just said.



The news is outliers

Clay Travis, a sports show guy, refers to shark attack and lottery journalism in this blog post of his.

I wrote about shark attack journalism back on March 29. I wrote about lottery journalism back in 2017 and how it was used in the Michael Brown case.

Travis identifies today’s main thrust in journalism:

The biggest power the media has is in choosing what events to cover and I believe the biggest flaw in the media by far is we now have journalism by anecdote. When you combine this largest power with this largest flaw, what you get is non-representative stories that reinforce your existing biases — you get mass media by anecdote.

Let me unpack this thesis: look, our country is massive and features an absolute ton of people, whatever you believe is likely true if you just look hard enough to find evidence of it happening. Significantly, that doesn’t mean it’s true on a statistical or probabilistic basis, but it can certainly be true on an anecdotal, individual level.

When most in the media choose which stories to cover they are often “picking sides” and then when they find a story that justifies their world view, they can cover it exhaustively to further fan the emotional response in viewership, which drives ratings.

He then uses lotteries and shark attacks to illustrate. Here’s lotteries.

Let me give you a couple of analogies that aren’t politically charged. Every lottery has a winner, right? And those lottery winners become fabulously wealthy. If the media covered lottery winners as if they were representative of what happens when you play the lottery, we’d all think we were going to get fabulously wealthy if we played the lottery.

But most of us, fortunately, know this: your probability of winning the lottery is minuscule. The lottery winner is an outlier, someone who is not representative of what most people experience when they play the lottery.

Here’s shark attacks.

Another example would be shark attacks. Every single time you enter the ocean you probably think, as I do, about shark attacks. (That’s why I’d argue that “Jaws” is the single most influential movie ever made. It truly changed our thoughts about the ocean forever). And I’m not alone. Every time someone is attacked by a shark it’s a lead story in the news. But the tens of millions of people who have zero issues with sharks never make the news.

This analogy is different because it plays on fear. Whereas my lottery analogy was about a positive outcome — winning the lottery — this one is about fear — dying of a shark attack.

Positive stories about winning the lottery don’t really have much of a negative impact. (Unless you believe people shouldn’t be able to gamble and are upset by the lottery selling hope.) But negative stories based on fear often have very negative societal results.

Fear is one of the primal emotions. When they share shark attack deaths the media is exploiting our fear by playing on our inability to understand probabilities. When anecdotal fear porn — that is, fear that is not representative of real danger — it becomes the focal point of news coverage it confirms the pre-existing biases that many viewers have. That’s why every time you see a news organization share data about the number of positive cases rising — even though the media almost always leaves out that testing has increased as well — the top comment beneath that news story is a coronabro snarkily responding, “Who could have foreseen this?”

In some defense of news, I will say that, by its nature, news is outlier events.  Representative stories aren’t news. They’re boring.

In my town, it’s not news that a couple million people were on the roads today. That’s representative and boring.

The handful of crashes that resulted in fatalities or major traffic delays, on the other hand, are news.

So I don’t knock the news for reporting news.

But, I knock folks for not understanding the nature of the news.


Education Starts at Home & The Best Measure of School Success

If you are into teaching stuff to kids, like education or coaching soccer, you might find this EconTalk episode with guest Robert Pondiscio interesting.

A good deal of the discussion is on the success of Success Academy Charter School.

Most of Success’s success (LOL) is from high parent involvement, setting expectations for hard work and holding parents and students accountable to those expectations.

They’ve discovered the same secret to success that Tom Byer uncovered in the soccer world: Soccer Starts at Home.

I also thought it was comical that the criticism against their school model is that it’s too hard, as if there are ways to teach without the kids having to put out much effort of their own.

Maybe that way will exist when we can do data uploads to our brains, like in The Matrix.

But, until I do, there are good lessons to be learned here.

The best measure of school success

I also wanted to point out, as I’ve done before, that the way we measure educational outcomes is dumb.

It’s like measuring the difference between Burger King and McDonald’s on how long it takes to fill an order, order accuracy and how clean their garbage cans are.

But, the most meaningful measure of burger joint success is if enough people choose to eat there. We don’t need burger bureaucrats inserting themselves between us and our burger joints to decide for us.

Same with schools. I don’t care what the average standardized test score is for students at one school vs. another. I find such comparisons dumb because they doesn’t recognize there are many other factors involved than the school, there are wide distributions within each student population and the average or median numbers are not only meaningless, they don’t exist.

It’s like when you have a 5’6″ person and a 6’2″ person and say their average height is 5’10”. The 5’10” average means nothing.

Any time compiling such stats for schools is a waste.

The only meaningful measure of school success is whether parents are happy with their choice. Period.

The best way to measure this is to observe student retention when the parent has other options. High retention is good.

The second best way to measure is by asking parents two questions that many businesses ask them, “Would you recommend us? Why or why not?”

Amazon: Welcome to the world of moving goal posts

Amazon response to Biden

(screen snip from Instapundit)

Way back in 2011, I offered this advice:

Here are a few thoughts for folks who want to raise taxes to help pay for the irresponsible spending of politicians.

First, tell me how much more we should pay.  That way when we get there, we will know and you won’t be able to say — we need to pay more — forever and always.

Food for thought…when you try to please such folks, they will claim victory for causing you to make a change, then ask for more.


The religion of ‘science’

Headline from CNBC: Why scientists are changing their minds and disagreeing during the coronavirus pandemic


In the scientific world, it’s expected that even the highest-ranking academics will evolve their thinking — and many have done so during this Covid-19 pandemic.

I cringe when I hear folks say that what they believe is based on science, research or studies, because what they are really saying is: I believe this and nothing will change my mind and btw, I don’t know what science is, but it sure sounds good.

Science seeks the truth. At the heart of that process is staying open to the possibility that whatever you believe could be wrong and considering contrary evidence to your beliefs.

When you close yourself off to that, you are no longer in accordance with the scientific method and are treating science as a religion.

Overly relying on what they think science says also tells me these things:

  • They haven’t noticed when ‘science’ was proven wrong and reversed.
  • They have spent zero time reading an actual study, which is usually a lot less convincing and authoratative than what gets boiled down in the media.
  • They have zero knowledge of statistical tricks, errors, misinterpretations, correlation vs causation and problems with study design and so forth.

A note to conservatives/right:

I get it. The left has double standard and are hypocrites. They’ve proven it over and over again.

But, pointing that out doesn’t do much for your cause. On a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the worst, they see their side’s hypocrisy and double standards as a 2 and you as a 10.

Some folks even see the hypocrisy of their side as a feature, not a bug. It shows their side is willing to do anything to win and that’s what they want.

It’s like soccer teams that pull every dirty trick to win. When your team gives those right back, they use that against you, too.

Anything to win.

The best way to put these teams in their place is to win without the dirty tricks. If you win with the dirty tricks, they will say, ‘see, playing dirty works!’

I think it would be more fruitful for you to spend your time figuring out how to message your policies in ways for folks to understand that you are not the evil 10 they believe you to be, actually want a lot of the same things that they want and offer a better way to get there.

Sure, point out the hypocrisy. But don’t dwell on it. Quickly, shift the conversation back to how your side can give them what they want or try convincing them that what they want isn’t a good idea, using reasons that make sense to them.


Has anyone check hand washing norms in places that have fared better with the virus?

I flipped past MSNBC this afternoon and caught a segment with Chuck Todd talking to guest about receiving packages in the mail and staying safe.

It turns out the 2 month old guidance to wait a day or two before bringing the package in may be overkill.

It also turns out that studies that detected the presence of the caronavirus on surfaces days after contact may have been detecting dead, non-contagious virus, and the virus doesn’t live that long on surfaces.

Makes sense. This sort of lines up with the fact that grocery stores, so far, have not been proven to be big spreaders.

The guest recommended opening the package, disposing the box and then washing your hands thoroughly.

LOL! So, we’ve come full circle. Isn’t that where we started?

We’ve come a long way in a short time. That type of suggestion would have caused  outrage a few days ago.

But, it made me wonder if anyone has taken a deeper look at differences in hand washing culture in areas that have fared better vs. those that haven’t?

I believe I read that Denmark was perplexed to not see cases rise as they re-opened. I wondered if they, perhaps, are strong hand-washers, especially when out in public.

Just a thought.

Revenge on the Nerds III: Covid-19

I really don’t know that this is…

The original:

The collapse of Long-Term Capital Management in the 1998.

Plot summary: Geeks finally use their brains and math to beat the market, but it blows up in the face, nearly taking a good portion of the banking system with it.

Taxpayers save the day.

Subtitle: Beware of geeks bearing models.


2008 Financial Crisis: Beware of Geeks Bearing Models II

Plot Pitch: Long-Term Capital Management was like the Death Star. This movie needs to be bigger! The latest trilogy of Star Wars, the evil empire harnessed the power of a star. We will do something like that.

Plot Summary: Ignoring the lessons of Long-Term Capital Management, the masses again put their trust in the nerds. After all, they have discovered with their brains and math ways to hide the risk of making home loans to cats and dogs.

Let’s bury the whole economy. And, yet again, taxpayers to the rescue.

Second sequel:

2020 Covid-19 Pandemic: The Perfect Storm

The pitch: It’s 12-years later. The masses have mysteriously forgotten the damage caused by the previous generation of nerds who could not, in fact, make dogs and cats pay on their loans, and again, put their trust in them. After all, Stitch Fix’s algorithm now dresses them to look almost cool. If math can make make nerds look cool, then of course it can predict pandemics.

Meanwhile, the media has become so bad at words and math that what they report is quite often something from an alternate universe.

And, the third element of the perfect storm: reasoning has been weakened through a generation of PC culture, which evolved into cancel culture, where the only acceptable approach to disagreement is inspired by Orwell.

Mix those three elements and watch the damage caused be far greater than any one element could have done. It’ll hit the hospitals, the economy and basic human rights all at once!

Cue the heroes, yes taxpayers.

Is there a chance for a third sequel in another 9-10 years? Stay tuned. The writers are still working on the ending for this one.

It’s worth mentioning that a third sequel would be timed just about right to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the prequel to all this: The Great Depression: The Nerds Still Aren’t Sure What Caused This, So Quit Trusting Them!

$s Matter for MLS; but there’s more to it

Leave it to Zlatan Ibrahimovich to say like no other, according to this tweet (ht to Daniel Workman):

Here’s the text, in case the tweet ever disappears:

When I asked Zlatan what it will take for MLS to achieve parity with Europe and South America, he responds with a question.

“Do they want to make it?”

“Who is ‘they’?”

“They that control it. The owners. Do they want it to be big?”

“Yeah. Of course.”

“You think?”

“You don’t?”

“I don’t.”


“Because you don’t make money in soccer,” he tells me. “In Europe, I can pick two clubs that make money. The rest don’t; they do it out of passion. Here, with the sports, you make money. That’s it. And I think with all the rules you have you are not boosting up soccer.”

“What rules?”

“The budgeting things. The salary cap. You cannot bring in players you want. They have more rules here than I have in my home.”

The author of the book Soccernomics agree. They pick apart the bad economics of European clubs. I wrote about that here. They quote A.T. Kearney:

you could…argue that soccer clubs are nothing more than vessels for transporting soccer’s income to players.

European soccer clubs spend most of their revenue to buy the best talent they can afford to play the best football possible. This means the players receive most of soccer’s cash flow.

So, why would someone want to own a soccer club?

Passion is a piece. But, there’s more…People don’t get wealthy owning sports teams, even in the U.S. They get wealthy doing other things and then buy sports teams for status and to help grow their other businesses even more.

When your primary business sells concrete, it might give you a leg up if you can host potential customers in the owner’s box for a game.

So, why does the U.S. have the budgeting rules, as Zlatan calls it?

To keep a few passionate owners with deeper pockets from buying the best talent and dominating. League managers think fans of weaker teams will lose interest and stop spending money if their team doesn’t have a chance to win.

With the current pro leagues in the U.S., they may be right.


Pay cuts for Congress?

I might have missed it, but do the CARES or HEROES acts include pay cuts for Congress until unemployment gets under, let’s say, 8-9%?

How we place some moratorium on campaign contributions, too?