Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

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Dan is a student at Georgetown University. He is currently trying to think of a new biography for this space.

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This blog translated:


Two wrongs don't make a right, but three lefts do.

"There are three types of lies - lies, damn lies, and statistics." - Variously attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, Alfred Marshall, Mark Twain and many other dead people.

Currently reading:

Songbook by Nick Hornby

The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

You should read:

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

Bobos In Paradise by David Brooks

Madam Secretary: A Memoir by Madeleine Albright

Damned Lies and Statistics by Joel Best

Books written or edited by my professors (well, only the good ones)

Nick Barr

The Economics of the Welfare State

The Welfare State As Piggy Bank

Chris Dougherty

Introduction to Econometrics

David Gewanter

The Collected Poems of Robert Lowell (ed. with Frank Bidart)

In the Belly

The Sleep of Reason

Meredith McKittrick

To Dwell Secure

John McNeill

The Human Web (with William H. McNeill)

Something New Under the Sun

Max-Stephan Schulze

Western Europe: Economic and Social Change Since 1945

Greater Blogtopia

Abu Aardvark
Across the Atlantic
Asparagus Pee
Bohemian Mama
Brazos de Dios Cantina Carl with a K
Chip Taylor
Conceptual Guerilla
D-Squared Digest
Dilettante's Guide to Life
Egotistical Whining
Enemy of the People
Equilibrismi ridanciani Fester's Place
Fleeting Impulse
Funny Farm
Grammar Police
Head Heeb
I Know What I Know Interesting by Association
Impolite Company
Internet Activism
Jacqueline Passey
John Hoke
John Lemon
John Scalzi
Kick the Leftist
Kids Korner
Kieran Healy
Liquid List
Loopy Librarian
Mark Maynard
Martin Stabe
More White Teeth
No More Mr. Nice Blog Notes on the Atrocities
Open Source Politics
Passenger Pachyderms
Peevish...I'm Just Saying
Politics and Policy
Quantum Skyline
Radical Review
Random Points
Risa Wechsler

Sha Ka Ree
Sick of Bush
Signifying Nothing
Something's Got to Break
Talking Dog
Tom Runnacles
Truth is a Blog
Vaguely Right
Vast Left Wing Conspiracy
Vulgar Boatman
We Report... You Deride

Weblog Commenting by

Listed on 

Boot Bush! Donate to the DNC today

2004 ESPN Information Please Sports Almanac

"Everything to Everyone" by Barenaked Ladies

"In Between Evolution" by The Tragically Hip

"Phantom Planet" by Phantom Planet

The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell

"One Plus One Is One" by Badly Drawn Boy

"Sultans of Swing" by the Dire Straits

"Best of the Talking Heads" by the Talking Heads

How Shareholder Reforms Can Pay Foreign Policy Dividends, James Shinn, ed.

Weaving the Net, James Shinn, ed.

Fires Across the Water, James Shinn, ed.

Panasonic ES8017SC Men's Triple Blade Pro Curve Rechargeable Linear Shaver

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Friday, March 26, 2004
More minor adjustments to the template.

I've been watching far too much of the NCAA tournament lately, and it seems that far too many of the close games degenerate into foul-fests at the end of the game. (witness Wake Forest vs. St. Joseph's as I write this). So, can I make a suggestion?

Make any foul beyond the three-point arc during the double bonus worth three foul shots, rather than the current two foul shots. This would offer a pretty significant discouragement to fouling every single player anywhere near the ball whenever a game gets close in the final minute.

Another alternative, I guess, would be to create a triple bonus, so that any fouls after the tenth or so, would automatically result in three shots.

Something has to be done, though. The final minute of a game should not take fifteen actual minutes to be carried out.

Thursday, March 25, 2004
In the middle of a surprisingly intelligent Newt Gingrich op-ed arguing for free trade and ensuring that America 'insources' jobs by "by making America the best place in the world to create the next high-value-added, wealth-creating jobs," the former Speaker speaketh:

"The debate, then, is between those who embrace the future and those who try to prop up and defend the past and who, in the process, crush the country's growth potential. One example: The result of failed protectionist policies in West Germany has been massive unemployment, with many young people never having held a job. It is a situation that instills a sense of malaise and decay."

Er, no.

There are plenty of cases where protectionism led to economic decay (including pretty much everywhere during the Great Depression, though this was worsened strictures on foreign exchange and capital movements at the time). West Germany wasn't one of them.

West Germany actually maintained fairly low trading barriers with its neighbors in Western Europe in industrial goods from 1951 (the founding of the ECSC) and agricultural goods from 1958 (the founding of the EEC/EC/EU). Now, the EU certainly maintains plenty of idiotic barriers against trade from outside its borders (the CAP is largely a subsidy program, but it creates numerous trade losses). That said, barriers to trade within the EU are almost nonexistant, and much of German trade has historically been unaffected by tariffs. (of course, there's an argument to be had that their major trading partners were major trading partners because of trade diversion rather than trade creation).

The recession in Germany after reunification was largely the result of an ill-conceived currency policy at reunification that drastically overvalued the East German Mark relative to the West German Mark, spending policies that caused the junking of the EMU in 1992 and led to much uncertainty in neighboring economies as well as Germany, and plenty of market inefficiencies due to problems with the structure of the welfare state and strict regulations on the labor market. Basically, it was everything but protectionism.

Monday, March 22, 2004
Gregg Easterbrook is complaining about "the NCAA's disgraceful new policy of not disclosing the graduation rates of men's basketball teams"

First of all, I'm not entirely sure it's new - plenty of colleges have been doing their damnest to suppress the true graduation statistics for a while (this is true insofar they estimate that students can take six years to graduate when scholarship athletes only get four years of tuition covered).

More than that, there are, as I understand it (this with the caveat that I'm not a lawyer and don't play one on TV), pretty sound reasons for not disclosing certain academic information such as graduation rates where it is possible to discern information about specific individuals from the broader data. FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) and the Buckley Amendment basically make life a lot more interesting for university administrators by making the disclosure of much of the information that a university must keep illegal to disclose publicly. I've been involved with numerous activities at Georgetown that have required me to either sign Buckley waivers or to be reminded of the need to avoid any disclosure of sensitive information to avoid making myself or anyone else eligible for lawsuits. Of course, then again, this also gives universities an incentive to hide behind FERPA and the Buckley Amendment whenever they don't want to give out certain information (as Georgetown notoriously did following the death of a student in an altercation in early 2000).

For those wishing to denigrate the recent statements of Richard Clarke on the Bush administration's attitude on terrorism before 9/11 and focus on Iraq afterwards as the result of partisan sniping from a former Clinton administration employee (see Pundit, Insta for one example), it's worth noting that Clarke originally came to work for the Reagan White House and stayed on in various posts working for George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He's not exactly the partisan stereotype.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004
More thesis crap

Does anyone know of a good historical data set that involves annual numbers on poverty in developed countries over the last half-century or so? Theoretically the World Bank should have something along these lines somewhere, but I haven't been able to find anything in the format I need there as of yet. Thanks.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004
There's a rumor going around campus tonight that Craig Esherick will be out tomorrow as head coach of the Georgetown men's baskeball team. It's not clear as to whether he is thought to have been fired, re-assigned or resigned.

None too soon, really.

It's not that Esherick's a bad guy. He's certainly dedicated almost all of his adult life to the Hoyas basketball program. And I have no doubt that he's a damn fine assistant coach, gets along well with the alums and Georgetown community more generally, and would probably make a fine Athletic Director. It's also clear - and I've seen this far too much over the last couple of years - that he's a horrible head coach. He can't manage during the game worth a damn, and can't recruit worth a whit (the only top-notch player we've had over the past few years was Mike Sweetney, who actually committed to John Thompson shortly before he resigned). We've done horribly in the Big East in recent years - though we're still perfectly capable of beating the crap out of MEAC teams. It's pretty clear that he can't motivate at all either (and he's about admitted as much in a couple of interviews recently). Which has basically left us with a coach who does very well at running practices and very poorly at everything else.

More than that, Esherick has steadfastly tried to take credit for the success of 1970's, 1980's and early 1990's while denying any responsibility for the recent troubles. At the press conference after the first-round loss in the Big East tournament last week, Esherick blamed our crappy record this year without once acknowledging that he was ultimately responsible for that recruiting.

It's possible that the decision was made in response to a rally that was put together by a bunch of alums that was scheduled for tomorrow. The alums had also put together a petition here that had about 3600 signatures at last check.

Then again, it's just a rumor.

(If true, this will bring about the rumors about who they're going to hire. There will be some pressure, no doubt, to bring in a big name. Which ain't gonna happen, since the school is pretty much broke. My guess would be that they'll lean towards one of John Thompson's sons - Ronny, a former GU assistant coach who's currently an assistant coach at Arkansas, and John Jr., currently the head coach at Princeton - or Horace Broadnax, another alum who used to be the head coach - though not a particularly good one - at Bethune-Cookman. Possible extremely dark horses might include dragging either John Thompson or Lefty Driesell - whose son is currently a Georgetown assistant coach - out of retirement. )

UPDATE: And it's official. He's been fired. (honestly, could the President's office please get someone to write press releases who can actually make it sound like DeGioia is actually talking rather than writing press releases that sound like a committee wrote his quotes)

Tuesday, March 09, 2004
Moral Dilemma

I'm currently in the process of writing my thesis. Which is one of the reasons I'm not writing much here right now. I'm working in a fairly esoteric field in which there are very few existing academic papers (because it's a highly politically charged topic, I've decided not to discuss it here until I have at least have all the data before me). One of the papers was co-authored by John Lott. I'm seriously queasy about citing Lott, given his spectacularly unprofessional behavior in the past surrounding "More Guns, Less Crime" and the Mary Rosh fiasco. So, the question is: do I cite Lott, cite Lott with a footnote indicating that the man is all but entirely discredited, or just ignore the paper?

UPDATE (March 25): For those who are truly curious, I cited the paper in my literature review and included a footnote detailing Lott's behavior, as Tim Lambert suggested.

Sunday, March 07, 2004
Happy (slightly belated) blogiversary to Wizblog. Anyone who can refer to me as a trendsetter and still keep a straight face about it is fine by me.

Thursday, March 04, 2004
The shadow cabinet. As I've said before, it's a good idea.

Kieran Healy makes the argument that divorce is far more of a threat to the social order than gay marriage.

I agree. To a point, anyway. I'm all for restricting the use of no-fault divorce laws where children are involved. I've seen far too many times amongst my friends (and arguably, between my parents), where parents have just given up on a marriage rather than fight through tough times, and in doing so, causing serious emotional damage to their family members. This isn't to say that I'm against divorce in case of a fault (adultery, violence, etc.) or no-fault divorce where no children are involved. But social costs aside, allowing people to just give up on their families so easily is a bad way to run a society.

I haven't written much here in the last week or two because of midterms - I'm increasingly convinced that midterms are worse to deal with than finals, as the rest of university life doesn't come to a grinding halt during midterms as it does during finals - and regular posting (or what passes for it here) should resume shortly.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004
I'm not usually in the outrage-manufacturing business, but ...

I just came across this notice at the Political Graveyard. It seems that a bill has been reported out of the House Judiciary Committee in and is now before the House Energy and Commerce Committee to overturn the Supreme Court's Feist decision, which decided in 1991 that facts could not be copyrighted.

If passed, this bill would wreak untold havoc on the internet, forcing the removal of the Political Graveyard, Wikipedia, Froogle, Google News (both Google sites gather information from other sites), and numerous other sources of information, both on the internet and across all media.

Basically, if you want a dumber and more ignorant America, support the bill. Otherwise, you can send a fax to the committee members here (note: you have to register). You can also write your Representative here.