16 Jan Texas Sharpshooter – FT#40
The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy describes a situation where someone collects or examines a large amount of data without deciding in advance exactly what they’re testing, then chooses a sample which provides evidence for their existing opinion. It’s based on a story where an inexperienced gunman fires indiscriminately at the side of a barn, and then draws a target around the largest cluster of bullet holes.
We started out with this clip of Trump talking about job numbers in January 2017:
And we followed that up with this clip where he claims he intended for the entire UN General Assembly to laugh at him:
and finally we talked about this tweet where he picks the only good result from a very bad poll:
Marist/NPR/PBS Poll shows President Trump’s approval rating among Latinos going to 50%, an increase in one year of 19%. Thank you, working hard!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2019
In Mark’s British Politics Corner, we talked about the fact that YouGov’s strong showing in their 2016 poll was an inevitable by product of lots of polls happening:
re MRP: is there a potential Texas sharpshooter fallacy here? There were dozens of polls, projections, forecasts &c in 2017. You’d expect some to be close by sheer chance. Afterward, we pick one that was, & say “that one was the right one”, drawing a target around the bullet-hole https://t.co/CaNl2FiMN3
— Tom Chivers (@TomChivers) November 28, 2019
And we compared two recruitment firm’s very different takes on how Brexit has affected recruitment in the City.
In the Fallacy in the Wild, we looked at this clip from Numb3rs:
Then we discussed this clip from Derren Brown – The System:
We also talked about this XKCD comic:
And finally, we discussed p-hacking. You can try p-hacking for yourself at https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/p-hacking/
Here are the statements from this week’s Fake News game:
- You have areas where there’s so much water you don’t know what to do with it. You turn on the shower, you’re not allowed to have any water anymore. I mean we do a lot of it. Dishwashers, we did the dishwasher, right? You press it — remember the dishwasher, you press it, boom, they’d be like an explosion. Five minutes later, you open it up, the steam pours out, the dishes. Now, you press it 12 times. Women tell me again, you know, they give you four drops of water.
- We have a situation where we’re looking very strongly at sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms where you turn the faucet on — in areas where there’s tremendous amounts of water, where the water rushes out to sea because you could never handle it — and you don’t get any water. You turn on the faucet; you don’t get any water. They take a shower and water comes dripping out. It’s dripping out — very quietly dripping out.
- We’ve got the EPA look at — they’re looking at it on my suggestion — this toilet situation, where you flush and you get a tiny amount of water. They used to be so powerful, it was incredible and now you have to flush maybe 20 times and it still doesn’t work. It’s not me, but people tell me — they flush 20 or 30 times, they’re in there all day and it’s crazy. The water is there, so much water, but they don’t let you have it. We’re going to change that.
Click below for the answer
Mark got it wrong this week, so now he’s on 15/40, or 37.5%.
And finally, here are the stories we really didn’t have time to talk about:
- You’ve probably heard by now, but Trump authorised a drone strike killing Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. He did this, of course, as revenge for a rocket attack by a militia linked to Iran which killed an American contractor. No, wait, it was because Soleimani was planning on blowing up a US embassy. Which one? Er… Four of them. Which ones? Well, we don’t actually know precisely where or when the attacks were planned for, but they were imminent, and definitely not made up by us just now. What’s that? The Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, has said that he wasn’t shown any evidence that embassies were under threat? Well, when Trump said embassy, he meant the one that was attacked last week. No, we didn’t mention the imminent threat to four US embassies when we briefed Senators after the drone strike. Yes, the briefing that even Republican Senator Mike Lee called ‘insulting and demeaning’ and probably the worst briefing he’d ever seen. No, wait a minute, all the Senators in the briefing claim we didn’t tell them about the imminent threat to embassies, but we totally did. Anyway, we do have evidence, it’s just super secret evidence that we can’t show anyone. Jesus, why don’t you guys just trust us? Look, he was a bad guy. If you Democrats love terrorists so much, why don’t you marry one? Ok, yes, the Wall Street Journal did report that Trump was telling his friends that Republican Senators who he wants to keep sweet for the impeachment trial had been pressuring him to do something about Soleimani, but that doesn’t mean he did it for personal gain. Those are all real things that happened this week.
- Okay just listen to this headline – Real estate broker taps Vanilla Ice to pitch Trump family on putting presidential library on site of trailer park – not from The Onion but The Hill so its real! Well it’s in the Palm Beach Post actually – Realtor James Arena (reminds me of The Rutles joke – Che Stadium) has a mutual friend he shares with Trump; that good ol’ boy and just as culturally-appropriating in the 80’s; Vanilla Ice – I know! Apparently he ran it by Don Jr who said “They’re really into it” The site is called Briny Breezes – it’s getting higher-brow by the minute – 43 acres in Palm Beach primarily consisting of mobile homes. Arena wants Trump to buy it for $1 billion – after a previous sale at $510 million fell through in 2007. The residents are in need of the money as Arena says in a not-so-upmarket turn of phrase “If we get caught with our pants down, we’re going to get much less money and we’re going to be told what to do”. You can see why he thought of Trump hey? And actually where better to put the Presidential Library – let’s face it it’s not going to take up much room – how big a building do you need to contain a sharpie and a mobile phone – so the residents need not fear demolition! Arena adds “He could even name the place Trump Town” – which for us in the UK is deliciously close to Trumpton a 1960’s animated puppet show – except the puppets there don’t speak Russian! The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.
- During the whole Iran shitshow, Trump took a short break to commit war crimes on Twitter when he threatened to target 52 Iranian cultural sites with no military value. Administration officials quickly claimed that he didn’t mean that, and then Trump confirmed that yes, he totally did mean that, saying to reporters: “They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn’t work that way.” Actually it works exactly that fucking way, according to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. It’s like: now he’s been impeached he thinks he can just commit all the crimes. What are they gonna do – impeach him?
- Whilst we’re on the subject of YouGov polls – a December 27 2019 poll reveals that Germans think Trump to be a bigger threat to world peace than Kim Jung Un or Vladimir Putin. No surprise really if you watch biker-based films or tv series its always the guy prospecting to join the gang that’s much more dangerous than the established gang leaders, cos he’s just showing off (which as we all know is the very worst thing your mum could accuse you of!) A keen believer in polls Trump should be gratified that he leads the Fear Parade with 41 percent of Germans thinking Trump is the most dangerous, followed by Kim at 17 percent, Khamenei and Putin at 8 percent and Xi at 7 percent. – Even with Khameni and XI being added to last year’s list Trump still comes out top. And once again YouGov showed it’s expertise cos this was just before the drone strike on now-not-able-to-be-added-to-next-year’s-list Qasem Soleimani some 7 days later! I for one am going to stop taking the piss out of predictions from now on. Where’s my Nostradamus gone…
- Presumably, Thanksgiving was a difficult time for the committee to reelect the President, with all the committee’s liberal relatives complaining about Trump as they passed the turkey, because just in time for Christmas, they brought out a new website, brilliantly called snowflakevictory.com which promised to help Trump supporters win arguments with their commie pinko grandkids who moved to California. The site contains videos of luminaries such as Lara Trump giving viewers talking points that they can yell at their family while ignoring any replies, but to be honest it would have been a lot quicker just to say “cherry-pick the facts, and if you can’t do that, lie. It works for the Donald!” And remember, the snowflakes are the ones who don’t need to be told what to say when someone challenges their political beliefs.
- Slate.com reports all that we suspected, nay knew for sure, that Trump knows fuck-all about business or trade or defecits or money or anything, when they looked into a report from the Federal Reserve into how well Trump’s tariffs have served US businesses and workers and the job market. Not at all well is the Fed’s conclusion – President Donald Trump said that increasing the use of import tariffs would help protect U.S. manufacturers. Turns out though, his tactics did exactly the opposite, causing job losses while also increasing prices for consumers – “We find the impact from the traditional import protection channel is completely offset in the short-run by reduced competitiveness from retaliation and higher costs in downstream industries,” Basically Trump is running the racket like it’s a hooch-running cartel in Chicago in the 30s but they say “Trump’s entire strategy of tariffs to make gains domestically is a thing of the past due to the way in which global supply chains are interconnected.” the trade war is hurting the very sector it was supposed to protect. As we have speculated out loud in past episodes – of course it is, just look where the money’s going – as George Orwell reminds us “War only happens when the moneyed classes think they will profit from it”
- Trump and Christmas will always be connected, thanks to his six second cameo in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. That is, except in Canada, where national broadcaster CBC cut Trump’s appearance when it showed the film over Christmas. Trump, for once, genuinely took it quite well, joking that the film would never be the same, but his supporters freaked the fuck out, with Charlie Kirk claiming the clip was removed “because it humanizes a man the left loves to dehumanize”. Trump’s second favourite child, Don Jr, called it “pathetic” and an example of “virulent left wing media bias”. The fact that the edit was made in 2014, when CBC shortened the movie by 8 minutes to make room for more commercials, is presumably proof that the Deep State has a time machine. And they’re clearly using it in the most effective way possible.
- Okay Trump Playbook 2.0 being read from (well looking at the scribbly pictures) and enacted in the UK under Boris’ self-styled “Government of the People” part 1 – Appoint who you like: Nicky Morgan – she who can’t count nurses said she’d be standing down and wouldn’t be part of BJ’s cabinet under any circumstances was awarded a peerage – so she can sit in the House of Lords – the US Senate equivalent – and thus be appointed to the cabinet – which she has. No wonder she can’t count nurses she can’t remember from one day to the next apparently. And Zac Goldsmith who’d love to be in BJ’s cabinet but lost his seat in the election (second time he’s lost it in 3 years) got made a Lord too so he can be in the cabinet. The 2016 Brexit cry of “We’ve had enough of being governed by unelected politicians” ringing hollow enough yet? – as we were warned then “Take back Control” actually involved looking at who’s taking the control back!
Pt 2 – Control media scrutiny: The daily press briefings are being moved from the lobby of the Houses of Parliament to the reception rooms at Number 10 – cutting off the ability of the press to literally bump into random MP’s at their place of work and replacing it with timed and time-limited access to selected MP’s in another part of town thus meaning the press can’t be in two places at once and what’s being asked and answered can be carefully overseen. More depressing elected-dictatorship news next time, and for the following 5 long years…..!! Hey let’s join Harry and Meghan in Canada!
That’s all for this week, thanks for listening!