American Elephants


Can You Trust “Big Data?” Not Really, Nor Little Data Either. by The Elephant's Child

big-data-skills-in-demand-are-a-mix-of-old-and-new-v21You have a computer by which you can visit this blog. So tell me, how do you get your news? The younger Millennials seem to get theirs from Facebook and Twitter and other social sites. Democrats rely on reliably Progressive websites, and Republicans assume from that bit of information that Democrats are unfamiliar with any websites that disagree with their conclusions.

Do you depend on “name” websites that you trust because everybody else seems to list them? Do you pay attention to a lot of individual bloggers (well, you’re here, so possibly you do.) What I’m getting at is who can you believe and who do you trust? What got me off on that theme was an article from February 22 of this year about “Big Data” in the Wall Street Journal, by Michael Malone. If the link doesn’t work, Google it, and do read the comments.

I wasn’t quite sure what “Big Data” was, compared to—little Data, so I looked it up. Merriam Webster: data: 1. factual information (as measurements or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning or calculation. 2. information output by a sensing device or organ that includes both useful and irrelevant or redundant information and must be processed to be meaningful. 3. information in numerical form that can be digitally transmitted or processed. That is, perhaps, helpful, but not exactly confidence building.

Hillary Clinton’s ‘Invisible Guiding Hand‘ had a statistician behind every strategic decision named Elan Kriegel.”To understand Kriegel’s role is to understand how Clinton has run her campaign—precise and efficient, meticulous and effective, and, yes, at times more mathematical than inspirational. Clinton advisers say almost no major decision is made…without first consulting Kriegel. ” That worked out well. But is perhaps a clue to Hillary’s uninspiring campaign.

At Maggie’s Farm, one of the group of authors had an article last year that I saved titled “Are We Overly Reliant on Data?” And his reflections on daring to ask the question.

A USAToday headline from September: The “VA quit sending performance data to national health quality site.” Saw an article today about a veteran who was unable to get the care he needed when a wound was full of maggots in a VA Hospital, and shortly died of sepsis.

From Climate Depot: “Italian meteorologist Colonel Paolo Ernan: Data manipulated to make people believe in global warming.” Well, yes.  It has long been apparent that alarm about global warming exists only in the computer programs devised to emulate the real climate of the Earth. They put into their programs what we know about climate, what we think we know, what they thought was likely and lots of pure guesswork. We know a little about El Nino and La Nina, for example, but we don’t know or understand much of anything about the actions of clouds. And if you want to know what is going to happen in 50 years, you’ll have to wait for 50 years to find out if you were right.

Holman Jenkins, writing in the Wall Street Journal at the end of August, 2014, “Big Data and Chicago’s Traffic-cam Scandal.”

Big data techniques are new in the world. It will take time to know how to feel about them and whether and how they should be legally corralled. For sheer inanity, though, there’s no beating a recent White House report quivering about the alleged menace of “digital redlining,” or the use of big-data marketing tactics in ways that supposedly disadvantage minority groups.

This alarm rests on an extravagant misunderstanding. Redlining was a crude method banks used to avoid losses in bad neighborhoods even at the cost of missing some profitable transactions—exactly the inefficiency big data is meant to improve upon. Failing to lure an eligible customer into a sale, after all, is hardly the goal of any business.

The real danger of the new technologies lies elsewhere, which the White House slightly touches upon in some of its fretting about police surveillance. The danger is microscopic regulation of our daily activities that we will invite on ourselves through the democratic process.

It seems that when you hear the term “The data tells us…” a caution flag should rise. You need to investigate a lot further. But everyone is relying on data, especially ‘big data.’ Hillary did, and is paying the price.  Her team pretty much shut Bill out. Bill certainly has some major problems with, um, integrity, but he has always had excellent political instincts. On the other hand, Hillary does not have any. But there you go, water under the bridge.

Who can you trust? Not much of anybody. Whatever it is, check it out. Governments at all levels are too ready to rely on what they are told is authoritative. We are all too dependent on our computers, but they are changing our world, and our dependence is making us more vulnerable.

ADDENDUM: Rereading this, I’m not at all sure I made myself clear. I am not railing at data. It is simply a fact of life, and as we use our computers, our choices and comments and what we just looked at becomes data. The search engines on which we rely for information— rely on us for information they can sell to marketers. If you drop by Amazon, as I did, find that they are having a sale on bras, you will be followed around the internet with a choice selection of what you looked at, all day.   As algorithms develop and refine searches, they will only get more intrusive. And we need good data, yet there is always the danger of over-dependence. Our only defense is a highly-developed common sense.

The case of computerized climate science is important. Climate alarmism, the belief that Earth is in danger, that the climate is changing and we have to save mankind has always been completely phony, but there are millions of true believers. The climate has been changing for millions of years. There are warm periods and ice ages. When the thermometers that the computer programs depend on for their data are situated next to air-conditioner vents or where acres of concrete reflect heat onto them, or they back up to a trash burner, the data is not going to be good. Ice cores help to tell about the past, tree rings are not so infallible.Satellite records are excellent, but don’t stretch far into the past.The rise of the oceans is measured in millimeters, not feet and in spite of Michael Mann’s claim that we’ll all be in trouble if the CO2 gets above 350 ppm,  greenhouses happily pump in 1,000 ppm to help their plants grow —you know there is something haywire about their data. Yet because the data is politically popular and governments act upon it, it becomes dangerous.



Donald Trump’s New Social Contract and Industrial Policy by The Elephant's Child

Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, stands for a photograph after a Bloomberg Television interview at his campaign headquarters in Trump Tower in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015. According to Trump, Janet Yellen's decision to delay hiking interest rates is motivated by politics. Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images *** Local Capton *** Donald Trump

Editor in chief of American Thinker Thomas Lifson has two important articles today, explaining Donald Trump’s Carrier deal. There has been much angst about the jobs saved at Carrier in the wake of tax incentives from the State of Indiana, because there are still a significant number of jobs going to Mexico. We misunderstand what Trump is doing, Lifson says, and explains what the President-elect has in mind. Do read both pieces, they really are important. What Trump intends:

He has announced that, reigning globalist economic theory to the contrary notwithstanding, the United States must maintain a manufacturing sector. The shift of manufacturing to low wage countries is not a law of nature, not an inevitability, and not a path that America will take in the future. We cannot abandon the regions of our country that have devoted themselves to manufacturing.  He has not mentioned the national security dimension of such a policy, but it is obvious to all but a few theorists that you cannot maintain a strong nation if you depend on others to do your manufacturing.

The combination of information technology, robotics, new materials, and many other advances (including management advances such as lean manufacturing and continuous improvement organizational disciplines) has squeezed low value labor out of manufacturing.  Global companies that locate within their most important market are able to create serious competitive advantages over companies assembling products in low wage companies through flexibility and rapid response time.

The second of the two companion pieces is “The Key to Trump’s Carrier deal: Next-generation manufacturing.” Do read both articles. There is a lot of important insight here.

Progressives are confident of their own knowledge and expertise, and feel completely confident in their ability to issue rules and regulations (backed up with enormous penalties to make sure you understand their importance) so that you will run your business in a way that the progressives find more agreeable. When I was looking for a new car last year, I learned the extent to which automobile design and performance has been changed and controlled by the EPA’s fuel efficiency standards. More aluminum, more substitution of light things for heavy things. One dealer said the outside mirrors would go soon because of that. Some have said that higher highway fatalities are probably due to the Fuel efficiency standards.

The addition of ethanol to gasoline, deadly for small engines like lawn mowers and appliances, has been shown to accomplish nothing in the prevention of greenhouse gases, and was a deal with the corn lobby to get enough votes to pass the 1990 Clean Air Act. Useless, but a highly expensive boondoggle that affected far more things than the amount of CO2 in car exhaust.

The federal demand to show calorie numbers for fast food on signs and menus has been shown to be completely ineffective because people don’t care. They know fast food is more caloric than an ordinary meal, but they want it because it’s fast and tasty. For the industry, the costs are enormous, but federal regulators are not interested in that. Ditto the drive for a $15 minimum wage, which is simply an unemployment program for the beginning or unskilled worker. McDonalds is already committed to a nationwide program of installing computer kiosks to replace workers.

The EPA is probably the biggest offender. Their ideas about what is environmentally friendly are weak on science and heavy on agency power and control. It’s an agency of zealots, and should be abolished. That may not happen, but their power will be cut back. Myron Ebell will be a terrific advisor on the EPA and it’s overreach.



Tucker Carlson Grills Journalist Nathan Allen by The Elephant's Child

We need a little more of this. The media is not doing right by us, and they should be told that we are aware of what they are doing. Good for Tucker Carlson.



Here’s Bill Whittle’s Response to the Election! by The Elephant's Child

Always provacative, and makes us think.



“The Great Liberal Freakout” by The Elephant's Child

Steven Hayward posted this review of “The Great Liberal Freakout” at Powerline yesterday. It’s so good it’s worth repeating.

The head of the Joint Center for Political Studies, which the Washington Post describes as a “respected liberal think tank,” reacted to Trump’s landslide thus: “When you consider that in the climate we’re in—rising violence, the Ku Klux Klan—it is exceedingly frightening.” Castro, still with us, said right before the election: “We sometimes have the feeling that we are living in the time preceding the election of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany.”  Claremont College professor John Roth wrote: “I could not help remembering how economic turmoil had conspired with Nazi nationalism and militarism—all intensified by Germany’s defeat in World War I—to send the world reeling into catastrophe… It is not entirely mistaken to contemplate our post-election state with fear and trembling.”  Esquire writer Harry Stein says that the voters who supported Trump were like the “good Germans” in “Hitler’s Germany.”  Sociologist Alan Wolfe is up in the New Left Review: “The worst nightmares of the American left appear to have come true.” And he doubles down in The Nation: “[T]he United States has embarked on a course so deeply reactionary, so negative and mean-spirited, so chauvinistic and self-deceptive that our times may soon rival the McCarthy era.” The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, keeper of the “Doomsday Clock” that purported to judge the risk of nuclear annihilation, has moved the hands on the clock from seven to four minutes before midnight.

Oh wait, did I say this was the reaction to Trump??  Sorry—these are what the left was saying the day after Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980. Some things never change.



Computer Problems: by The Elephant's Child
November 10, 2016, 1:05 am
Filed under: Blogging, Election 2016, Technology | Tags: , ,

I had intended to write several pieces today. Lord knows there’s a lot to write about, but I have been plagued for most of the day with an overactive mouse. The cursor simply will not behave. It will not go to the intended spot, it will not narrow a page, or allow me to correct a mistake. In the last few minutes, it has finally decided to behave. It is a complete mystery to me. Any ideas?



Celebrities, Have the Grace to Fulfill Your Promises. by The Elephant's Child

Late night last night, fortunately I could sleep in. Then had to take the cat to the vet. The Left was quite positive that the first woman to be president would triumph, and obviously the whole thing was quite a shock. Celebrities, always eager to get their faces or persons before any available camera, did so. But just what is a celebrity? They are people who are famous because you might recognize their face or their name. They prefer to think that because they may or may not have some name recognition, that the world is interested in their political opinions—it isn’t. Unfortunately there are always some star-struck reporters around who are.

Before any election, some celebrities threaten to leave the country if a Republican is elected. Barbara Streisand, Whoopi and Cher are perennials, but they always weasel out. Cher threatened to move to Jupiter—more dramatic, but easier to gainsay. Miley Cyrus, whose fame results from being the example usually cited when someone speaks of the decay of society and examples of bad taste and no manners. Samuel L. Jackson is famous for being in every movie ever made. Other than that, there were some comedians I’ve never heard of, actors in dramas I have never seen. All are welcome to depart, they will not be missed, and if they would refrain from giving their political opinions publicly, it would be deeply appreciated. We really don’t care what you think.




%d bloggers like this: