Open Forum

Where you can't be off-topic because there IS no topic.

The floor is yours.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. MarkedMan says:

    For years now I’ve said that the Republican Party has gradually become the Party of Lies, a collection of people for whom objective reality is at best an inconvenience and at worst an enemy that must be ruthlessly attacked. As a sidebar though, I’ve also said that there is nothing specific about Republicans or self described Conservatives or Libertarians that make this inevitable. In fact, the Republican Party fell victim to a feedback loop wherein denial of reality was rewarded politically and so such behavior was repeated and expanded, and that attracted people who were comfortable with such denials and repelled people to whom facts mattered. Every election cycle this split worsened, until we arrived at the present day. But what about my sidebar, where I said that there was nothing inherent to Repub/Cons/Lib that makes this inevitable? If that is true, then there must be things we can point to that could sew the same seeds in the Democrat and Progressive side. Here are some things that I think fit the bill:

    – Anti-vaxers. These people fit no particular political party. The recent outbreaks have occurred in extremely conservative Orthodox Jewish communities in NY but also in ostentatiously liberal enclaves. In truth, it seems like there are more liberals than conservatives in this category.

    – “Flint still doesn’t have clean water” – In fact, Flint water is better now and has comparatively low levels of lead. It’s better than many, many communities across the country. In fact, by focussing on the criminal failure of years past and attributing it solely to prejudice, we are in serious danger of ignoring the problems that still exist in hundreds of other communities.

    – “Unarmed blacks are orders of magnitude more likely to be shot in confrontations with police than unarmed whites.” The statistics just don’t bear this out. And it reduces the police violence problem we have to one of prejudice when it is actually a much deeper and more pervasive problem. (And one I believe is exacerbated by current training practices rather than mitigated by them.)

  2. SC_Birdflyte says:

    One of the books I “always meant to read” was Robert A. Caro’s The Power Broker. Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. I finally worked my way to the end of it last night (it only took a month). I see some interesting parallels between Moses’s actions, particularly in the latter years of his career, and the political strategies of He Who Must Not Be Named.

  3. CSK says:

    Well, Trump managed to trash Sadiq Khan on Twitter before even touching down in the U.K.

  4. Teve says:

    @MarkedMan: Antivaxxers are all over the political spectrum and just as likely to be fans of Alex Jones as Gwyneth Paltrow. There are a few “Whatabout Flint” numbnuts who are tedious, as my Block List on social media attests. There’s definitely a police problem with race, though I haven’t heard much about specifically unarmed shootings.

    The only area where any leftists ever remind me of right-wingers are vegan animal-rights types, like that dipshit who rushed the stage at the Kamala Harris event. Meat Is Murder is to me the left-wing equivalent of the Planned Parenthood protesters. I was curious, so I looked up some numbers and I was surprised–only about 3-5% of americans identify as vegetarian, and way fewer (with one outlier poll), like 0.5%, are vegan.

    It’s a good thing to be on the lookout for ideological blind-spots, but there’s a reason I transitioned from conservative/libertarian to liberal starting about 20 years ago. Right-wing beliefs on economics, biology, global warming, regulation, religion, and history pretty clearly ignore basic reality.

  5. Teve says:

    If I had a huge pile of cash to invest I’d put 100% of it on an Uber short.

  6. Teve says:

    In the 12th chapter of Neal Stephenson’s new novel, Fall, a quartet of Princeton students set out on a road trip to Iowa to visit the “ancestral home” of one of the students, Sophia. This part of the novel is set about 25 years in the future, in an age when self-driving cars are the default and a de facto border exists between the affluent, educated coasts, where Sophia and her friends live, and the heartland they call “Ameristan.” The latter is a semi-lawless territory riddled with bullet holes and conspiracy theories, where a crackpot Christian cult intent on proving the crucifixion was a hoax (because no way is their god some “meek liberal Jesus” who’d allow himself to be “taken out” like that) literally crucifies proselytizing missionaries from other sects. You have to hire guides to shepherd you through this region, men who mount machine guns on top of their trucks “to make everyone in their vicinity aware that they were a hard target.”

    How did things get so bad? For one thing, residents of Ameristan, unlike Sophia and her well-off pals, can’t afford to hire professional “editors” to personally filter the internet for them. Instead, they are exposed to the raw, unmediated internet, a brew of “inscrutable, algorithmically-generated memes” and videos designed, without human intervention, to do whatever it takes to get the viewer to watch a little bit longer. This has understandably driven them mad, to the degree that, as one character puts it, they even “believed that the people in the cities actually gave a shit about them enough to come and take their guns and other property,” and as a result stockpiled ammo in order to fight off the “elites” who never come.

    slate review

  7. Lynn says:

    @Teve: “I was surprised–only about 3-5% of americans identify as vegetarian, and way fewer (with one outlier poll), like 0.5%, are vegan.”

    Hard for me to believe, given the number of veggie types I know. Fortunately, none of them proselytize.

    I quit eating meat back in about 1983. I used to run into all sorts of people who were concerned about my health, wanted to know if I’d be ofended if they ate meat in front of me, or got defensive. Now, people just say “Oh, OK,” if it comes up. Much better this way.

  8. Teve says:

    @Lynn: I expected it to be higher, and there is one poll i found from last year with 6% of americans IDing as vegan, but there are a dozen from the last 40 years showing much lower numbers. I understand both the health aspect, though the picture w/r/t sat fat is more complicated than it was believed, and from an ethical aspect, but my real interest is that modern animal farming is an unsustainable environmental disaster that’s going to end one way or another.

  9. Franklin says:


    @Teve: “I was surprised–only about 3-5% of americans identify as vegetarian, and way fewer (with one outlier poll), like 0.5%, are vegan.”

    Hard for me to believe, given the number of veggie types I know. Fortunately, none of them proselytize

    Agreed, Lynn, those numbers don’t seem right to me personally. And also agreed that (almost) all of my vegan/vegetarian associates are totally reasonable about it.

  10. Franklin says:

    @Teve: And all agreed with that post, too. I’m certainly eating less meat these days, enough so that my body can’t seem to handle beef anymore. But to give it up entirely would require me to re-prioritize my life, and that’s not simple.

  11. Kathy says:


    I was curious, so I looked up some numbers and I was surprised–only about 3-5% of americans identify as vegetarian, and way fewer (with one outlier poll), like 0.5%, are vegan.

    They likely make up a disproportionate fraction of the loud and obnoxious 😉

  12. MarkedMan says:

    @Franklin: Those numbers seem about right to me. My family and friends run the gamut from blue collar to working scientist to corporate executives and I would guess that 1 in 20 or 1 in 25 are vegetarian. My guess is that if I was in coastal CA that number would be higher and if I was in central Illinois that number would be lower. Among all my acquaintances I only have two, a couple, that I would put in the extreme category. They spend literally hours every day searching for and cooking the purist of ingredients and making virtually everything from scratch. Grinding grains, that kind of scratch. Their dog is a vegetarian. But as far as I know they don’t proselytize this, at least to those who don’t ask about it.

  13. MarkedMan says:

    Obama was at the NBA playoff game last night and got a standing ovation. Expect some especially obnoxious Trump rant today…

  14. Teve says:

    @Franklin: The numbers might be smaller than we think because maybe there’s a big fraction of people who are practically vegetarian, but not exclusively vegetarian, so they aren’t counted? I don’t know.

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Teve: @Lynn: @Franklin:

    Seems like perfectly reasonable #s to me. I know only 1 vegetarian out here and iirc from my days in STL only 3 or 4 there. I don’t expect my personal experience living in the backwards boonie woods and working construction to be representative of the whole, just a counterpoint in relation to those who know a dozen or 2 vegetarians.

  16. Teve says:

    @MarkedMan: I was watching that. The entire stadium gave him a standing O. Then they started chanting “MVP! MVP!”

  17. wr says:

    @SC_Birdflyte: Yes. With one exception. Moses was smart.

  18. Teve says:

    WTF happened in the 3rd Quarter?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

  19. DrDaveT says:

    @MarkedMan: –

    “Unarmed blacks are orders of magnitude more likely to be shot in confrontations with police than unarmed whites.” The statistics just don’t bear this out. And it reduces the police violence problem we have to one of prejudice when it is actually a much deeper and more pervasive problem. (And one I believe is exacerbated by current training practices rather than mitigated by them.)

    While I agree completely about the training and culture issues here, I am very skeptical of your “statistics just don’t bear this out” claim. Can you point me to the statistics you’re basing that on? Can you find even one instance of a white kid being shot the way Tamir Rice was?

  20. MarkedMan says:
  21. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Teve: Thanks for the reference to Stephenson’s new opus. I’ve always enjoyed his work although I admit I never finished Anthem. The excerpt reminded me of William Gibson’s Peripheral. I think Stephenson, Charles Stross and Gibson have the best grasp of where we’re going and how we are getting there.

  22. Teve says:

    @Mr. Prosser: Don’t get me started on anathem. I tried twice and couldn’t get past chapter 3. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O rekindled my Stephenson love, and I just put in an InterLiberry Loan request for Quicksilver to reread that set.

  23. DrDaveT says:


    As a sidebar though, I’ve also said that there is nothing specific about Republicans or self described Conservatives or Libertarians that make this inevitable.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and I’m not so sure.

    I think it helps to think of every belief system as a religion; I have come to the conclusion that humans are hardwired to need a belief system that lives in the ‘religion’ slot in their minds, be it Buddhism or vegetarianism or personal fitness or whatever. The key, then, is how the religion interacts with demonstrable facts (i.e. science). Some religions find ways to deny or ignore the facts; others incorporate them.

    Liberalism is about goals and progress — wanting (all) people to be happier, healthier, smarter, more self-actualized, more productive, more secure, etc. over time. Liberalism’s reaction to new facts is to ask “how does this knowledge change my understanding of the best way to achieve these goals?”. Liberalism thus depends on science to inform tactics.

    Conservatism is about static moral principles — the sanctity of property, the importance of personal responsibility, the importance of personal liberty, the deference owed by children to their parents, etc. The commitment to these principles is not contingent on their being effective at achieving some goal (like peace or widespread happiness or social progress). As a result, learning facts about the consequences of certain policies does not sway conservatives. Conservatives don’t care what system of taxation would leads to the happiest, most productive, most rapidly advancing society — they object to taxation on moral grounds that are outcome-independent. Conclusive proof that Laffer was totally wrong would not change this. They similarly don’t care what the consequences would be of banning abortion, deregulating business, eliminating public education, etc. It’s not about the outcomes; it’s about what’s right. Conservatism does not recognize any possibility of progress, other than better enforcing the rule that people behave rightly.

    This is a caricature, but only to the extent that most conservatives self-delude. They think they care about outcomes, but when push comes to shove they always fall to the morality side at the margin. It is more important to punish immoral women than to prevent unwanted children. It is more important to protect property than to avoid social unrest or stimulate growth. It is more important to allow the market to be free than to prevent ecological disaster.

    So, to the original question, I think the places where liberals might be prone to the same syndrome are the places where the associated beliefs are the least outcome-based. Actual communists believe in the workers controlling the means of production in that way, but there aren’t enough actual communists left for that to affect the Democratic party. The PETA crowd want to free all animals regardless of consequences — that’s the best example I can think of on the liberal side.

    Note: I have avoided the confounding elements of racism and sexism here, not because they aren’t important but because I think they’re orthogonal to the overall point. Some conservatives believe it is right and natural that men dominate women and that whites dominate everyone else; it’s more a part of the moral compass than a goal to be achieved.

  24. Kylopod says:


    In truth, it seems like there are more liberals than conservatives in this category [anti-vaxxers].

    That isn’t clear to me. The polls are ambiguous: for instance, Pew found slightly more Democrats than Republicans expressing doubts about the measles vaccine, but it was a low percentage and well within the margin of error. At the same time, Pew found more Republicans than Democrats saying that vaccines should be a matter of choice.

    What is not ambiguous is that anti-vax views have been given a far bigger platform in the right-wing and Republican world than on the other side. Much of what has contributed to the stereotype of the “lefty anti-vaxxer” is the advocacy of a handful of liberal-ish Hollywood celebrities, but there’s very little of that either in progressive media or among Democratic politicians. Resistance to vaccines in the political world has come almost exclusively from Republicans. Only one presidential nominee of a major party has ever expressed doubts about vaccines, and he currently sits in the Oval Office.

  25. DrDaveT says:

    @MarkedMan: Thanks for the link. There’s some interesting material there. I do have some quibbles, though.

    1. I think ‘unarmed’ is a red herring. In many states, being armed is considered a basic right — it does not authorize the police to kill you. In other states, being armed with a knife (for example) is perfectly legal — it does not authorize the police to kill you. By focusing only on cases where the victim is unarmed, you lose most of the sample of unjustifiable killings. (Recently in the DC area a black woman with mental health issues was defying a police officer. He physically hassled her; she took away his taser. He stepped back and shot her repeatedly, point blank. She wasn’t armed when the encounter began…)

    2. The tails of the distribution are where the most information is. If a few black children playing with toys are being killed, and no white children playing with toys are being killed, that’s strong statistical evidence that the samples are coming from very different distributions.

    3. The key change in police behavior over time has been a willingness to shoot first. In my lifetime, the training has gone from “Don’t ever shoot first under any circumstances” to “Do what you have to do to protect yourself if you feel threatened; your survival is more important than your duty”. We don’t have data on the differential willingness of police to shoot first at white vs. nonwhite citizens.

  26. Gustopher says:

    @MarkedMan: Your linked blog post does not support your claim. Your claim was about shootings, but the Drum blog post is about fatal shootings — people can survive shootings.

  27. grumpy realist says:

    Remember the BuildTheWall clowns? Looks like they managed to get themselves in a BIG legal pickle even before accumulating all that money.

    (Doug will probably find this hilarious.)

  28. MarkedMan says:

    @DrDaveT: I think your third point is the crux of the issue. We seem to have been focused on “training” police without looking closely enough at what that training entails. The impression I get is that in the past couple of decades police training consists of scenario after scenario where a seemingly innocuous stop goes horribly wrong and the insufficiently careful cop ends up dead. The message seems to be “be ready to draw your gun in every situation; draw that gun as soon as you feel the slightest sense of unease; shoot first and ask questions later or your spouse and kids will be spending the rest of their lives without you. In other words, put innocent members of the public at risk of gun violence so you incur less risk.

  29. MarkedMan says:

    @Gustopher: Unless you think whites are orders of magnitudes more likely to survive a shooting than blacks and Hispanics, I think the ratios would still hold. Can you point to studies that show that there is a huge disparity in shootings?

    Look, I’m not arguing that the police don’t harass and abuse minorities disproportionately. Heck, I grew up on the south side of Chicago and had friends who had cops in the family. I have no doubt that many cops are racist to their core. My point is that reality matters or we may as well be Republicans.

  30. MarkedMan says:

    If you look simply at police shootings in general, and the likelihood that the victim is either black or white, then the rate at which blacks are shot versus white is three times higher. But the rate at which blacks are stopped is probably at least that much higher than whites. (It’s hard to find a good study since so much of the data is about traffic stops and not about stops in general. But even traffic stops are disparate.)

    So you can argue both ways. You can say that blacks are more likely to be shot by the police than whites, or you can say that blacks stopped by the police are less likely to get shot then whites. We can chase this incredibly emotional argument back and forth forever, but to what end? The bigger issue is that disparity of stops between black and white. And if (to paraphrase Hillary Clinton) you believe that passing laws or changing policies is more important than winning hearts and minds, why not broaden the issue even further and say that the issue is that cops are pressured to stop everyone who “doesn’t belong” whether that’s a black man driving into a wealthy white neighborhood or a poor white one driving a rust bucket with a taped on tail light? If what you want to is to change the policies for the better, what is the benefit of arguing over who suffers more? Look for the people who feel they suffer and work with all of them to pressure for change.

  31. Teve says:

    I’ve seen a lot of “How can Trump get GOP voters to go along with X when they always claimed to support Y?” and I think whatever you put in for X and Y, be it the constitution, or russia, or tariffs, or whatever, is a mistake. The GOP spent the last 60 years attracting less-educated rural white racists and now that’s who their voters are, and they support Trump in overwhelming numbers because he brings the racism.

    Kevin Drum just posted a list of just some of the highlights, and the theme is clear.

  32. Gustopher says:

    @MarkedMan: The number of police killings of unarmed people is so low that the data is basically useless for showing any patterns. Add more data (use more years, open it up to all shootings of unarmed people, or all shootings, or use of force….), and the pattern may emerge. The paper Drum cites uses only two years of data, and unless I am mistaken it only covers deaths from police shootings, which would leave out, say, choking a guy to death for selling loose cigarettes.

    As far as hunting down data goes, you’re the one making the claim. I’m just saying that your claim, limited though it is, is broader than your data. You may want to limit your claim further, or find better data.

    Drum is being a little sloppy, you’re being a little sloppy on top of that.

    Drum doesn’t have enough data to show significant racial disparities (it’s half his argument for why we know police aren’t shooting down unarmed black folks for sport, but looking at 10 years of data rather than 2 may show it). You are then taking Drum’s conclusions and paraphrasing them as broader than they are (going from killing to shooting, for instance).

  33. Gustopher says:

    @Gustopher: the fact that police seem to be shooting and killing less than five unarmed people a year (if those two years of data are representative) is a surprise to me, by the way.

  34. Teve says:

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

    Verified account

    Following Following @AOC
    More Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Retweeted Eric Lipton
    Seems like Trump’s DOT Secretary, Elaine Chao,has been caught trying to use her position to enrich her family’s shipping company.

    Her husband has lots of sway in US laws, too: Mitch McConnell.

    At this point it might be easier to ask where in this admin there *isn’t* corruption.Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez added,

    Eric Lipton
    Verified account

    The NYT heard way back in Oct 2017 that State Depart. officials had raised ethics concerns abt a pending trip by DOT Sec. Elaine Chao to China. After we asked abt the trip, it was cancelled. We sued State Depart to get the emails. Here is the result
    8:54 AM – 3 Jun 2019

    Let’s have a House investigation, headed by AOC, into Mitch’s wife’s corruption, on tv every day for the next 6 months. I’ll call ConAgra and make arrangements for an Orville Redenbacher tractor-trailer to back up to my porch. 😀

  35. MarkedMan says:


    The number of police killings of unarmed people is so low that the data is basically useless for showing any patterns.

    The first study was specifically about killing unarmed children, not all police killings. You had asked specifically about children. The second study I referenced in a followup post was about all shootings whether they resulted in death or not, and for all age groups.

    As far as hunting down data goes, you’re the one making the claim

    I’m challenging a claim that others are making, and that I assume from context that you support. When you challenged my statements I showed what they were based on.

  36. michael reynolds says:

    Neal Stephenson has a new book out? Yay! He’s a terrific ‘ideas’ writer.

  37. Mister Bluster says:

    Independence Hall Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    Saturday June 2 , 1787
    William Saml. Johnson from Connecticut, Daniel of St. Thomas Jennifer, from Maryd. & John Lansing Jr. from N. York, took their seats.

    It was movd. & 2ded. to postpone ye Resol: of Mr. Randolph respecting the Executive, in order to take up the 2d. branch of the Legislature; which being negatived by Mas: Con: Del: Virg: N. C. S. C. Geo: agst. N. Y. Pena. Maryd.
    The mode of appointg ye Executive was resumed.
    Mr. WILSON made the following motion, to be substituted for the mode proposed by Mr. Randolph’s resolution, “that the Executive Magistracy shall be elected in the following manner: That the States be divided into ——– districts: & that the persons qualified to vote in each district for members of the first branch of the national Legislature elect ——– members for their respective districts to be electors of the Executive magistracy, that the said Electors of the Executive magistracy meet at ——– and they or any ——– of them so met shall proceed to elect by ballot, but not out of their own body ——– person in whom the Executive authority of the national Government shall be vested.”
    Mr. WILSON repeated his arguments in favor of an election without the intervention of the States. He supposed too that this mode would produce more confidence among the people in the first magistrate, than an election by the national Legislature.
    Mr. GERRY, opposed the election by the national legislature. There would be a constant intrigue kept up for the appointment. The Legislature & the candidates wd. bargain & play into one another’s hands, votes would be given by the former under promises or expectations from the latter, of recompensing them by services to members of the Legislature or to their friends. He liked the principle of Mr. Wilson’s motion, but fears it would alarm & give a handle to the State partisans, as tending to supersede altogether the State authorities. He thought the Community not yet ripe for stripping the States of their powers, even such as might not be requisite for local purposes. He was for waiting till people should feel more the necessity of it. He seemed to prefer the taking the suffrages of the States instead of Electors, or letting the Legislatures nominate, and the electors appoint. He was not clear that the people ought to act directly even in the choice of electors, being too little informed of personal characters in large districts, and liable to deceptions.
    Mr. WILLIAMSON could see no advantage in the introduction of Electors chosen by the people who would stand in the same relation to them as the State Legislatures, whilst the expedient would be attended with great trouble and expence. On the question for agreeing to Mr. Wilson’s substitute, it was negatived: Massts. no. Cont. no. N. Y. no. Pa. ay. Del. no. Mard. ay. Virga. no. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geoa. no.
    On the question for electing the Executive by the national Legislature for the term of seven years, it was agreed to Massts. ay. Cont. ay. N. Y. ay. Pena. no. Del. ay. Maryd. no. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay.

  38. Stormy Dragon says:


    The statistics just don’t bear this out.

    Technically true, in that statistics that no one is actually tracking can’t bear anything out:

    There’s no good official data on how many people police kill each year

    Criminal justice experts have long known that these measures are flawed. ARD collects police-caused homicide data through state reporting coordinators, but the methods of collecting data can greatly vary from state to state, often depend on differing access to technology, and sometimes don’t directly involve police departments or coroner’s offices. SHR relies on reports submitted by police agencies, but these reports are voluntary — and some states, like Florida, don’t participate.

  39. MarkedMan says:

    James Randi, a true Skeptic, once described what caused him to be suspicious of a claim. (I’m paraphrasing from a decades old memory here). It was if the investigations of the claim moved asymptotically towards the margin of error with each iterative investigation. So, for example, there were claims made during the Rhine Institute years that people could affect material objects with their minds (telekinesis). These were often reported as people being able to “make a coin come up tails every time” or “make a pair of dice roll 7 every time”. But the reality was quite a bit less, something like a 3-4% better than chance effect under real testing. Still statistically astounding, even if not noticeable to the casual observer. However, there were significant questions raised about the experiments. Without going into detail suffice it to say that if the supposed telekinetics had been able to affect things in the 10% or greater range there would be no question, but that the experimental flaws meant that the 3-4% could be margin of error. Over the course of years different experimental regimes were tried, each more exacting and refined. And every time the results were just slightly better than the margin of error. If the MoE was 1%, the results would be 1.3%. When a new experiment was tried with an MoE of 0.5%, the results would be 0.7%. This went on until an experiment was conducted in the 80’s or 90’s which involved the radioactive decay of an isotope and a telekinetics effort to tilt it one way or the other. The margin of error was a tiny fraction of a percent, and the result, ta-da, was just slightly outside that range. But if you looked at the history, we had an initial claim that was huge – Someone could roll 7 every time. This was followed by a rigorous experiment that seemed to show that although the effect might not be noticeable to the naked eye, it was big enough that someone could make a living at the craps table. But every refinement led to diminishment of outcomes, to the point where I last looked in on it and the latest claim of vindication was so far removed from the initial claim that I’m not sure if it could have any practical affect even if real.

    I’ve internalized this to mean: don’t chase a social argument into a statistical rabbit hole. In the discussion above we have an initial horrifying claim that is believed by many progressives: the police gun down unarmed blacks at an astounding rate. Anecdotally, I had one 20 year old belittle me because I didn’t “know” that a black man was hundreds of times more likely to die in a traffic stop than a white man. But every time we look at the data with more detail, the effect becomes less and less. I’m not saying there is no effect, but I’m saying that it is not as dramatic or obvious as initially thought. Any time we try to use it to create sociologic change we are going to get completely sidetracked into an argument about what is really going on.

    On the other hand, we have dramatic and repeated statistics for how cops stop and harass people of color on a regular basis. The data show up in NYC’s stop and frisk statistics, and many, many cities’ and states’ traffic stop data, among other things. This data is irrefutable and HORRIBLE. It is a travesty. Any negative interaction with the police generates a small chance that someone’s life can end up in a downward spiral, regardless of actual innocence. The fact that black people are more likely to be arbitrarily stopped inevitably leads to an increase in black lives negatively affected. Why base our arguments for police reform on hazy statistics that are hard to parse and can be easily argued with when there are incredibly compelling statistics that make an airtight case?

    Again, to paraphrase Hillary Clinton, “F* changing hearts and minds. Let’s change laws and policies.”

  40. MarkedMan says:

    For only the truly geeky (but hey, this is an open forum) an excerpt from a paper talking about the dimishing but always positive effect on chance vis-a-vis die throwing:

    The dice meta-analysis (Radin & Ferrari, 1991) comprised 148 experimental studies and 31 control studies published between 1935 and 1987. In the experimental studies, 2,569 participants tried mentally to influence 2,592,817 die casts to land with a predefined die face uppermost. In the control studies, a total of 153,288 dice were tossed (a) without a specific target aim or (b) under a control condition in which the dice were tossed specifi- cally as control runs (Radin & Ferrari, 1991, p. 65). The experi- mental studies were coded for various quality measures, including a number of those mentioned by Girden (1962a). Table 1 provides the main meta-analytic results.2 The overall effect size, weighted by the inverse of the variance, is small but highly significant ( ̄ t .50610, z 19.68). Radin and Ferrari (1991) calculated that approximately 18,000 null effect studies would be required to reduce the result to a nonsignificant level (Rosenthal, 1979).3 When the studies were weighted for quality, the effect size de- creased considerably (z 5.27, p 1.34 107; see Table 1 for comparison) but was still highly significantly above chance.
    Table 1
    Main Results of Radin and Ferrari’s (1991) Dice Meta-Analysis
    Radin and Ferrari (1991) found that there were indeed problems regarding die bias, with the effect size of the target face 6 being significantly larger than the effect size of any other target face. They concluded that this bias was sufficient to cast doubt on the whole database. They subsequently reduced their database to only those 69 studies that had correctly controlled for die bias (the “balanced database,” in which the target face had been alternated equally from one side of the die to the opposite side). As shown in Table 1, the resultant effect size remained statistically highly significant, although the effect size decreased considerably. How- ever, the effect sizes of the studies in the balanced database were statistically heterogeneous. When Radin and Ferrari trimmed the sample until the effect sizes in the balanced database became homogenous, the effect size was reduced to only .50158, and it fell yet further to .50147 when the 59 studies were weighted for quality. Only 60 unpublished null effect studies are required to bring the balanced, homogenous, and quality-weighted studies down to a nonsignificant level.4 Ultimately, the dice meta-analysis did not advance the controversy over the putative PK effect be- yond the verdict of “not proven,” as mooted by Girden (1962b, p. 530) almost 30 years earlier.

    The original, even higher results from the Rhine Institute years made mistakes by only looking at people who “demonstrated” telekinetic ability. So they would sample hundreds, even thousands of students and then find someone throwing significantly above chance. But in a sample size of thousands you would expect a few to be significantly above chance. They doubled the odds by saying that if someone threw significantly under chance it was just as significant as throwing significantly over. In fairness to Rhine and his colleagues, once this was pointed out they did adapt and correct their experiments. The whole enterprise only really collapsed when some deliberate hoaksters (amateur magicians) used basic sleight of hand and misdirection to skew the results. They were instructed never to deny they were cheating if asked, but they were never asked.

  41. DrDaveT says:


    So they would sample hundreds, even thousands of students and then find someone throwing significantly above chance. But in a sample size of thousands you would expect a few to be significantly above chance.

    25 years ago or so, I was involved in an extended multi-way argument on UseNet on the topic of “clutch hitting” in baseball. It was incredibly difficult to explain to some people that the existence of people who have hit significantly better “in the clutch” than in other situations over their entire careers is predicted by the hypothesis that there is no such thing as an ability to hit better in the clutch. In fact, you can quantify exactly how many hitters you would expect to see with career numbers a certain distance over/under their non-clutch averages, and (guess what) the actual proportions in Major League Baseball are pretty much right where you would expect them to be under the null hypothesis*. Also, the year-on-year serial correlation of clutch performance for individuals is essentially zero for the entire population, and the distribution of the sequences of signs (positive vs. negative) year over year is what you would expect to see if you were flipping coins.

    These arguments are not convincing to people with no academic training in probability.

    *You do have to correct for the fact that above-average left-handed hitters have overall poorer clutch numbers than predicted under the null hypothesis, because they tend to face disproportionately left-handed pitching in clutch situations, and suffer in performance for that reason. Right-handed hitters have smaller platoon differentials, and do not face specialist relievers as often. Or, they didn’t 25 years ago, anyway…

  42. MarkedMan says:

    @DrDaveT: Even well educated people who think they are the smartest kids on the block have trouble with statistics. (Yes, I mean you, surgeons.) Years ago I was part of team looking to see if my company should attempt to purchase Intuitive Surgical, maker of the DaVinci Surgical Robot (really a remote controlled device, not a robot). At the time 95% of the paid surgeries (as opposed to demonstration or experimental) for the DaVinci were prostatectomies. So I got deep into the whole field and eventually came across data that showed conclusively that in the US you were more likely to be severely negatively affected (death, impotence, incontinence, debilitating pain) by an unnecessary prostatectomy than to have your life saved by removing a cancerous one before you expressed symptoms. Whenever I brought this up with surgeons (admittedly, obliquely – I wasn’t trying to educate them but rather have them educate me) they failed to understand the statistics involved. By god, they had taken out dozens of tumors from pre-symptomatic men and those tumors were cancerous and therefore they had saved those lives.

    Prostate cancer is almost always very slow growing (but there are exceptions). In Europe, where they don’t do annual digital exams (if you don’t know what this is, you aren’t a male that has reached 50 yet), they only check if someone has started showing symptoms (pain, incontinence, etc). Despite this, their death rates are equivalent to ours. Since that time I have (much to my psychic relief) not had a digital exam at my annual checkup.

    A few years back, this debate reoccurred with breast cancer. It turns out that the idea that you always have to treat early when you find a tumor is not correct, especially now that we can detect very small tumors. You can have a cancerous breast tumor that may never grow or spread. What’s the harm in removing it? Well, mastectomy or lumpectomy with cancer and chemo. But surgeons and oncologists were outraged at the panel that revealed the study. It’s not that they just didn’t understand the statistics, the statistics made them angry.

  43. Monala says:

    @MarkedMan: I recently watched Ava DuVernsy’s Netflix mini-series about the Central Park 5, When They See Us, and have been doing some reading about the case since then. One positive outcome of their exoneration is that many states, including New York, now have laws requiring that the entirety of custodial interrogation be recorded, not just a confession that may or may not have been coerced.

  44. Monala says:

    @DrDaveT: Many conservatives also care more about holding certain beliefs, than about whether or not their actions are in alignment with those beliefs. I think this is a outgrowth of the “faith rather than works” mindset of evangelicals. Thus, a pro-choice woman who has never had an abortion and has several children is more “immoral” in their eyes, than a woman that proclaims she is pro-life but has had several abortions. (See, she can repent, but the pro-choice woman doesn’t think she needs to repent!) In a recent discussion with a anti-abortion guy, I asked him about the Republican state legislators who are exempting IVF embryos from their “personhood” laws. He said, I kid you not, that that’s legitimate because it’s about intent (beliefs). If you have an abortion, you intend to kill and therefore it’s wrong, but if you do IVF it’s because you want to have a child. If a few or even many embryos die in the process, it doesn’t matter since that wasn’t your intent.

  45. Teve says:

    @Monala: I think it’s very likely that abortion bans which were intellectually coherent and therefore banned IVF would cause great discord and nasty looks and uncomfortable conversations down at the Country Club, is why the politicians made the exemption.

  46. Monala says:

    @Teve: For the politicians and big donors, of course. For ordinary Joes like the guy I was arguing with? They’re the ones who need to figure out a way to ignore or work around any cognitive dissonance.

  47. Kathy says:


    It’s not that they just didn’t understand the statistics, the statistics made them angry.

    That’s rather common. Remember the old saying there are three kinds of lies? Lies, damned lies, and statistics?

    BTW, thanks for bringing up james Randi. He is an amazing person, quite aside from his stage name.

    And thanks for bringing up dice. I think Asimov observed that if some psychic “power” were real, psychics would be inside of casinos minting a fortune every day. Man, if you could bring down a seven on command, we’d make a fortune playing the don’t pass line in craps.

    This brings another thing to mind: dice control.

    There are ways of taking advantage of games of chance, no matter how carefully the house rigs them in their favor. Counting cards in blackjack is the best known, but alas rather easy for the casino to counter in many ways. In craps there was a notion early this century that one could control the dice, by careful adjustment of each throw, and controlling how the dice were “set” before throwing.

    The whole thing made sense. The people promoting this talked of averages, claiming that not everyone could learn to throw in a controlled fashion, how some people would be better than others, and how even a perfect throw does not guarantee the desired result every time. This all rings true.

    But attempts to verify such things were inconclusive. No one has done a rigorous study, that I know of, but some people involved in gaming math looked at the matter.

    For me, though the clincher is that dice control promoters sell overpriced videos and apps, and hold expensive seminars at an actual working casino, the M Casino just south of the Strip.

    Casinos are hard on cheaters, actual or perceived (technically this applies to advantage play, even though ethically it’s not cheating), and have a near-zero tolerance for them. No way if dice control worked that any casino would let it go on openly within their premises.

    There’s the physics to consider, too. Dice made for craps have very sharp corners and are balanced on all sides. The rules state your dice must hit the back wall of the table, which is made of trapezoidal rubber pyramids. Ok. This rule isn’t strictly enforced. I miss hitting the wall from time to time myself. All that happens is one of the dealers, or the boxman if there is one, will ask me, nicely, to please make sure to throw hard enough to hit the wall next time. But these factors conspire to randomize the dice as much as possible.

  48. Mister Bluster says:

    Republican Scum Finally Washed Down the Sewer

    Earlier This Week:
    GOP lawmaker defends blocking disaster relief vote during recess
    Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and John Rose (R-Tenn.) followed Roy in taking action to block the bill during the House recess.
    Roy on Monday also cited concerns with the bill’s impact on the national debt, arguing Congress needs to take strides to cut spending.


  49. MarkedMan says:

    Finally an answer to the question, “Have we ever had a more lazy and stupid President?”, Trump today appeared unaware that Theresa May has already resigned as Prime Minister, effective Friday.

  50. Mister Bluster says:
  51. sandra says:

    @MarkedMan: DESK.HELP (at) GMX. C0M, these guys waere able to hack companies email,he his a very good ethical hacker.