The Psychic Octopus – Modeling Magical Oracles of Irrational Processes, A Comment on Pielke and Silver


Wygart has a comment in over at Pielke the Younger’s blog on his recent post Parlor Games and Predicting Presidential Elections in which he discusses an article by Nate Silver at the NY Times on the ability of political scientists to predict elections based upon measurements of various [mostly economic] “fundamentals”

Silver asks:

Can political scientists “predict winners and losers with amazing accuracy long before the campaigns start”?

And his answer

The answer to this question, at least since 1992, has been emphatically not. Some of their forecasts have been better than others, but their track record as a whole is very poor.

And the models that claim to be able to predict elections based solely on the fundamentals — that is, without looking to horse-race factors like polls or approval ratings — have done especially badly. Many of these models claim to explain as much as 90 percent of the variance in election outcomes without looking at a single poll. In practice, they have had almost literally no predictive power, whether looked at individually or averaged together.

Pielke the younger says:

“Ouch.”

And he goes on, in his usual inimitable way, to dissects the issue, establishes the parameters of what a ‘skillful’ model would have to accomplish in order to prove its, er, skillfulness, how modelers fool themselves and others into thinking that their pet model has some skill, and then lays out the actual track record – not good.

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Abolition-Love Letters to Our Secret Lives


Every once in a while, unexpectedly, I encounter a reality so crystally clear and real that I have to say to myself, “time to pack it in, fold it down, close up shop, there is nothing I can really say here that contributes ANYTHING to advancing the human condition”.  This has been one of those days.

I noticed I had a visitor, so I followed her home, this is who found there…

An Ex Hooker’s Letter to Her Younger Self

There is really nothing more I can possibly say, except – read this – if you are a man especially, read this.

I feel like such a punter.

The Societal Scars of Slavery-Searching for Common Ground an Ongoing Dialogue


Cicatrices_de_flagellation

The Scars of Slavery, A man named Peter, Louisiana 1863 - source Wikimedia

I had a very kind comment from The Chiefio, regarding my previous post, A Comment on the Downfall of the Slavery Driven Expansion of the Antebellum United States, which was itself derived from a comment I made on a post over at his blog entitled Slavery Shrunk America.

As an aside – you can see immediately that The Chiefio and the Meme Merchants Consortium are operating on very different theories about titling posts.  Chiefio seems to be operating on the Norman Mclean [Scottish] model, and we MMC on the James Joyce [or Irish] model – oddly the MMC tends towards Scottish ancestry, and Chiefio Irish – go figure.

Naturally, my interests were somewhat tangential to Chiefio’s original post, which had more to do with how North South pre-Civil War political wrangling over the slave issue affected US expansionism southwards into Mexico, but we seem to be having some kind of a civil conversation on the subject – I’m loving it.  You can decide if its interesting to you.

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A Froward Child


William Blake Ghost of a Flea
Strange visions… ‘Ghost of a Flea’ by William Blake

On the home front this week I’ve been getting a lot of grief over the overly idealistic positions I take on a number of topics –  in other words I’m found to be wrong, or in denial by my family and friends.  So, I find myself in the very uncomfortable position of either having a very strong disagreement with friends and family – or – to shut up and sit on my hands on certain topics. – [Dr. Laura Schlessinger used to call this, ‘shutting up and being polite’]

Fortunately Michael Quinion of World Wide Words, [also a triple W – gotta love it, it alliterates] my go to guy for all things philological, has rescued me in my extemis, by providing me with just the right word to understand my predicament, I’m being froward [apparently].

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The Peregrinations of Chiefio-A Comment on the Downfall of the Slavery Driven Expansion of the Antebellum United States


William Tecumseh Sherman

William Tecumseh Sherman, 1865 by Mathew Bradey - The face of Experience.

I’m not sure what inspired the Chiefio on this particular foray into the history of the Gadsden Purchase, How Slavery Shrunk America, and how it played into the politics of antebellum US westward expansion, but where he leads I will follow… and register a comment.

The basic outline of the history of the Gadsden Purchase that he lays out jibes pretty well with what I learned as far back as high school, but the larger context is something I’ve missed till now, very interesting.  I think he did a good job pulling the various strands together, but I also think the point of how strongly the Antebellum South was driven to expand its slave holding was not put strongly enough.

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When the Uncertainty Monster Rears its Wicked Head Should We Tell the Truth?-A Comment on Curry


The Incredulity of St Thomas - Caravagio c.1601 - Truth is vouchsafed to the doubter

I have a comment in over at Judith Curry’s blog Climate Etc. on her recent post, Should We Tell the Whole Truth About Climate Change?  – Good long title there, I approve.  There are already almost 400 comments, so I am promoting my comment to a slightly expanded post here to cut through the torrent of bits over there.

Judy writes:

In principle, yes of course.  In practice, many journalists, scientists and government officials are not so certain as to how to balance telling the whole truth and being truthful in an “effective” way.

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The Rosenstrasse Protests-Towards a New Theory of German Resistance, and Why We Should Care


Rosenstraße Berlin

Rosenstraße Berlin today - source Wikimedia

The Rosentrasse Protests

I concluded my previous post The White Rose of Munich with:

For all the world’s peoples, not just the German people, the Nazi state, the Holocaust, represents an important lesson to be learned about being human and how we as peoples have to learn how to deal with events of such enormous terribleness as the Holocaust or other genocides.  The example of the White Rose of Munich help us all see how it is possible.

Well, this is the thesis I have been working on since 2006, the German people working through their collective guilt and collective shame as time passes, new scholarship emerges and new art is produced.  Why should we begrudge the German people a few generations to work through one of the darkest chapters in human history when in America, a hundred and fifty years after the fact, we are still trying to figure out what happened to us as a people with the issue of slavery and our own little Civil War.

Then I watched the movie Rosenstraße and I was sent back to the drawing board.

So far so good – I have developed the thesis that The White Rose as a resistance movement, and so poignantly symbolized by the martyrdom of Sophie Scholl, was fundamentally a failure in its own time, but gained its true significance only in the post-war years, initially in Germany and for the Germans, and more recently in the rest of the world, and with profound implications for the evolution of human society.

I will now attempt to extend my line of thinking, though I must point out this is merely a first pass with this new version of the thesis.  Again, this discussion is not meant to be a movie review, nor is it strictly a scholarly discussion of the history.  This discussion deals with the notion that the movie, which while inspirational to my thinking, isn’t the history, but is a mirror of the development of modern German attitudes about their history.

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Point to Pointman-Commentary on The Climate Wars


The Pugilists - Richard Blome c.1710

Pointman has another interesting post up at his blog today The Climate Wars which is starting to draw attention from some of the heavy hitters of the shorter wavelength end of the global warming/climate change frequency spectrum.  Steve Mosher has weighed in comments, and Anthony Watts has elevated Pointman to Quote of the Week!

In all seriousness, well done Pointman, you’ve worked very hard at this.

The thrust of Pointman’s post seemed to me to be about the how the current scandal surrounding Peter Gleick [fakegate, heartlandgate, gleickgate –  what have you] has turned into a state resembling guerrilla or asymmetric warfare between the so called skeptics and the alarmists, where the alarmists find themselves fighting a swarm of gnats where they imagine themselves to be fighting a cyclops.

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Victims of Their Own Oppression-Some Random Thoughts on Nazi Manipulation of Reality


Bundesarchiv_Bild_146III-373,_Modell_der_Neugestaltung_Berlins_("Germania")

I have some thoughts on the general subject of my previous post that did not really belong there, but might serve to expand the context in a useful way.  Books could, have been written on the subject, this post will not be one of them.  Necessarily there are many possible topics that I am not going to be covering, I will be presenting a smattering that were crossing my mind as I was writing the previous post.

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The White Rose of Munich-Naiveté, The Futility of Sacrifice and the Unanticipated Value of Martyrdom


Grab von Sophie und Hans Scholl und Christoph Probst, Weiße Rose, Friedhof am Perlacher Forst in München

Graves of the White Rose: Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst - source Wikimedia

I almost let this important anniversary slip by last Wednesday the 22 February, which marked the sixty-ninth anniversary of the executions of three members of the Nazi era White Rose resistance organization:  Hans Scholl, his younger sister Sophie, and Christoph Probst at Stadelheim Prison in Munich on that date in 1943.

I commemorate that event each year, usually by rewatching Marc Rothemund’s excellent 2005 film Sophie Scholl: the final days,  as a way to refresh my memory and my sense of moral outrage at the sad and tragic termination of one more example of German resistance to the Nazi regime under the heavy blade of the fallbeil.  As it turns out I spent that evening watching for the first time Margarethe von Trotta’s 2003 film Rosenstraße which depicts the events surrounding the 1943 Rosenstrasse Protests.  I’ve spent the last few days doing some reading and trying to put those two event into some kind of a context.

I’m going to try to keep this from turning into a couple of movie reviews, though obviously the direction of my thinking has been significantly impacted by the two films.

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