Political Sex Scandals Revisited

Posted: November 8, 2011 in analysis

Some of you may recall that last summer, I tried to build a model to predict the results of political sex scandals, and documented my efforts here and here.  The model was unusual, and it turned out to predict the then-current sex scandal (David Wu) very poorly.

Well, another sex scandal has made the news, so it’s time to put my model to the test again.  Hermain Cain’s scandal isn’t very interesting; quite frankly.  The variables that matter to the model are pretty straightforward; Mr. Cain’s scandal is nothing special.

  • Intensity: 5 – multiple instances of sexual advances, but no actual sex.
  • Unfaithfulness: 7 – Cain has been married for 40+ years, but hasn’t quite been accused of actually cheating on his wife.
  • Kinkiness: 3 – Nothing more than a little dirty talk.
  • Hypocrisy: 4 – Courting the religious right but having adulterous intentions.
  • Coercion: 6 – The actions were non-consensual.

The other ratings (such as Contrition, which is 1 (Cain denies the events), and Plausibility, which is 6 (there isn’t very strong evidence that they happened), aren’t a part of the model.

So, as a low intensity Republican with a coercive but not kinky scandal, the model does not predict a happy outcome for Mr. Cain.  Specifically, the result is a value of 0.16, which means he will most likely drop out of the race or lose the nomination.  But, this is the same model that predicted that David Wu wasn’t going anywhere on the precise day he announced his resignation, so take that with a grain of salt.

It should also be noted that only one of my model data cases (Jack Ryan) was a non-incumbent candidate for election, so the dynamics may be very different.  But I have the model, so it’s worth testing it again.  And the best way to test is to make the prediction in advance of the event, so there you are.

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? Read the rest of this entry »

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 wnd.com.

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Failed Ideas

Posted: September 19, 2011 in Meta

Finding good subject material to write about for this blog can be difficult.  Indeed, even once I have a what seems like a good idea for an article, sometimes it doesn’t pan out.  While I keep looking for more ideas, I thought I’d share a few of the past ones that didn’t really work out, for one reason or another.

  • An analysis of President (then candidate) Obama’s 2008 comment about putting air in tires instead of drilling for oil.  Won’t do it, because many people already did.  See here for a good example of what I would hope to have done, if they hadn’t done it first.  Looking into this helped me realize that I needed to seek claims and questions that would be subject to more unusual or unorthodox analysis, not just number crunching.
  • An analysis of a claim on Conservapedia‘s page describing public schools.  The claim is “Given that public schools educate about 90% of Americans, it is astounding how few prominent Americans attended public school after the banning of school prayer in 1962. ”  I actually did a large amount of research on this one before this blog existed, and collected a fairly large list of prominent conservative Americans sorted by schooling (my compulsion to do that research was one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place), but it doesn’t make sense to put it up here, since the methodology is pretty sloppy, and picking apart bias from Conservapedia feels almost unfairly easy.
  • An attempt to quantify military success rates of countries that allow gays to serve openly vs. those that do not allow gays at all, also based in part on previous research.  The problem with this is that most wars are messy things without clear winners and with multiple parties on each side, and data on precisely when each country might have changed its policies on gays in the military is even harder to find than just what that policy is.   The short version is that Israel allows gays to serve in the military, and if there’s a country on this planet that needs every bit of military efficiency it can get, it’s Israel.
  • Some sort of data-based analysis of the media coverage of Hurricane Irene relative to its tangible effects.  I had just started to ponder how to approach this analysis when I saw that Nate Silver did it better than I could hope to.
  • An analysis of the “13 keys to victory” election prediction that was making the rounds on the Internet.  While I waited for the book to come via inter-library loan, Nate Silver ninja’d me again.  I’m working on a different kind of analysis that complements rather than retreading what Mr. Silver did, but it is slow going.

Lightbulb Energy Savings, part II

Posted: September 8, 2011 in analysis

In part I of this article, we discussed whether or not high efficiency lightbulbs would cause sufficiently higher heating bills to offset their energy savings, and determined that, for one case of a St. Paul, MN suburban homeowner, they would not.

There are some more areas to explore about this, however.

LED Lighting

But what if my friend is concerned about warmup time, light quality, or the dangerous substances in CFLs, and decided to light his house with LEDs instead? Read the rest of this entry »

Lightbulb Energy Savings, part I

Posted: September 1, 2011 in analysis

The United States is set to phase out the current generation of incandescent light bulbs and replace them with high-efficiency alternatives (mainly compact florescents).  Complaints about this over-regulation have come from many quarters and with many justifications.  According to the naysayers, CFLS give off poor quality light, take a long time to warm up to full brightness, are hazardous to dispose of or if they break, don’t really last longer than incandescents, and don’t save any money because the waste heat from incandescent light bulbs actually helps heat your house in the winter.

Wait, what?  I’m not so interested in analyzing the others (suffice it to say that I have an apartment lit solely by CFLs and have encountered none of those problems) but I find it hard to believe that the waste heat from incandescent light bulbs is actually cost effective.  Bloggers argue this point here and here, among other places, and a more traditional news source discusses it with respect to colder climates here.

I have a basic logic-thermodynamic argument that this can’t be true, but I’ll save it for the end of the article.  Let’s step through the energy expenditures and costs for heating a home in the winter (and not forget cooling it in the summer), and see what we get.  I’ll use my home climate of Saint Paul, Minnesota, which is the coldest major US metropolitan area.  Because I don’t live in a house, and therefore don’t pay my own heating bill, I will borrow the numbers from a home of a friend of mine, but understand, I’m not talking about doing actual experiments here to test different theories.  I’m just using these numbers to frame the mathematics of my argument. Read the rest of this entry »

World History Revisited, (part I?)

Posted: August 19, 2011 in analysis

We return to World Net Daily yet again, but this time, it is the writings of Vox Day we are considering.  In this column, he said this.

As the military history of democracies from Athens to the United States of America will show, democracies are actually more aggressively militant than most non-democracies. In fact, there has never been a more democratically legitimate leader than Adolf Hitler, who, unlike the unelected neo-fascists of the present European Union, went to the people no less than four times to confirm public support for his actions.

Again, the conclusion of this statement is uninteresting, but the premise demands further analysis.  It is a very broad, sweeping statement, covering both ancient and modern politics, and making a bold claim counter to common wisdom.  So, lets try to figure out if there is any support for it. Read the rest of this entry »