Mar 182012

Reality chartFour numbers:  10, 20, 30, and 20.

Me:  The average (arithmetic mean) is 20.

WSJ:  The reality may be a bit more complicated.  Some of the numbers are not 20.  The numbers include some that are larger and/or smaller than 20.

Me:  [Facepalm]

Sigh.  The above is not really from the WSJ, but page A5 of the print edition of the weekend WSJ has an item that’s even more ridiculous than the above.   It’s by a Dante Chinni and is titled, The Gingrich Effect:  What if it went away? 

Following a tough Tuesday night, calls have grown for Newt Gingrich to abandon his presidential run, even as he vows to battle on.  Some assume his departure would shake up the race, and supporters of Rick Santorum figure their man would benefit because more of Mr. Gingrich’s supporters would line up behind him than behind Mitt Romney.   The reality may be a bit more complicated.    Patchwork Nation’s demographic/geographic breakdown of counties suggests support for Mr. Gingrich varies greatly by community type, and from state to state.  In some states, such as Illinois, the impact of the Gingrich vote looks relatively small–Mr. Gingrich hasn’t won many votes in the type of places that make up most of Illinois’s population.  In others, such as Louisiana, it could be substantial. [Emphases are mine.]

The main problem is the statement,  “The reality may be a bit more complicated.”

No, the reality is NOT more complicated than that.   The situation may be more complicated than the simple summary, but that doesn’t mean the summary is wrong or any less real.     The summary may be wrong, but if is wrong it’s wrong because it’s wrong, not because it’s not complicated enough.   An accurate summary is reality, and a detailed breakdown is reality.   One is not more real than another just because it’s more or less detailed.

There are three questions:

  1. Is there a Gingrich effect?
  2. If yes, who would benefit?
  3. If yes, would it shake up the race?

The data that are presented on a chart show that the “Gingrich effect” is big in some places and small in others.    That’s interesting to know, but it doesn’t help us understand who would benefit or whether it could “shake up” the race.  The answer to the latter question would of course depend on more than just the numbers.    It’s hard to predict what the psychological effect of a vote shift would be, for example.

The numbers that are presented are interesting, but they don’t support the silly statement that, “The reality may be a bit more complicated.”   The reality may be different than what Santorum thinks.   If Newt drops out, Santorum may not benefit enough to make a difference.   But that’s not because the reality is more “complicated”.

Mar 172012

Grafton Street, DublinI usually downplay holidays and ceremonial celebrations to the greatest extent I can get away with.   But since it’s St. Patrick’s day, I decided to post a few photos from a day in Dublin that wasn’t quite St. Patrick’s day.  (We weren’t there on Patrick’s day.)   This one is from Grafton Street.

Inside the Guinness StorehouseNo Guinness in the house today (or most any day) but here’s one stop inside the Guinness Storehouse, the building where Guinness used to be made.

From the top of the Guinness StorehouseAnd a view from the top, where the “free” pint of Guinness is exceptionally good.

Mar 052012

Grange Hall in Calhoun County

I’m reading “The Granger Movement : A study of agricultural organization and its political, economic and social manifestations 1870-1880” by Solon Justus Buck (1913).  On page 103 Buck mentions one of the ways the Granges used to exert some political influence:

Another favorite method of attempting to influence legislation was that of interrogating candidates for office regarding their position on certain proposed legislative measures.

We could use more of that.   Written Q&A forums are not unheard of these days, but if we had more of them we might get around the tendency of the MSM to ask only the stupidest, most irrelevant questions.    A Tea Party group, for example, could establish an identity by insisting that the candidates for all offices a set of good questions.   The format could include followup questions, to get around the tendency of candidates to provide bland, meaningless answers or to change the subject.

Newspapers would be faced with a quandary.   On the one hand, they desperately need readers.   Q&A like this lend themselves to print more than broadcast, so this would give them a way to compete.  On the other hand, they would interfere with their mission of obscuring information.   But with the internet there is no reason that newspapers have to be the medium.

Here are some questions I’d like to see asked:

  • Is federal funding of NPR and CPB compatible with the first Amendment?
  • Do you support de-funding of Solyndra-type programs in order to end the appearance of corruption?
  • How important is it to replace a myriad of state regulations on insurance, health care, food safety, or any other topic, with uniform federal regulations?
  • Is there a connection between uniform federal regulations and companies becoming too big and monopolistic — too big to fail, even?