I teach political economy and statistics at a large public university in the US. You can find my academic website here.

The Waste Book very occasionally collects my passing thoughts on politics, economics, statistics, data visualization, life, culture, and everything.

We aim for funny, will settle for intriguing, and, the times and the Internet being what they are, resign ourselves to a certain amount of bemoaning.



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naked promotion

politics · January 19, 2012 · comments

The Rime of the Texas Candidate

by Chris Adolph

So the idea is that on one of his hunting trips, Rick Perry shot an albatross?


um, hoover Institution? It looks like one of your fellows missed both 5th grade history on the presidents and 5th grade math on percentages:

Bill Whalen, fellow at the Hoover Institution, says today’s end to the Rick Perry presidential campaign dramatizes what can now officially be called “the 16-year curse of Texas politics” for presidential runs… Whalen’s take: when it comes to presidential politics, “Texas is boom and bust. You’re either Bush, father and son, and you go all the way.” Or “you’re the rest – and you can’t get out of the first round.”

Source: Carla Marinucci, “Perry latest victim of ‘16-year curse of Texas politics’ – either you’re Bush or you’re screwed“ Houston Chronicle, 1/19/2012.

So let’s look at the presidential campaigns of the last 16 years – that’s Whalen’s interval, and if anything, it’s stacked in favor of his argument, as he just manages to exclude the second-to-last Texas president from consideration.  read on

tags: bemoaning

politics · November 11, 2011 · comments

The Real 999 Plan:
A story of confidence intervals and confidence men

by Chris Adolph

“For every one person that comes forward with a false accusation, there are probably thousands who will say that none of that sort of activity ever came from Herman Cain.”

Source: Evan McMorris-Santoro, “Herman Cain: For Every Person Who Says I Harassed Them, There Are ‘Thousands’ Who Say I Didn’t,” Talking Points Memo, 11/9/2011.

herman cain’s argument is approximately as comforting as Sideshow Bob announcing to the neighborhood: “The following neighborhood residents will not be killed by me: Homer Simpson, Marge Simpson, Lisa Simpson, that-little-baby Simpson… That is all.”

Or to be a bit more scientific, maybe Cain is sending a coy signal of the true number of harassment charges we can expect to eventually hear about – he is a math major, after all. If, for every woman who’s claimed Cain has sexually harassed her, there are “thousands” who haven’t, then we have a confidence interval of sorts.

According to the Census, in 2010 there were about 120 million female residents in the us above the age of 18. So if out of these women there are “thousands” not claiming sexual harassment by Cain for every woman claiming sexual harassment, we can first establish an upper bound. Suppose that there are only two thousand harassment-claim-free women per putative victim – the smallest number that still qualifies as “thousands” – then Cain has received complaints of harassment from more than 60,000 women. This is the upper bound of the Cain confidence interval. But if there are 999,999 women allegedly unharassed for each claimant – the largest possible number qualifying as “thousands”, at least in colloquial speech – there are no more than 120 potential victims. The true number of women claiming Cain sexually harassed them could lie between these bounds.

Surely Herman Cain wouldn't leave us hanging with such a wide confidence interval. Maybe he’s left a clue to the actual number of women he has received complaints from. It might be a number sprinkled throughout his speeches. We should look for a number between 120 and 60,000. A warning, a boast, an aspiration – even a plan. Something he repeats often, to be sure.

Any guesses?

tags: satire

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Content © 2011–4
Chris Adolph

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