Archive for April, 2014

Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics, and American Innumeracy

29 April 2014

When asked what he thought his odds were on winning a big lottery, one ticket buyer said, “Oh, fifty-fifty. I either win or I don’t.” Unfortunately for him, this poor guy is without a clue the actual odds were millions to one against him.

Unfortunately, this Mother Jones article argues that typical Americans are “unlikely” to be much more sophisticated than this lottery ticket buyer. In fact, it’s “very likely” they do not know the specifics of how scientists working on IPCC reports use these terms:

“Study: It Is “Very Likely” That Scientists Are Confusing Us about Global Warming”

Here’s a handy chart of what they mean when they use certain words:


So, after reading that, where do you fall on the scale of numeracy and comfort with statistics? Here’s a bit from the Mother Jones article. Read it and answer one question:

According to Budescu’s research, while the IPCC intends for “very likely” to mean a greater than 90 percent likelihood, that’s not necessarily the message the average person hears. Instead, when Budesco and his colleagues asked members of the public to assign a probability to the term “very likely,” the mean estimate people gave was just 62 percent.

OK, here’s the question. What does “mean” mean in the next to last line of this quotation?

If you don’t know, it’s “very likely” you ain’t that all that good with basic statistics and also “likely” you ain’t good with math at all.

Yeah, I know. It’s “virtually certain” I’m pedantic.



Dirt Poor

19 April 2014

“Chinese Battle to Make Land Fertile Again”

Give us but a a few years. This is our future too.


Update: The Still Wild West

14 April 2014

Bundy. I’m starting to wonder if there’s something about this name. Ted, the family in Married with Children, and now Cliven Bundy, the guy who obeys the laws of Nevada and doesn’t recognize the federal government. All Bundys. Coincidence? Simply bad luck for the many wonderful people who also carry this surname? I don’t know.

In any event, this article from ThinkProgress provides some possible solutions for Cliven and his followers:

“Three Ways That Nevada Rancher and His Right-Wing Militia Supporters Could Wind Up Behind Bars”

These are all reasonable possibilities. I’m ashamed to say I keep fantasizing about drone strikes. That’s probably because I suspect the underlying issue here has less to do with political freedom and more to do with wanting a free lunch–or in this case free grazing land.


The Still Wild West

13 April 2014

I fail to see how failure to pay grazing fees, which are ridiculously cheap, constitutes government interference. I especially don’t understand how failure to pay grazing fees is a First Amendment issues.

I also wonder what took the government so long to act.

“Koch Groups Back Rancher Making Violent Threats Against Federal Government”

And then THIS happens?

“Feds Halt High-Profile Seizure of Nevada Rancher’s Cattle Due to Safety Fears”

“Feds Release Cows Gathered in Nevada Roundup”

National government cowed by lawbreaker? The USA gets weirder by the day.


“Fox News Climate Change Coverage Is Now 28% Accurate, up from 7%”

9 April 2014

A 21% improvement sounds good, doesn’t it?

“Fox News Climate Change Coverage Is Now 28% Accurate, up from 7%”

Of course, sometimes it just means there’s a lot of room for vast improvement.


Study: CO2 buildup could affect food quality

9 April 2014

As if our food quality hadn’t already declined enough because of the quantity over quality methods of modern farming.

Summit County Citizens Voice

Wheat field in Upper Austria A wheat field in Upper Austria ripens under a summer sun. bberwyn photo.

Protein levels in key grains could decline by 3 percent

Staff Report

FRISCO — Along with cutting yields of some key crops, increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide is also expected to affect the nutritional quality of food crops. Field tests by UC Davis scientists show that elevated levels of carbon dioxide make it harder for some plants to convert nitrogen into proteins.

“Food quality is declining under the rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide that we are experiencing,” said lead author Arnold Bloom, a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. “Several explanations for this decline have been put forward, but this is the first study to demonstrate that elevated carbon dioxide inhibits the conversion of nitrate into protein in a field-grown crop,” Bloom said.

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Energy: Anadarko to pay $5.15 billion fine for fraud

6 April 2014

If I remember correctly, the policy of reaping profits and then declaring bankruptcy was the historic tactic of mining companies in Montana and elsewhere. Make a fortune, split it among top officials, then wave hands in the air and say, “Now bankrupt. Can’t clean up mess. So sorry.”

Summit County Citizens Voice

aasdf Trail of toxic waste catches up with corporate polluters.

Largest ever toxic waste settlement will help communities around the country

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A trail of toxic waste sites around the country finally caught up with Kerr-McGee and various subsidiaries of Anadarko Petroleum Corporation last week.

Under a settlement agreement with the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice,  Anadarko will pay $5.15 billion to a litigation trust. According to the EPA, the settlement is the largest recovery for the cleanup of environmental contamination in history.

The award came after a bankruptcy court in New York found that Kerr-McGee and the Anadarko subsidiaries played a shell game, selling off assets to try and evade their liabilities for cleanups at toxic sites around the country.

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Expletive Deleted Cheney

2 April 2014

“Students Walk out on Dick Cheney During Speech”

One question: Why only a couple dozen?