Friday, June 26, 2009

Black Perino Cantor Schoeder

Duncan Black is much amused by Dana Perino's theory that women never cheat.


While I am not able to explain, I do think I know the answer to all of this: Elect more women. No woman I know has the time for such trysts, nor do I know any who say the desire one. They’re too busy trying to keep all the plates spinning at home, at work, and at the gym to make sure none fall and break.

Basic set theory seems to support Black's view that Perino must be wrong. Whenever a man has sex with a woman with whom he has never had sex before, a woman has sex with a man with whom she has has never had sex before.

Average lifetime male sex partners per female person divided by lifetime female sex partners per male person must equal the number boys born divided by the number of girls born which is almost exactly one (slightly slightly more boys than girls are born). This is elementary counting (hence the reference to Cantor the top expert on counting in history).

So what could Perino be thinking ? Obviously for Perino some women just don't count. For example, take the case of David Vitter. He was a new sex partner to at least one prostitute. Prostitutes have many many sex partners. Perino doesn't count them. Also there are women, typically young women, who chose to have ses with powerful married men, because they find the men attractive. It is theoretically possible that women commit less adultery on average than men because unmarried women have more male partners than unmarried men have female partners, while wives have fewer male partners than husbands. But I think the key thing is the women who are prominent, famous, rich and/or powerful have many fewer sex partners than men who are prominent, famous, rich and/or powerful.

There just aren't that many men who are attracted to powerful women. Male power is a great aphrodesiac. Female power not so much.

Now it is also true that more women then men aren't tempted by adultery and aren't inclined to cheat. I was puzzled by the fact that male politicians who often pay a very high price for adultery commit so much of it compared to average guys who pay a lower price. I think it is partly that politics attracts narcissists who tend to commit adultery. Mostly, it is a matter of opportunity rather than motive -- most men who are inclined to commit adultery have trouble finding women inclined to have sex with them (single men have similar difficulties relative to single women).

In the end Pat Schroeder said it best (she's the one who first called Reagan the teflon president). She was defending her fellow Coloradan Gary Hart after his monkey business. She said adultery was normal for congressmen and that Sen Hart just got caught. The inevitable question of whether she had committed adultery was asked. She answered IIRC "no but we don't hav 25 year old life guards throwing themselves at us" or, in other (much worse words) "There but for the sake of men's sexist aversion to powerful women (might) go I."

Now why didn't Dana Perino think of that ? What's this about the plates and lack of inclination ? I mean what about her makes her unaware of the fact that most powerful women don't have to dodge 25 year old life guards who are throwing themselves at them ?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Now *This* is a Washington Post Headline I Can Believe In

Topless Women, Headless Prime Minister
Mouthpiece Theater | Silvio Berlusconi's signiorinas, dreams of grandeur and a secret.

OK so technically it is a caption to one the rotating videos on the front page of (after Juarez and before Tehran).

I can only infer that the post below objecting to the reflexive Ballance of Washington Post headlines struck a nerve.
Classic Ballance

"Opinions on Shape of Earth Differ" has been surpassed. The current top parody of Ballance in the Washington Post is

"Signs of Fraud in Iran, But No Hard Evidence"

Paul Krugman is smart, but you can't beat the real thing.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

In the days before the vote, my Iranian contacts breathlessly compared the atmosphere in Iran to that of 1979, the year of the Islamic Revolution. In the last twenty-four hours, the unavoidable analogy has become 1989. The big question is where we are: Wenceslas Square or Tiananmen.
Rule number 1 Nate Silver is always right
Rule number 2 If Nate Silver is wrong consult rule number 1

Andrew Sullivan says the almost perfect correlation of shares of vote by Iranian presidential candidate in different official reports of partial counts of vote are proof of fraud.

Nate Silver notes a similar correlation for the US 2008 presidential.

I am reluctant to challenge Nate Silver on statistical analysis, but I don't fine his argument convincing.

The USA Iran analogy is odd, because the US is huge, spread over time zones, and (at least on election day) federal. Nationwide in the USA vote counts depend in large part on time zones.

Iran is a large country, but Tehran is a proportionally huge city. Iran is not Yugoslavia, but there are major ethnic differences by region. In the USA there isn't as much gross regional segregation.

So Iranian vote counting is much more centralized and Iran itself has larger regional variation in actual voting (at least it always always did until this election).

I think a reasonable comparison would be with a *state level* election in the USA. At the state level, come on, there is usually 99% correlated in shares of vote totals. It is very often possible to see that the candidate who has more votes counted so far has lost.

Show me a graph that looks like Sullivan't graph with data from a New York State election, and I'll be convinced of the election stealing competence of the Iranian interior ministry. Till then, I will remain convinced that there was not just fraud but unusually blatant fraud.

update: Well the rule, you criticize Silver you look like a fool seems to hold. However, not how I thought. From Silver's comment thread (via Andres Sullivan)

The problem with Nate's analysis of the Iranian election plot is that he split the states effectively randomly (by alphabetical order). The results as they were released in Iran were not released in such a random way. The "waves" that he describes were regional. You would not see that sort of a straight line if you were to split the waves into geographic regions the way that they should. Also, he didn't address your question about the precedent for such a high turnout and such walloping by the incumbent candidate.

Oops I didn't notice the alphabetical business. Really vote totals adding states randomly have nothing to do with vote totals as they are counted.

Used to be in the USA that a Democrat would start out ahead then fall behind as results trickled in from small towns. Now Republicans start ahead and fall behind as results flow fast via the internet and it takes longer to count votes in precincts with a lot of voters. There was a pattern : big cites then small towns. Now there is the opposite pattern: small towns then big cities. Any simulation which is not based on actual partial vote counts as they are announced is irrelevant. It is possible that such a simulation will give results similar to actual partial vote counts. It is possible that totally made up numbers will give results similar to actual partial vote counts. Neither is a valid approach.

I just assumed that Silver must have used actual partial vote totals as reported over time. I am astounded that Silver even ran simulation of what happens over time which is not based on actual events in time.
Iranian Interior Ministry Insults World's Intelligence

It is absolutely clear that the official vote count in the Iranian presidential election is pure fiction. However, it is official and supported by the incumbent president, the supreme leader etc. This poses a problem for reporters who risk "opinions on shape of earth differ" if they follow standard practice. How exactly does one report the demonstrable fact that someone is lying without breaking the rules of Ballance ?

ROBERT F. WORTH and NAZILA FATHI show how. One rule is that if one appears to favor one side in an argument (because the facts are biased against the other) then you give someone on the other side the last word. In advocacy one might present argument against the conclusion one favors, but one doesn't close with such arguments. Therefore in the rare cases in which the truth is so obvious that there is no other way to achieve Ballance, one can close with an implausible denial of the facts. Or, if one really really can't stand to be Ballanced, one can close with a statement from a supporter of the main beneficiary of the lies such as this one.

There might be some manipulation in what the government has done,” said Maliheh Afrouz, 55, a supporter of Mr. Ahmadinejad clad in a black chador. “But the other side is exaggerating, making it seem worse than it really is.

Kevin Drum wonders if maybe they deliberately made the fraud blatant to provoke protest and justify a crackdown. Juan Cole's hypothesis that they didn't prepare fraud at the ministry because either they were sure it wasn't needed or they thought they would be allowed to report the true is more plausible. However the ministry of the Interior does seem to be going out of his way to hint that his ministry is faking data.

Interior Minister Sadegh Mahsouli said Saturday that such a lead was a misimpression based on Mr. Moussavi’s higher levels of support in the capital, and that he had less backing elsewhere.

According to Mahsouli's ministry (same Juan Cole link) Ahmedinejad won Tehran by over 50%.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Shorter Sokratic Dialogue

I am aware of all internet traditions, but I will make the character "Sokrates" created by Brad DeLong look like a fool simply by deleting.

Sokrates: And we have won. There are now departments of philosophy everywhere. But when was the last time you saw a department of sophistry?


Meno: And the Chicago School economists who say that government borrow-and-spend logically cannot increase overall spending?


Sokrates: I, at least, find myself unable to understand them.

if they don't make an argument I cannot make them look any more foolish...

Now I imagine the dialogue continues

Meno: Recently you asked me when was the last time I saw a department of sophistry. Have I answered your question ?

Sokrates: Yes.
Senate Ethics Fantasy

Paul Kane notes that many legislators who will be reforming the health care sector have personal stakes being shareholders of corporations involved in health care. It does create "the appearance of a conflict of interest" which can be translated into English as "a conflict of interest." To say there is a conflict of interest does not imply that the saintly legislator pays any attention to his or her financial interests when legislating.

Nothing to be done, however "many legal experts say the health-care industry is so predominant that it is impossible for lawmakers to avoid financial ties to that sector,"

My my "impossible" is a strong word. The legal experts evidently think that it is not possible to liquidate all of one's assets and invest the proceeds in treasury bonds. Nothing forces a senator to own a share of common stock. If they were determined to avoid conflict of interest, they could. They just don't want to pay the price.

So my fantasy rule of the senate is "no senator may own financial assets other than treasury bonds, nor may any member of any senators nuclear family. No senator may be a partner, owner or have any interest in any enterprise nor can any member of any senators nuclear family. At the start of each session, each senator shall either a) swear under penalty of perjury that he or she and his or her nuclear family are abiding by these rules or b) resign from the senate.

Sounds constitutional to me. Of course there would be a huge devastating side effect. On election day, many freshperson senators have massive and complex financial holdings which can only be liquidated in 2 months by selling a fire sale prices.

Thus my proposed rule would impose a huge penalty on multimillionaires who choose to be senators.

And wouldn't that be such a damn shame.

Why if there's one thing I like about the senate, it's that so many senators are multi-millionaires and that the first amendment protects the rights of multi-millionaires who want to self finance senate campaigns.

I think my proposed rule achieves another distinction -- passage of such a rule is the least likely political event that I can imagine.

A horse in the senate ? Been there done that. Senators forced to liquidate their financial holdings ? Fuggedaboutit.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia

and the Iranian supreme leader has always been more powerful that the Iranian president.

I am exited about the Iranian election, the last intrade contract which will pay $1 if Ahmedinijad wins, traded at 20 cents.

Now I am not a betting person. However, the Iranian presidential campaign has already achieved a miracle -- Elliot Abrams just wrote the truth

Iran doesn’t hold elections for supreme leader — Ayatollah Ali Khameini will hold that post for the indefinite future — and the failed presidency of Mohammad Khatami from 1997 to 2005 reminds us that the power of a putative reformist is illusory.

All via Mark Kleiman who notes how proud big brother would be of Elliot's doubleplusgood blackwhite but chose a boring title for his post.
March 8th Now has three meanings

Once it was just a day in the year. Then it was declared to be international women's day by the first socialist international.

It is also the name of the Hezbollah lead coalition which lost the recent Lebanese elections.

Although it was not decisive, scientific polling in Lebanon suggests that Obama did have an effect in the defeat of the Hezbollah coalition, "March 8", in Lebanon, even if it was a slight one.

March 8 the special day for all feminist Hezbollah activists.

As far as I know, March 8th is not celebrated in English speaking countries. In Italy it is not an official hollidy but it is celebrated. Oddly the celebration consists largely of men giving yellow mimosa's to women, usually their significant other but, obviously, also as an indication of a willingness to engage in possible future prospective significant otherness (only in Italy is a feminist holliday mainly just one more chance to hit on babes). OK also women go out to dinner with other women.

I knew this English guy born on March 8th. To him the day had 2 meanings -- a date and his birthday. His Italian girlfriend took him out to dinner on his birthday. Her reaction "I take my boyfriend out to dinner on his birthday and I feel like a crumero." But, hey, it could be worse. At least she doesn't live in Southern Lebanon where "March 8" command no matter what happens on election day.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Europe in more trouble than I thought

Just when I thought it was safe to get my mind back to this continent, I received an e-mail from some organization which employs someone who seems to think that I am an economist capable of making predictions better than those of the magic 8 ball.

"Primary Research Group ( is conducting a survey of economists for their views on the prospects for recovery of European economies. "

OK so I've never heard of "Primary Research Group" and the future of Europe probably doesn't depend on their good judgment, but, frankly, I don't want to be part of any economy which contains people who are interested in my predictions about that economy.

I guess desperate times call for desperate measures, but I'm going to feel a whole lot better when my e-mail inbox gets back to its usual focuses on Nigerian scams and uhm male enhancement.
Politics, the English Language, the New York Senate coup and The New York Times's copy editing.

I am trying to figure out whether the New York Times misquoted New York Assemblyman Peter Rivera as saying "toe the line.” when he actually said "tow the line."

I claim that this is a very difficult linguistic question.

One thing is clear, George Orwell is spinning in his grave doubts about the prospects for reasoned debate in New York.

The European Elections weren't very inspiring, but at least the European Parliament isn't like the New York state Senate where if I understand correctly

1) in 1980 the Republicans and Democrats in New York decided to divide the pie and gerrymander so Democrats get the house and Republicans get the Senate (note former New Yorker Matthew Yglesias's outspoken enthusiasm for unicameral state legislatures).

2) Elbridge Gerry himself would have trouble maintaining this deal, because there are now so few Republicans in New York state that no matter how you slice and dice the Republican majority in the state senate is vulnerable.

3) Eminent billionaire Tom Golisano donated tons of money to the New York Democratic party which enabled them to win a majority in the senate.

4) then the economy tanked and the ungrateful Democrats facing a budget deficit decided to tax, among others, the hand that fed them.

5) Standing up for American Values, Mr Golisano therefore replaced the Democratic majority by a majority of 30 Republicans plus two Democrats both of whom are alleged criminals and one of whom is now alleged to be President of the New York senate.

6) Al Sharpton demonstrated in favor of party loyalty and against egoistical egotistical self centered personal ambition and willingness to do anything to get ahead.

7) I repeat "Al Sharpton demonstrated for party loyalty and against egoistical egotistical self centered personal ambition and willingness to do anything to get ahead."

8) yes that Al Sharpton

9) no as far as I can tell the end of days has not arrived yet.

10)NICHOLAS CONFESSORE and DANNY HAKIM wrote in the New York Times

Viewing Mr. Sharpton’s comments as presumptuous, Assemblyman Peter Rivera said, “It’s kind of disappointing to see race being used to toe the line.”

If forced, I'm sure Orwell would choose Peter over Primo de Rivera, but I doubt he would be pleased. Rivera's statement uses one of Orwell's least favorite dying metaphors in a way which illustrates everything a metaphor should not be. Orwell noted that people had so thoroughly forgotten that to toe the line was to keep one's toe on a line that they often carelessly write "tow the line."

(The Wikipedia asserts that it was based on the excessive vehemence of partisan conflict in the mother of parliaments "The term has disputed origins. Perhaps its longest-running use is from the British House of Commons where sword-strapped members were instructed to stand behind lines that were better than a sword’s length from their political rivals in order to restore decorum." OK decorum in a legislature. We sure can't have that).

From the context of Mr Rivera's statement, I think it is clear that he said "tow the line." The sentence as transcribed doesn't make any sense. It would make sense to say : It’s kind of disappointing to see race being used to try to force others to toe the line.

It would make parseable non sense to say (as I think Mr Rivera did)
: It’s kind of disappointing to see race being used to tow the line.

The sentence has no clear meaning but at least Sharpton would be allegedly using race to exert some sort of pull on others rather than using race in order to be meek and obedient himself.

The New York Times' version makes even less sense than mine. Those who toe the line are those who obey not those who make others obey or attempt to make others obey
In days of sail, "toe the line" was used as a command for crewmen to line up along a crack in deck planking, similar to the modern "Attention!"
The Second Time as Farce:

Reflections on Looking Into a Four Day old "la Repubblica"

Facing the always unpleasant prospect of actually sending a manuscript to a journal, I chose to read last Sunday's edition of Italy's leading daily newspaper which was mainly focused on the then up-coming European Parliament elections (look I just got a rejection e-mail which makes submitting another manuscript to another journal even more unpleasant than usual).

La Repubblica is one of the remaining opponents of Silvio Berlusconi and his conflation of politics and farce. Thus they have an article on photographs of attractive young ladies at his villa printed in el Pais (at least this time said guests aren't dressed in g-strings and don't dare suspect me of exaggerating). The cover shows Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni in matching white dresses walking down a red carpet.

The articles which really struck me were on the UK. The prospect of the Labour party maybe coming in fourth *almost* managed to distract La Repubblica from it's fashion focus (in the event they edged out the liberal democrats coming in 3rd and getting a larger share of the vote than in any election which took place before the founding of the Labour party) with a tiny headline "Londra, il Labour Rischia il Crollo," (London Labour risks collapse). Then a larger headline "Brown in Bilico, le donne ministro lo tradiscono" (Brown tottering, Women ministers betray him -- the verb "tradire" is typically used to refer to infidelity ha ha ha).

After the jump, I find the photograph of Caroline Flint "ministro e modella" wearing "red dress (£180) Karen Milan etc" as shown in the Observers fashion pages. From the article, I learn that the Italian translation of the Daily Telegraph's "Lady Stiletto" becomes la ministra in tacchi a spillo or, back to English the minister in spike heels (with obligatory pun based on the original meaning of "stilleto" stilletata = low blow = back in Italiano "tirare il sasso e nascondere la mano")).

European unification has given us internationally collaborative macaronically moronic sexism.

In a really low blow this issue of La Repubblica includes an interview with Vaclaw Havel discussing 1989 (thanks guys. It's not like the idea that Europe hasn't quite lived up to the promise I saw the month after I moved here in October 89 has ever crossed my mind).

But the article which totally astounded me was the serious article on the crisis of New Labour which contained the shocking phrase " Peter Mandelson ... vice primo ministro." What ? Wasn't his career ended by scandal ? Twice ? I don't want to be rude, but the only other statesman I know of who was back so often was Richard Nixon.

Why I remember long long long ago New Labour's second consecutive landslide )which I watched while on a layover at Heathrow) when Mandelson was making a fool of himself by making a big deal over his re-election in a safe labour seat ... OK now I'm really drifting ...

wellll it is true that while the seat was safely labour it wasn't exactly safely New labour and Mandelson's principal opponent was Arthur Scargil the very embodiment of ... not old labour but the opposite of new labour anyway. I'm not going to taint the honorable memory of old labour by comparing the idiot Scargill to say the great Keir Hardie as in "This is no six pence a day agitation ..." ...

Echoed with inflation by Walter Reuther "our aim is not just another nickle in the pay packet"... (pay packets didn't come once a day and a nickel in 194? was worth a lot less than six pence whenever Keir Hardie spoke).

Of course, while Reuther was great progressive leader by US labour union leader standards he did recognize General Motor's "right to manage" which was at least equally far from Keir Hardie's position "our aim is cooperative production under state supervision and we will settle for nothing less"

irony of ironies, General motors is now jointly owned by the US treasury the Canadian government and the UAW, while the Labour party has successfully avoided nationalizing any manufacturing firms.

Hmm Vaclaw Havel to Silvio Berlusconi makes the decline from Keir Hardie to Neil Kinnock (represented the same constituency) seem minor ...

And speaking of Transatlantic plagiarism what about our vice President eh ?

For the kids Neil Kinnock noted that none of his ancestors had been to college and it was not because they were "thick or lazy. They worked 8 hours in a coal mine then went out to play football". Then senator Biden was impressed and went on to note that non of his ancestors had been to college and it was not because they were "not bright or lazy. They worked 14 hours in a coal mine and then went out to play football." Now clearly this is not plagiarism at all since "football" has completely different meanings on different sides of the Atlantic.

That was enough to sink Sen Biden's candidacy (hell he's never ever going to live that down).

Actually it almost sunk Michael Dukakis's candidacy too (now that would have been such a shame) because his hatchet man, tough guy, campaign manager John Sasso spliced the video of Kinnock and Biden and sent it to reporters and tried to get them to hide where they got it. Dukakis had to briefly fire him to respond to the accusation of stabbing a fellow Democrat in the back (tirare il Sasso e nascondere la mano).

Monday, June 08, 2009

Scare quotes matter for once.

Update: I am totally full of fecal material. Not only does the post below add nothing *Nothing* to the posts by Wheeler Wheeler Wheeler and Greenwald (to which I forgot to link) but I was totally wrong about who wrote the article ! It was not NOT written by David Cay Johnston ! It was written by Scott Shane and David Johnston who is, to quote George Orwell, a totally different person.*

Somehow David Cay Johnston found my totally incorrect blog post and for some reason he took the time to explain that I was wrong. I am pleased to get an actual e-mail communication from David Cay Johnston and just wish the topic wasn't how maybe I should actually retype names as I read them in a byline.

I quote from comments

Your objection may be well taken, but not against me.

As the byline clearly states, the co-writer is my colleague from my NYT day, and competitor from our San Francisco days more than three decades ago, David Johnston.

I had nothing to do with the piece.

David Cay Johnston

Somehow "I'm terribly sorry" doesn't seem enough given the circumstances, but I am.

* Can't find the quote. Orwell wrote that in around 1946 objecting to an article entitled "Four that could be hanged ..." or something. He noted that it is not possible to be a partially different person. He didn't correct his slip, but rather discussed it, as he thought it was a useful example of careless writing.

Of course I have nothing useful to write which hasn't been written better by Marcy Wheeler and Glenn Greenwald, but I have to object to the headline and first paragraph of this article by Scott Shane and David Cay Johnston

U.S. Lawyers Agreed on Legality of Brutal Tactic

Published: June 6, 2009
WASHINGTON — When Justice Department lawyers engaged in a sharp internal debate in 2005 over brutal interrogation techniques, even some who believed that using tough tactics was a serious mistake agreed on a basic point: the methods themselves were legal.

The corrected version would be

U.S. Lawyers Agreed on "'Legality'" of Brutal Tactic

Published: June 6, 2009
WASHINGTON — When Justice Department lawyers engaged in a sharp internal debate in 2005 over brutal interrogation techniques, even some who believed that using tough tactics was a serious mistake agreed on a basic point: the methods themselves were "'legal'".

Comey said, when discussing the list of techniques "it was simply not acceptable for Principals to say that everything which may be "legal" is also appropriate" so Comey agreed that the techniques were "legal" not that they were legal.

He's not a valley girl. He didn't write "quote unquote" for no reason.

Note on punctuation, the Times must use single quotes ' ' inside the double quotes " " to note that they are quoting Comey quoting someone and *not* quoting Comey as the headline and first paragraph clearly (and falsely) state.

Update: Long boring quibbling deleted
Rest of Europe not so good.

My general impression of the European elections is that Europeans are very angry (no surprise) and alarmingly willing to vote for right wing extremists to show their anger.

The scary thing is not just that the UK independence party beat the Labour party 17% tp 16% but that they were not the most extreme extremists to do well in the UK this time.

I'm not sure if it's just right wing extremists. I haven't kept up with Danny the red's political development in the past 40 years. I didn't even know he was back to being French. My suspicion is that he is a perfectly reasonable person now and just an excellent way for French leftists to express their passionate undying hatred of the French socialist party.
Total Humiliation Avoided For Now

Just when I thought it was safe to read polls in my native country, Italy my country of residence began scaring me again. In spite of a bit of fooling around with underage girls not to mention a total unwillingness to let the nations problems distract him from the key issue, which is that eveyone who looks at the evidence has decided to persecuute him, the polls said that Silvio Berlusconi was going to receive a huge mandate in the European elections.

Now many of the pollstersin Italy work for Berlusconi as do basically all TV journalists, so I guess they mainly showed that Berlusconi wanted to believe that he was very popular.

In any case, almost two thirds of Italians demonstrated that they have a limit. Berlusconi's party, the Yaaay Italy-ex Post Fascist alliance, is the largest single party. The Italian Democratic party reminds me of my early teens, even though McGovern's share of the vote is much larger. Many of the Italians finally disgusted by Berlusconi voted for the ranting rascist Lega Nord (allies in government) but the parties in the current majority got only 45.5% of the vote so, if the opposition were united it would have won (of course in the last political elections if the opposition had been united it would have won and if pigs had wings they could fly).

Oh what mild relief it was to be alive on that OK day, but to be middle aged was very limbo.
The Big Picture

The biggest picture -- that large scale structure of the universe.

Once I was in an airport and I met someone I vaguely knew mainly as a friend of my brother in law -- Francesco Sylos Labini. He is an astrophysicist and was flying off to present a paper on the large scale structure of the universe. He kindly (end enthusiastically) presented his talk to me to pass the time.

Also, coincidentally, I met his father, the very famous Italian economists Paolo Sylos Labini the same day (and neither knew the other would be there).

So I once heard a lecture about the large scale structure of the Universe in an airport. The basic fact is that galaxies are not uniformly distributed in space. There is structure at the very humongogigantic scale. The talk was about one simple statistic which seems to capture this hint of a pattern. A very simple statistic.

Take ball of radius r around the galaxy i. How many other galaxies are in this ball as a function of r ? this gives G(i,r). Now average over i. This gives a function of r G(r). As r goes from unbelievably big to a gazillion times unbelievably big, does the function approach an asymptote ?

If Galaxies were really uniformly distributed and the patters were the sort of illusiory patterns that people see in structureless data, then the log of G(r) would approach the line of slope 3. In fact it goes to a slope of between 2 and 3 (I forget the exact number which the summary statistic which tells us about the position of the most atoms). So I will call the statistic X.

X = limit as r goes to the observable universe of log(G(r))/r. The estimate is for the currently observed universe.

There was something important about how this statistic seemed to be a consistent estimate of a population parameter based on how it was similar for different subsamples.

So my reaction was "hmm sounds vaguely like a Hausdorf dimension, like as a harmonic mean is to an arithmetic mean". Here the idea is how many galaxies in a sphere. For the Hausdorf dimension the question is how many spheres are needed to cover all of the galaxies. So Hausdorf has a function of r which is N(r) the number of spheres of radius r needed to cover a set. The Hausedorf dimention (if it exists) is the limit of log(N(r)) times r as r goes to zero. A line has Hausedorf dimension 1, a plane 2 so it's like dimension. However it can be a fraction for some sets thus called fractals.

Francesco told me that that was the original idea but it was too computationally burdensome. Now since there are a finite number of galaxies, if each is treated as a point the Hausedorf dimension is zero. As r gets to be small but much bigger than the width of a galaxy, the number of spheres will stick at one per galaxy (note I just read small but much bigger than a galaxy ... I'm thinking of taking the limit as r goes to zero but not really let's stop at a tiny number like a hillion jillion miles). So really the number like a Hausdorf dimension is the limit as r goes down not to zero but to a huge number such that each ball still contains a lot of galaxies.

The two calculations are different.

So I was thinking about how they are different. Imagine mixtures. Let's say there are two sets of galaxies half of galaxies are uniformly distributed and half are on a 2 dimensional manifold. The Hausdorf dimension is 3. As r gets small a tiny fraction of the spheres are needed to cover the manifold so they don't matter at all.

The galaxy statistic is not 3. Each galaxy on the manifold will be in many many spheres around other galaxies on the manifold. Almost all of the count of galaxies in a big sphere around another galaxy will be on the manifold. The statistic will coverge to 2.

So I have a question. Are galaxies distributed all on a set of one fractional dimension (say 2.7) or as a mixture some in one fractal and some in another ?

It seems to me that the calculations behind the statistic X can be used to give a meaningful answer to this question. If galaxies are a mixture of a bunch on say a 2 dimensional manifold and a bunch uniformly distributed, then G(i,r) will have a bimodal distribution for large r with G very big but growing like r squared if i is on the manifold and G very small but growth like r cubed if i is from the uniform distribution.

That is I think that the distibution of G(i,r) is interesting and not just the average.

I think that the claim "galaxies are distributed on a fractal of dimension 2.7 and within that fractal are uniformly distributed" has implications for the whole distribution of G(i,r) not just the mean. I wonder if it can be tested ?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Stop the Presses.

Something important happened.

Barack Obama declared this month to be "LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PRIDE MONTH, 2009."

Ho hum another something month. That's not news.

The big news is that it is not news.

The announcement was not met with howls of protest from open homophobes. The reaction in the progressosphere is "where's the beef."

LGBT pride has become like motherhood.

The HUGE news is that LGBT pride month is not news.
Last Throes

Bob Herbert actually hopes that the absurd argument that dumb people graduate Summa from Princeton to be the last throes of US racism. Of course I am comparing his analysis to the diagnosis of the last throes of resistance in Iraq. But, Herbert has looked more clearly at racism in the USA than almost anyone else, and if he has hope, then maybe ...

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Going Back to the Poisoned Well

House Republicans, hoping to put Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) back on defense, are weighing whether to take another run at a resolution calling for an investigation into her allegations that the CIA lied to Congress about its use of enhanced interrogation techniques.

As Hilzoy notes, this is crazy. The US public doesn't consider this an important issue and would be irritated at Republicans for wasting Congress's time if they heard of the efforts.

The icing on the cake is the fact that Pelosi's version of the briefing is strongly supported by the evidence. I conclude that Republican Congresspersons don't read Emptywheel, the only serious source for news on the subject (accepting donations here).

I don't expect them to agree with Marcy Wheeler, but they should understand what they would face if they got their investigation. They seem to assume that if the Democrats don't want something then it must be good for them (zero sum deliberation). Thus anything that interferes with the functioning of congress is appealing to Republicans (look at the Senate what else do they do). Something which is bad either for the Democratic speaker or the central intelligence agency of the Democratic administration is good for them. The worse things are the better they are.

Here I think they really don't know the facts. My guess is that it is because they are sure the facts don't matter and that all the public will hear is "Opinions on Shape of Earth Differ." I think it is risky to assume that facts don't matter. They do tend to come out in the end.

The facts in this case seem totally clear to me.

Pelosi claims that she wasn't told that the CIA had actually used the waterboard. Porter Goss, who was at the same briefing, made a claim that is perfectly consistent with Pelosi's. He said it was clear that the techniques "were to be used" which one wouldn't normally say if it was also clear that they had been used. When asked to elaborate, a spokesman refused to go beyond the carefully worded claim (OK that is due to Greg Sargent not Marcy Wheeler).

When the Biby memo became public, Alberto Gonzales said that it was just legal theory and not a description of policy as implemented. This was a bold faced lie. Pelosi is essentially claiming that the CIA briefer gave a similar line. Plausible given the analogy, but different because lying to congress is a crime.

Over at the senate, Bob Graham and a Republican congressional aid (who can be identified due to an honest error by the reporter trying to protect his anonymity) say that Graham was not told about water boarding. Richard Shelby managed to contest this claim on the second try (recall he was thrown off the committee for improper handling of classified material). He is the only person on the legislative side who says anything which casts any doubt on Pelosi's version.

On the other side we have CIA records which are plainly full of errors. They are, at best, notes written down after the briefings. They included 4 briefings of Graham 3 of which the CIA now agrees never occurred (the 4th, according to Graham was about the Iraq NIE). According to the CIA, the CIA briefed Congressman Porter Goss at a time when Goss was no longer a congressman but uhm director of the CIA. According to CIA written records, the CIA doesn't know who is the director of the CIA. Many people have accused the CIA of total rank incompetence, but I think no one imagined they were that incompetent.

Have the Republicans not considered the possibility that the Democrats don't want an investigation which will show our adversaries that our CIA is totally incompetent ? Out here in the rest of the world, the CIA has a fairly fearsome reputation. News junkies know it is a paper tiger. We really don't want to inform people considering Jihad of that fact.

Now many Republicans consider the CIA the enemy (along with State and the Democratic party and the ACLU oh and don't forget al Qaeda (again)). I almost wonder if some are pretending to gun for Pelosi as part of the AEI vs CIA grudge match.
NIMBY arguments against closing Guantanamo explained

Many bloggers are mystified by the argument that closing Guantanamo will bring (suspected) terrorists to our back yards. To me, the logic, such as it is, of the opponents of closing Guantanamo has always been clear. In the end I conclude that the bloggers in question really don't understand the fears of anti due process Americans.

No one fears that detainees in Guantanamo will escape from super max prisons. The fear is that people held in Guantanamo in spite of the absence of probably cause to believe that they are terrorists (let alone proof beyond reasonable doubt) will be released from said prisons, because, you know, the constitution clearly says they must be released.

The point of keeping the Guantanamo prison open is *not* that people can't escape from it. The point is that, if they are released from the prison, they are still stuck in Guantanamo. They certainly can't walk over to Cuban controlled Cuba (not welcome). They don't have the right to travel to the USA (or the rest of the USA if Guantanamo counts as US territory). There is this wonderful concept "excludable alien" which has long existed and which permits restriction on travel *without due process*.

Thus the Uighers have been found not to be enemy combatants. It has been found that they never were combatant enemies of the USA. They are no longer in the Guantanamo prison. Instead they are as free to go anywhere in the Guantanamo naval base as are any non US citizen civilians. In effect, they are in a more pleasant prison.

That is the point of keeping Guantanamo open. To release people to a very small area of freedom if they are not to be imprisoned.

The logic of the oponents of closing Guantanamo is that say the Uighers can't possibly be locked up -- they were never adversaries of the USA and there is no evidence that they ever had anything to do with any attempted terrorism at all. Still they are Moslems and aren't White and are maybe, who knows, dangerous. So we have to keep them locked up if we can and unlocked up in Guantanamo if we can't.

They don't fear escape of a terrorist from a super max. They fear judges. They fear that release due to "why the hell were they ever locked up" will mean actual freedom not release to an alleged non-prison in Guantanamo.