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Politics

SXSW: Nate Silver Discusses Data Bias, the Strangeness of Fame 136

Posted by samzenpus
from the listen-up dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Nate Silver feels a little odd about his fame. That's not to say that he hasn't worked to get to his enviable position. Thanks to his savvy with predictive models, and the huge readership platform provided by The New York Times hosting his FiveThirtyEight blog, he managed to forecast the most recent presidential election results in all 50 states. His accuracy transformed him into a rare breed: a statistician with a household name. But onstage at this year's SXSW conference, Silver termed his fame 'strange' and 'out of proportion,' and described his model as little more than averaging the state and national polls, spiced a bit with his algorithms. "It bothered me that this was such a big deal," he told the audience. In politics, he added, most of the statistical analysis being conducted simply isn't good, which lets someone like him stand out; same as in baseball, where he made his start in predictive modeling. In fields with better analytics, the competition for someone like him would be much fiercer. He also talked about, despite a flood of data (and the tools to analyze it) in the modern world, we still face huge problems when it comes to actually understanding and using that data. 'You have a gap between what we think we know and what we really know,' he said. 'We tend to be oversensitive to random fluctuations in the data and mistake the fluctuations for real relationships.'"
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SXSW: Nate Silver Discusses Data Bias, the Strangeness of Fame

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  • silver is honest (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SlippyToad (240532) on Monday March 11, 2013 @11:50AM (#43139783)

    I think Silver stands out because unlike too many modern American politicians, he is interested in the facts, and not what bullshit he can use the data to support.

    So it's not so much that he's done a fantastic job figuring all this out, it's just that he's fucking honest about the results unlike a certain perpetually-deluded political party I'm sick of naming.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JayBean (841258)

      I think Silver stands out because unlike too many modern American politicians, he is interested in the facts, and not what bullshit he can use the data to support.

      So it's not so much that he's done a fantastic job figuring all this out, it's just that he's fucking honest about the results unlike a certain perpetually-deluded political party I'm sick of naming.

      You are only thinking of one perpetually deluded political party? I have the opposite experience. I can't name a political party/organization that wasn't perpetually deluded.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pezpunk (205653)

        "both sides are equally bad/dishonest/wrong" is the biggest political cop-out ever. it's sad that such pat vaguaries aren't instantly embarassing to the faces they so often fly out of.

        • by Hatta (162192) on Monday March 11, 2013 @12:07PM (#43140003) Journal

          Both sides are not equally wrong, but that doesn't mean both sides are right. The Republicans are wrong 99% of the time. The Democrats are wrong 95% of the time. Why can't we field a candidate who's right even half the time?

          If you vote for the party that's right most often, you're still voting for someone who is almost always wrong.

          • Deadlocking them produces the best feasible outcome.

            The only time to worry is when ether of them controls executive/senate/house. Good thing whenever that happens both parties go to full on 100% wrong playing to their respective bases and they quickly lose enough control to restore deadlock.

            • by sjbe (173966) on Monday March 11, 2013 @12:18PM (#43140141)

              Deadlocking them produces the best feasible outcome.

              Except on the periodic occasion when we need them to do actually something. You know, like not endlessly raise the national debt because they want to promise everything but don't want to have to tell the voters they have to actually pay for it someday.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by HornWumpus (783565)

                Whenever they 'do something' they make that worse.

                The Ds think they don't have a spending problem. The Rs think only the Ds have a spending problem.

                That said: In a global 'economic war' deficit spending is the counter to currency pegs. The problem is the end game of that, leave both China and their customers fucked. That and exchange rate shifts that should be between the Yahn and all western currencies appear between the yahn/dollar and other western currencies.

                • by sjbe (173966) on Monday March 11, 2013 @01:54PM (#43141237)

                  The Ds think they don't have a spending problem. The Rs think only the Ds have a spending problem.

                  It's not solely a problem with either the Ds or the Rs really. It's a problem with the voters who elect them. Their disagreements usually are just a symptom of the problem. WE are the ones who demand all these services (medicare, defense, etc) but WE are the ones who vote people out of office who dare to suggest it will cost something and that we might have to pay taxes for them. WE are the the ones who refuse to acknowledge that we might not actually need 11 aircraft carrier battle groups or perhaps we might be ok with a bit less Medicare. Our leaders are to an alarming degree a reflection of our own dysfunction. It's easy to blame them but collectively if we want to point fingers the mirror is a good place to start.

                  • That's a basic defect of democracy.

                    It became broken when FDR fucked the constitution and started transfer payments.

                    Now that a majority of voters don't pay significant taxes we are permanently fucked.

                    • It became broken when FDR fucked the constitution and started transfer payments.

                      Ummm, sure... whatever. I'll just nod my head and pretend that makes any sense at all even though it doesn't.

                      Now that a majority of voters don't pay significant taxes we are permanently fucked.

                      Where did you get a ridiculous notion like that? Your name isn't Mitt Romney by an chance is it? Most people pay quite a lot of taxes. Not enough to cover Social Security, Defense and Medicare but they pay about 2-3 Trillion per year to the federal government alone. Most pay some combination of Federal Income tax, FICA (Social security + Medicare), State income tax, property tax, vehicle registr

            • by Hatta (162192) on Monday March 11, 2013 @12:19PM (#43140147) Journal

              You can't deadlock them, you can only deadlock us. The Democrats and Republicans have a lot more in common than they have differences. The rich people who control the Democrats have much more in common with the rich people that control the Republicans than either have with any of us. The worst thing that could happen to the Democratic party is for the Greens to win some major elections.

              If the Democrats are 95% wrong, and the Republicans are 99% wrong, that means that 90% of the time they are completely unopposed in doing the wrong thing. If you vote for either Democrats or Republicans, that's what you're voting for.

              • Thank god they don't agree on the '95% wrong' they share.

                Most of the places they agree (e.g. copyright lasts forever) technology is making the law irrelevant.

                • by Hatta (162192) on Monday March 11, 2013 @12:48PM (#43140517) Journal

                  But they do. Warrantless wiretapping, eternal copyright, the war on drug users, the ever increasing militarization of the police, the for-profit prison industry, and a DOJ that cares more about Aaron Swartz than about John Corzine, etc, etc,. The Democrats and Republicans agree on most of the most harmful policies that afflict this country. And when they pretend to disagree (e.g. Rand Paul on domestic drone strikes), it's all for show.

                  • by kermidge (2221646)

                    You're on a roll today. Couldn't you have waited until Tuesday? [grin]

                  • Problem; technical solution

                    Warrent-less wiretapping; ubiquitous strong encryption.

                    eternal copyright; thepiratebay and its successors.

                    the war on drug users; state legalization, lack of money for federal cops, indoor grows.

                    Paramitilitaization of police; ubiquitous civilian video recorders.

                    Fucked up DOJ priorities; Cold light of day via internet.

                    Where the Ds and Rs agree, they agree to make war on the tides. As long as the net retains it's out of control nature, that won't change.

                    • Mexico is Mexico's problem. They could legalize tomorrow and solve their drug lord problem. They don't because their government is the same as their drug organizations.

                      The current drug war in Mexico is a reflection of the PRI's loss of total power. The new government's gangs are taking over.

                      Government should not be trusted by it's people. Find me a trusted government and I'll show you a problem government.

                      A low power, largely ignored government is a great solution. Best we can conceivably get.

            • I wonder if this is actually the cause of the current national debt problem in the US.

              Neither get all three branches, so they can't resolve the problem as they see fit (austerity vs tax increases). All they can do is increase the national debt and kick the proverbial can down the road for someone else to deal with. This is not the best feasible outcome for the country because at some point the 4th Amendment will kick in an they'll have to pay someone.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by HornWumpus (783565)

                Whenever ether side gets exec/senate/house it goes full on 'spend like drunken sailors'.

                Neither side has the balls to do anything unpopular unless their is a crisis driving them. Crisis is the worst possible time to try to 'fix' things.

                We've been on pure print money, sell the bonds to ourselves sense the US federal reserve took on the roll of 'buying' all 'leftover' bonds at auction. There is NO market rate for US treasuries because their is no functioning market. That process ends with inflation not d

              • by hedwards (940851) on Monday March 11, 2013 @12:54PM (#43140589)

                The cause of the debt in the US, is that the GOP believes in spontaneously generating wealth. They book the projected increases in revenue as being real when balancing the budget, but fail to make any adjustments when that turns out to not be the case.

                Ultimately, the Democrats at least understand that you need real revenue in order to balance the budget and you have to actually make real cuts to the DoD which alone could more than finance Obamacre with the waste in war spending without having to cut back on things that actually matter.

                • Another "slash the DoD to the bone" liberal. You know that doesn't work, right? We don't do Obamacare not because it is hideously expensive but rather because it is unconstitutional and tyrannical.
              • I wonder if this is actually the cause of the current national debt problem in the US

                No, that's just the Republicans trying to force cuts to social spending that they're too chickenshit to propose themselves. They call it "starve the beast" and it is an intentional strategy. The kind of strategy you'd ordinarily use to destroy a country.

                • by tbannist (230135)

                  It's darkly amusing, because the Republican gambit is based on them assuming that the Democrats are more competent and responsible than they are, because they want to force the Democrats into cutting the social programs that they don't dare cut.

            • No it doesn't.

              Idiot.

          • by sjbe (173966) on Monday March 11, 2013 @12:30PM (#43140305)

            Both sides are not equally wrong, but that doesn't mean both sides are right. The Republicans are wrong 99% of the time. The Democrats are wrong 95% of the time. Why can't we field a candidate who's right even half the time?

            Because "right" is for better or worse often a matter of opinion. There is no single objectively right answer for many questions. Think abortion or gun control. Lots of opinions on both sides but there is never going to be a single "right" answer. At best there might be a consensus but probably never a unanimous one. Even for questions where a single objectively right answer may theoretically exist, there often is insufficient data to figure out what that answer is. (for example what is the optimal tax rate)

            • by Hatta (162192)

              There is no single objectively right answer for many questions.

              The problem is when there is an objectively right answer, and neither party will stoop to even asking. e.g. Cannabis reform, which I mentioned in this post [slashdot.org]. Most of our problems are caused not by honest disagreements, but obstinance and dishonesty, and Obama is no exception.

            • What?! Why do you think it's called political CORRECTness? Those are the objectively right opinions. Otherwise why would all the smart people hold them?
          • by greenbird (859670)

            The Republicans are wrong 99% of the time. The Democrats are wrong 95% of the time.

            Except the difference isn't statistically significant. In other words who is wrong more is lost in the noise of wrongness.

          • by hedwards (940851)

            That's why you don't vote for the party, you vote for the candidate. If you vote for the candidates that are right more often, there's at least some hope of positive change. But, if you vote for people that are can't manage to be write even 5% of the time, then well, why would you expect any improvements?

            The point is, that the GOP lately has been promising to burn down the economy and people are surprised that the economy isn't doing any better, well maybe if the GOP would show some actual interest in worki

            • by Hatta (162192)

              That's why you don't vote for the party, you vote for the candidate.

              Yeah, that worked out really well for Obama voters. No, what you do is vote against the current party system. Anyone who is not a D or R is better than anyone who is. Any of the third party candidates in 2012 would have been better than either Obama or Romney. The most important thing is to break the two party hegemony.

          • If you have a problem judging politicians as a whole, why is it OK to judge parties as a whole? Vote local, and odds are one of your candidates is doing better than the party line on the "being wrong" scale ... vote for those candidates often enough and maybe you can bring those averages down to the 50% mark ... Stick with your party-line black-and-white politics, and you end up only averaging things out.
        • by greenbird (859670)

          "both sides are equally bad/dishonest/wrong" is the biggest political cop-out ever.

          I'm not sure how you can possible call that a cop out since it's 100% correct.

          it's sad that such pat vaguaries aren't instantly embarassing to the faces they so often fly out of.

          I'm assuming you meant vagaries but that doesn't make much sense. Not sure why you would consider it that erratic of a notion. It's been pretty consistent for quite a while now that the US government (either party) doesn't have the interest of the people as a priority and they're largely usurping the constitution to achieve what ever priorities they do have. Perhaps vagueness? Nothing vague about it. Just get your news from somepl

          • I'm not sure how you can possible call that a cop out since it's 100% correct.

            Except it's not.

            Both sides is most definitely an intellectually lazy copout, and you're doing it right here.

            And the Galt reference in your .sig just reinforces to me that you are too politically naive or ignorant to have any real opinion on these topics. You haven't put the effort into it.

            • by SlippyToad (240532) on Monday March 11, 2013 @01:56PM (#43141251)

              Just to pile on, when you say "both sides do it," you are implicitly refusing to deal with the actual topic at hand, which is for example "budget" or "national security," or whatever.

              So when you do that, you are basically throwing up your hands and saying "who can know such things?"

              It's fucking lazy. Very, fucking lazy. I don't have much time to argue with people too lazy to at least delve into the elements of a topic. You obviously are.

              • Just to pile on, when you say "both sides do it," you are implicitly refusing to deal with the actual topic at hand, which is for example "budget" or "national security," or whatever.

                So when you do that, you are basically throwing up your hands and saying "who can know such things?"

                It's fucking lazy. Very, fucking lazy. I don't have much time to argue with people too lazy to at least delve into the elements of a topic. You obviously are.

                A few very big assumptions in there - very lazy of you. Shouldn't you have at least researched greenbird's personal record on researching the actual topics at hand? Maybe he deals with them explicitly instead of implicitly like you do ... Saying that both parties are equally wrong is just a blanket level statement, what you do with it is up to you. I'd say judging a politician by his party is the lazy approach.You're basically throwing your hands up and saying "I don't have time to judge the individual,

              • by greenbird (859670)

                Just to pile on, when you say "both sides do it," you are implicitly refusing to deal with the actual topic at hand, which is for example "budget" or "national security," or whatever.

                Pick your topic. Decisions are almost never made based on what's best for we the people. They're made based on who pays the most money. You'd have to be blinding stupid to think the copyright laws in this country are in the interest of the people. They're in the interest of the corporations that pay the most. Same for healthcare. Same for patent law. Same for gun control. Same for pick your topic.

                So when you do that, you are basically throwing up your hands and saying "who can know such things?"

                I have no clue how you managed to get that out of what I said. I definitively know such things. I know the curre

          • by fbobraga (1612783)

            "both sides are equally bad/dishonest/wrong" is the biggest political cop-out ever.

            I'm not sure how you can possible call that a cop out since it's 100% correct.

            You must be kidding...

        • by flonker (526111)

          Very interesting and insightful troll. I was tempted to mod you up, but I figured a reply would be preferred.

          Originally I disagreed with your post, but upon attempting to reply, I found that I agree that "both sides are equally bad/dishonest/wrong" is a cop-out, but I disagree that it's embarrassing. It's only embarrassing if you aren't doing anything to back up your belief, and voting is a good start, but it isn't enough.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Come back with your praise after four or five more Presidential elections.

      If he maintains his accuracy across multiple elections with much different dynamics, then he's on to something.

    • by nschubach (922175)

      I'm sure part of it is the fact that we like to "celebritise" people. He might have spoken out against something and people will latch on to it because it might also jibe with their train of thought. It's also part self gratification. If they can turn that person into a celebrity, they re-enforce their ideas through this man's "fame."

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's not about political parties, it's about our disfunctional national media. They're so in love with the "close race" that they'll basically start making stuff up about how candidates are "really close" so just stay tuned to this story, etc. etc. If you look at the actual polling data, nothing about either the 2012 republican primary or general election was ever anywhere near as close as the media wanted you to think. It was refreshing to have Silver there to cut through the bullshit, both in 2012 and in

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Nate is not a politician.

    • Re:silver is honest (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday March 11, 2013 @12:22PM (#43140193) Journal

      I think Silver stands out because unlike too many modern American politicians, he is interested in the facts, and not what bullshit he can use the data to support.

      So it's not so much that he's done a fantastic job figuring all this out, it's just that he's fucking honest about the results unlike a certain perpetually-deluded political party I'm sick of naming.

      Arguably, it isn't really politicians who he differs from most meaningfully. Sure, there are a lot of politicians living in absurd contrafactual fantasy worlds; but that is(unfortunately) mostly a product of the fact that they are acting as representatives of people who do exactly the same thing... Pandering is a nonfactual enterprise in the sense that it may involve telling people the most insane lies, if that is what they want from you; but it is an eminently empirical exercise in the sense that you must constantly strive to better understand what people want to hear, so that you can better pander to them.

      Where Silver, and his data-driven compatriots, really differ from the traditional is with the 'pundit' class. Pundits are selected pretty much entirely for their ability to tell emotionally compelling stories, with minimal reference to data, and provide marketable column inches and cable news minutes. The better ones, to their credit, are masterful in engaging audience emotions, weaving stories, and other affectively gripping flimflam. However, they tend to be somewhere between extraordinarily weak and overtly hostile to the idea that 'data' rather than 'feelings' can actually provide excellent information about the world, particularly if you use this crazy 'math' stuff that the nerds are always going on about.

      Pundits make good TV(and, very conveniently, can offer viewers everything from lowbrow talk radio shouting matches to middlebrow 'public intellectual' posturing with little more than a change in tone and presence or absence of a thesaurus, unlike stat-heads who pretty fundamentally lean on nontrival math); but the kind of suck [theatlanticwire.com] compared to statistical models.

      • by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday March 11, 2013 @01:35PM (#43141075) Journal

        Mod up! This is exactly what happened last November. It wasn't the politicians who Nate revealed had no clothes, it was the pundits. While stories abound about Romney's supreme overconfidence, I think one could tell from the Republican rank and file that they knew months before the election that Obama was going to win a second term and there was little likelihood that they could gain a Senate majority.

        But the pundits, now that was a group that was utterly stripped of any illusion of wisdom. They were proven to be absolute fools, little more than shouting ignoramuses. I hope that Silver and the other statisticians working on electoral prediction continue to hound this overpaid talking heads to extinction. In no small part, politics is as bad as it is because of the pundits.

      • Re:silver is honest (Score:4, Interesting)

        by WaywardGeek (1480513) on Monday March 11, 2013 @08:55PM (#43145057) Journal

        Thank God somebody finally decided to talk about TFA! Even though the poster didn't name the party that pisses him off, it's obvious what he meant, and that sent all the flamers over the edge. I can't recall such a long sequence of useless posts on slashdot, and that's really saying something!

        Yes, Nate Silver called out the Pundits. Even I could have done that. He went further, and pointed out a significant discrepancy between the national and state polls. He made a gut call and pointed the finger of bias at the national polls, and based his model mostly on the state polls. That he was right isn't what impressed me. Most of the Democratic pundits were already screaming about national poll bias. What impressed me was that he had the guts to point that finger right at the most respected name in polling, Gallup. He totally put his reputation and career on the line. He explained in clear detail why Gallup was wrong, and by how much. He predicted how much Gallup would be wrong, and explained how Gallup would spin their errors as being due to Hurricane Sandy, all before Gallup's final errors. Faced with this onslaught from Nate, Gallup, the most experienced polling organization in the world, following the script Nate predicted point by point. Gallup is about as useful as used toilet paper. They're frankly stupid morons. So, thanks for letting us know, Nate!

        • Just as icing on the cake, Silver's needling managed to elicit a truly adorable [gallup.com] public letter where, after some sputtering about 'changes' and 'continuing to evaluate methods' and suchlike, gets down to business and Accuses Silver(not by name, that'd be admitting it; but just those people who aggregate other people's polls, y'know, as an anonymous general class, of course) as free riders who will destroy the vital(Umm... Srsly?) business of polling and bring down the tragedy of the commons upon the beleague

          • Nice! I love how slashdot can ferret out people who know about topic. I'd post a wonderful article written several months before the election that clearly explained Gallup's poll bias in terms of several errors, such as pretending people without phones don't exist, while those people are likely to vote for Obama. However, the freaking pundits have buried it so far down in Google search results, I can't find it.

  • by areusche (1297613) on Monday March 11, 2013 @11:58AM (#43139887)
    Since when did South by Southwest become a tech conference? I find it interesting that all of these technology gurus are talking at a music festival. What's next, Ballmer speaking at Bonnaro?
    • by Antipater (2053064) on Monday March 11, 2013 @12:05PM (#43139981)
      http://sxsw.com/interactive [sxsw.com]

      According to Wikipedia, "SXSW Film and Multimedia", now split in separate "SXSW Film" and "SXSW Interactive" started in 1994, seven years after the music festival did.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There's two sxsw - this one is the interactive

    • Since when did South by Southwest become a tech conference?

      Apparently sometime around 1995 [wikipedia.org] though that part of the festival doesn't appear to have come into prominence until about 2005 or so.

    • There's three main SXSW festivals - Music, Film, and Interactive.

      Interactive is now the largest, by a pretty large margin. The Twitter launch really made SXSW explode. Then music is the next biggest festival, with more bands than you can imaging playing at official venues, side parties, fast food restaurants, on the street. Film is the smallest. Then there's the education festival, the comedy festival, the eco festival, the gaming exposition, the fashion show, etc., but those are all free, for industry

  • Science is rare (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Monday March 11, 2013 @12:02PM (#43139947) Journal

    Very, very little in this world actually happens because the data suggests its a good idea. People make decisions based on their comfort level, tradition, who their friends are, etc. Suggesting that we should listen to the data disempowers the powerful. It's 2013, and the principles of evidence based medicine were only developed 20 years ago, and are still not widely used in practice. We're going to have to wait centuries before evidence based public policy becomes the norm.

    • Optimism (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sjbe (173966) on Monday March 11, 2013 @12:11PM (#43140045)

      We're going to have to wait centuries before evidence based public policy becomes the norm.

      I think you are being optimistic. Very optimistic.

    • Re:Science is rare (Score:4, Informative)

      by Comrade Ogilvy (1719488) on Monday March 11, 2013 @12:39PM (#43140401)
      Evidence based public policy decision making is a recent innovation understood by a very small minority of the populace. Doing what will get you liked by people like you has been baked into our genes for millions of years.
  • Analytics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 11, 2013 @12:19PM (#43140157)

    Silver's rise to prominence most closely mirrors Google's. Find a good model and apply it to an area that has been underserved.

    When they write the book on the history of the Information Age, it will be about how we learned to leverage analytics for the common good.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      When they write the book on the history of the Information Age, it will be about how we learned to leverage analytics for the common good.

      Why do you assume it will be for the common good? Those most able to leverage analytics(the rich, powerful, and well connected) have the most incentive to use them for their own personal gain, regardless of what the common good is.

      • In the case of elections, leveraging analytcs means "create a political platform that people will vote for".

        • by Hatta (162192)

          Which is a different problem than creating a political platform that will have the best results. People will readily vote against their own interests if properly manipulated. Look at all the working class white people who vote Republican, for instance. People are more likely to use analytics to manipulate people into voting against their interests than for their interests.

          • Most "polls" that bypass the Do Not Call list are transparent efforts to figure out which bumper sticker or sound bite will manipulate the populace most efficiently. They have zero to do with getting input from the citizenry on the relative merits of a new public policy proposal. The only important policy input is provided by the corporations writing the checks.
  • Some guy uses an AR-variant to shoot some kids, and people are screaming for a ban on such rifles to make the country supposedly much safer.

    Two problems: One, such mass murders are an extremely small percentage of total murders, so even if you could stop them with a law, the statistical effect on murder would be negligible. Two, murders by rifle are a small percentage of total gun injuries/murders, and "assault weapons" make up a percentage of those, so even if you could remove every one from civilian hands

    • by dhammond (953711)

      You're ignoring the fact that truly effective gun legislation (e.g. total ban on gun ownership) is a political non-starter. Banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines may have very little effect on gun homicide rates, but at this point anti-gun lobbyists will take whatever they can get, and it is not irrational to start by banning the most egregious examples of gun proliferation even if it saves an "insignificant" or "negligible" number of lives.

      In other words: bad example.

      • by Quila (201335)

        Banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines may have very little effect on gun homicide rates, but at this point anti-gun lobbyists will take whatever they can get

        IOW, they want to ban something, even if it will have no real effect on crime, but they do it in the name of stopping crime. Thus my point.

        Oh, and sales of new assault rifles is already banned, and 99.9% of what they want to ban in magazines is normal-capacity, what the guns were designed for, not "egregious" high-capacity.

        • by dhammond (953711)

          Having a small effect is not the same as having no effect.

          • by Quila (201335)

            They are touting semi-automatic rifles with military-looking furniture ("assault weapons") and nomal-capacity ("high-capacity") magazines as the main danger to us, when in fact their complete disappearance from the country would have almost no effect on crime.

      • by Rockoon (1252108)

        You're ignoring the fact that truly effective gun legislation (e.g. total ban on gun ownership) is a political non-starter.

        Actually, it appears to be you ignoring the fact that "we must do something" is not a valid reason to do something.

  • Valid Criticism (Score:5, Informative)

    by Capt.Albatross (1301561) on Monday March 11, 2013 @02:18PM (#43141461)

    Cathy O'Neil (Mathbabe) offers a well-argued criticism of Nate Silver when he stepped beyond his area of expertise in his recent, popular book, '"The Signal and the Noise: Why so many predictions fail – but some don’t"

    http://mathbabe.org/2012/12/20/nate-silver-confuses-cause-and-effect-ends-up-defending-corruption/ [mathbabe.org]

    According to Ms. O'Neil, Mr. Silver fails to recognize situations where bad models are deliberately used to game that system.

  • When will his 15 minutes run out?

Dennis Ritchie is twice as bright as Steve Jobs, and only half wrong. -- Jim Gettys

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