[ a fully caused & embodied blog ] [ Good Sense Without God ]
It is in the prosecution of some single object, and in striving to reach its accomplishment by the combined application of his moral and physical energies, that the true happiness of man, in his full vigour and development, consists. Possession, it is true, crowns exertion with repose; but it is only in the illusions of fancy that it has power to charm our eyes. If we consider the position of man in the universe,—if we remember the constant tendency of his energies towards some definite activity, and recognize the influence of surrounding nature, which is ever provoking him to exertion, we shall be ready to acknowledge that repose and possession do not indeed exist but in imagination. - Wilhelm von Humboldt, The Sphere and Duties of Government (The Limits of State Action) (1854 ed.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

What is his point?

I was thinking more about David Kane's paper on Roberts' Iraq mortality study published in the Lancet and wondering what is his point?

Well, here it is:
When including Falluja, it is impossible to have a precise estimate of post-invasion mortality. [p 3]

Yet excluding Falluja is not “conservative.” In fact, including this cluster — i.e., using all the available data — generates a result with such a wide confidence interval that the reported increase in Iraqi mortality becomes statistically insignificant. [p 5]

From the calculations above, it is impossible to be 95% confident that there was an increase in mortality. The lower bound of the confidence interval for the relative risk can not be 1.6, as reported in L1. It must be much lower. [last paragraph]
The goal it seems is to show that the study is wrong. And what is the motivation to show that it is wrong? Yummy soup indeed!

Sampling Soup: Iraq and the Lancet Study

In regard to this debate of the study by Roberts el al. in 2004, I will weigh in with a modification of an analogy I ran into somewhere. By the way, I have ZERO expertise in statistics soooo ... fortunately this is my blog and I can play one if I wanna! grin!

Somewhere at some point someone (hahaha!) suggested that sampling and polling and the like are similar to a cook taking a spoonful of their well-stirred soup to determine how it tastes. Assuming cooks do this and it works it seems just as amazing as deriving large conclusions from "such a small sample".

Well, to continue with and extend this metaphor to the study and Iraq. Imagine Iraq as a large pot of soup at a rolling boil. Now, you decide to take a couple of samples from various locations within the pot; not necessarily just with a spoon from the top but say you drop in your thimble-on-a-string and pull it up and taste it.

Now say that you get five samples this way. One tastes almost passable, three taste really bad and the fifth one tastes truly beyond horrible. What is the "taste mean"? Taste standard deviation? What do you think the soup tastes like "overall"? What about the "truly beyond horrible" sample? Is it an outlier? Do we throw it out? Do we have a large confidence interval? If so and we add in the outlier, does that increase our confidence interval? So much so, that maybe large portions of the soup actually taste quite yummy!?!
Anyway, probably does not make any sense or have any relation to reality, but it was fun coming up with anyway!!


Awww! Poor O'Reilly. This is a study in Bill O'Reilly's propagandistic techniques:

This study updates methods of communication analysis popular in the period between the world wars in an effort to analyze news commentator Bill O’Reilly’s ‘‘Talking Points Memo’’ editorials. The results show that O’Reilly is a heavier and less nuanced user of the seven devices developed by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis in the late 1930s than the notorious radio commentator of that time, Father Charles Coughlin. O’Reilly also employs other propaganda techniques, identified by Lasswell, Berelson and Janowitz. This includes ample use of fear appeals and the construction of the battle between good and evil. The most evil villains in O’Reilly’s world are illegal aliens, terrorists, and foreigners because they are apparently a physical and moral threat to the United States. Slightly less evil -- but unambiguously bad -- are groups (media, organizations, politicians) who share a political leaning to the left. On the other side, the virtuous flank emerged as an all-American crew made up of the military, criminal justice system, Bush administration, and ordinary US citizens.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Anyone else notice?

Jon Stewart during his talk with Bill Moyers:

Bill Moyers: So, has it been within that period of time that you made this you wouldn't recognize it, but we recognize it, transformation from the stand-up comic to a serious social and political critic?

Jon Stewart: I don't consider myself a serious and social political critic.

Bill Moyers: But I do. And I'm your audience.

Jon Stewart: Yes, and I end up with one of your tote bags. But the important thing is, that I guess I don't spend any time thinking about what I am or what we do means. I spend my time doing it. And, I think that's I- I'm not trying to be modest of self-deprecating or in any way trying to do that.

Bill Moyers: Maybe you don't know why...

Jon Stewart: I'm just trying to tell you- I focus on the task and try and do it as best we can. And we're constantly evolving it, because it's my way of trying to make sense of all these ambivalent feelings I have.

Link: http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/050107C.shtml

Hansel from Zoolander:

I wasn't like every other kid, you know, who dreams about being an astronaut, I was always more interested in what bark was made out of on a tree. Richard Gere's a real hero of mine. Sting. Sting would be another person who's a hero. The music he's created over the years, I don't really listen to it, but the fact that he's making it, I respect that. I care desperately about what I do. Do I know what product I'm selling? No. Do I know what I'm doing today? No. But I'm here, and I'm gonna give it my best shot.

Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0196229/quotes

Letter on David Reinhard's: A surge of information to counter the defeatocrats, Thur 26th 2007

"A surge of information to counter the defeatocrats" was a commentary by David Reinhard about Bush's latest attempt to justify the Iraq fiasco.

Here was my letter:

What was thuglican David Reinhard's point in his July 26th opinion "A surge of information to counter the defeatocrats"? Is it that Bush is taking propagandistic advice from Osama bin Laden in framing the war in Iraq as the "third world war"? Or is it to prove correct the assertion of critics when he informs us that "in 2004 [Zarqawi] pledged allegiance to bin Laden" finally giving al-Qaida any real sort of "presence" or "prestige" in Iraq and thereby putting the lie to al-Qaida as a justification for the invasion? Really, what is the point to David Reinhard?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Letter on two opinion pieces, Sun July 22nd 2007

"Hateful, insulting, unpatriotic - and so very Portland" by David Reinhard and "Bumper-sticker mentality opts for surrender to terrorism" by Charles Gorder Jr. Reinhard's was about a work of art at PDX (our local airport) that he found offensive and Gorder's was about those people with bumper-stickers saying things like U.S. Out of Iraq, Oppose the War, and Bring the Troops Home were the same as wanting to surrender to the terrorists.

Here was my letter:

David Reinhard ("[Hateful - so very Portland]") and Charles Gorder Jr. ("[Bumper-sticker mentality]") in Sunday's paper complain about the -- sarcasm ahead -- anti-war surrenderist Portlanders who make art and not bombs and sloganeer on their cars their support for bring the troops home. I, on the other hand, am proud to be a resident of this city and thoroughly enjoy seeing the weekly tally of letters received by the Oregonian which, this week and historically, are consistently 15 to 1 in favor of peace and rationality.

Letter on David Reinhard's: World's greatest deliberative ... pajama game, Thur July 19th 2007

"World's greatest deliberative ... pajama game" was a commentary by columnist David Reinhard regarding the Levin-Reed amendment that Harry Reid kept the Senate open late to debate.

Here was my letter:

It is revealing to note that recent events allowed David Reinhard in his commentary "World's greatest deliberative ... pajama game" to comment on two deliberative bodies: The US Senate and the Iraqi Parliament. In the Senate, Republicans filibustered, something they used to call the "nuclear option" and "obstructionism", a vote on the Levin-Reed admendment that would begin within 120 days troop redeployment from Iraq. In Iraq, its parliament is planning on taking off the month of August -- something Whitehouse press spokesman Tony Snow is sympathetic to: Baghdad is quite hot on the summer you know -- before the much anticipated report on progress to Congress by General Petraeus. Sadly but truely, yet another demonstration of David's partisan mind.

Letter on Debra Saunders': It is simply too soon to discuss surge failure, Mon July 16th 2007

"It is simply too soon to discuss surge failure" was a pundit commentary on the Iraq surge by Debra Saunders. I can not find it on the Oregonian's website, but I believe it was this one.

Here was my letter:

Presumably the Editors wished to provide some "balance" to the Iraq surge by offering Saunders' opinion ("too soon to discuss surge failure'), which 36% of Americans at most would agree with (Pew Research Center's survey of March 26, 2007). Saunders', like all those on her side of this issue (see Reinhard on Sunday), only offer as "evidence" of the surge's effectiveness the military's own statements and pronouncements. Such propagandistic stenography is repellent to the bulk of humanity that understood by the Enlightenment; Saunders ought to be ashamed.

Letter on David Reinhard's: A Soldier's Truth about Gitmo, Sun July 15th 2007

"A Soldier's Truth about Gitmo" was a commentary by columnist David Reinhard regarding Guantanamo.

Here was my letter -- and published!*

Reinhard pens another apologia for the military, straight from the military -- something we hoped had been left in the last century -- in "A Soldier's Truth about Gitmo". I will let other readers write in about his blatant lying ("the detainees are being treated humanely."); my favorite is the sympathy we are supposed to feel for the guards when the detainees react to their pleasant condition. Reinhard parrots: "Apparently, [the detainees] weren't impressed with Gitmo's good grub, top-tier medical care and Islamic sensitivity." Yes, it is unsurprising that Reinhard can not fathom why they go on hunger strikes, act up towards their most hospitable hosts, and attempt and succeed at killing themselves. One wonders why Reinhard does not make a reservation for himself: Certainly he would enjoy the amenities and has nothing to miss outside Gitmo - just like the current guests.
* - The editors unfortunately replaced "blatant lying" with "[such claims as]" suggesting that the treatment of the detainees is open for interpretation. Bullshit.

Letter on an Editorial: A license for chaos, Sun July 15th 2007

"A license for chaos" was an editorial regarding the Real ID Act of 2005 that the editors believed the Oregon legislature failed to address and act on by implementing it.

Here was my letter:

A useful corrective to the Oregonian's editorial
"A license for chaos" -- like much else in the paper --
is to review the ACLU's position. Unsurprisingly the ACLU
opposes the Real ID act, but more interestingly on the ACLU's
website for this issue (www.realnightmare.org) you can find a
color coded map of US states that have passed or introduced
state legislation *opposing* the federal Real ID act. It turns
out that 17 states have passed legislation opposing this
implementation of a national identification system. Arkansas
has decided to opt out, Georgia has authorized its governor
to delay compliance (because their attempt already ended
in disaster), Tennessee opposes its implementation and
urges its repeal, and finally Oregon has introduced legislation
requiring implementation only with federal funds and better
data security and privacy safeguards effectively opposing
Real ID. As usual, the Oregonian is on the wrong side of
the issue.

What is the point?

What is this blog for? Simply a place to document all the letters I will be sending to the Oregonian regarding their editorials, opinion pieces and commentaries. Of course, mostly it will be in response to the moron* David Reinhard and the regular right-wing syndicated pundits they publish.

There might be other posts as well ... but do not count on it!

The next couple of posts will be some catch-up.

* - a mildly mentally retarded person