Archive for October, 2011

Border Security Revisited

Posted: October 23, 2011 in analysis

My first real posts on this site were a 3 part series about border security, my loyal readers may recall.  As you may recall, in part 3 of that series, I assumed that nobody was seriously discussing putting lethal deterrents on the U.S.-Mexican border (like minefields and electric fences), both for political reasons and for reasons of basic human dignity.

How wrong I was.  Herman Cain recently declared his plan to build an electrified fence on the border to keep out illegal immigrants.  He later said he was joking, but his description of the plan is lacking in humor.

It’s going to be 20 feet high. It’s going to have barbed wire on the top. It’s going to be electrified. And there’s going to be a sign on the other side saying, ‘It will kill you — Warning’

By now, you probably know how this works.  For the moment, let’s assume Mr. Cain was serious, and let’s set aside the issues of killing illegal immigrants in cold blood.  How much would a fence like this cost? (more…)

The Fallacy of the Base Rate

Posted: October 6, 2011 in analysis

This isn’t an analysis up to my usual standards, but I have been struggling for content these last few weeks.  Nothing out there seems to fit the somewhat particular requirements I have for a subject to write about; that it be a factual statement which requires aggressive or unorthodox analysis to get to the bottom of, but that there is a path of analysis to enlighten.  So, today I have a much simpler error, from

Writing about restrictions on unpasteurized milk, Bob Unruh observes:

The reason cannot be safety, the report said, since a report from the Weston A. Price Foundation revealed that from 1980 to 2005 there were 10 times more illnesses from pasteurized milk than from raw milk.

Unfortunately, this is citing a report (without giving details or linking to it) that cites another report that makes this claim.  I eventually found the original report here, only to discover that it has almost no further details about what it means.  From that report, we learn that there were 41 outbreaks and 19,531 illnesses attributed to pasteurized milk, and this is 10.7 times the illnesses for raw milk.  If you use the raw milk numbers later in the report, it comes out to 8.4 times, but they may be using different numbers.   It sounds damning, until you realize that this does not mean that an illness is ten times more likely from pasteurized milk.  The problem is that more people drink pasteurized milk, so even if illness is less likely, there will be more in total. (more…)