Monday, December 17, 2012

Statistics and sensibility should guide policy, not emotion.

Statistical significance should guide policy decisions, not emotions. Emotional policy decisions are how we end up with laws where someone who murders 7 people can serve less time in prison than someone who pulls down their pants in front of a child.

The data from this link: states that in the USA, 3 out of 100,000 people die in homicides from firearms per year. But we'll use the CDC's data for a moment and call it 3.7 people. All things remaining constant, it would take 270 YEARS to just reach a total of 1% of that population. But in just 120 years, 99% or more of that population will already be dead from other causes.

The CDC states that the general death rate for 2011 was 740 in a population of 100,000. Whether that 740 includes homicides by firearm or not is inconsequential as even if it did, it would only account for 0.5% of the deaths!

To me, the incredible thing of all of this is... accuracy of data. Try to find the error rating for the statistical data gathered by the US Census, or the deaths by cause statistics from the FBI. There is none. And if there were any, these would be error rates based on the counted data and would often, only if audited at all, be determined by sampling. In a simple survey, often the accuracy is said to be +/- 3%. The accuracy of a typical automobile gas gauge is said to be +/- 7% but that's just someone's guess that most people agree with. The reason it's not published is because it's probably impractical to calculate.

But, the US Census Bureau did state it thought it's most recent error rate was only 0.4%. That's the agency rating itself (fox, hen house). Consider its basis for its data - it depends on surveys answered by us to be accurate. But lets take their number anyway. That would mean that any component statistic which is less than 0.4% by itself is just noise. Anything computed "per capita" starts with US Census data. and 3.7 gun deaths per 100,000 is a "per capita" rating. So, compare 0.4% accuracy by the agencies own rating with deaths by firearm, 0.5%. In-other-words, the population in focus could be as much as 100,400 or it could be as little as 98,600 to which we are comparing 740 against - the noise eclipses the feature data. If the same accuracy were applied to the CDC's number of 740 deaths, that would be 2.96 people, that's a very large chunk of 3.7 people so the statistic could really vary quite a bit in priority ranking relative to its neighbors from error alone.

According to the CDC, 3.2 times as many people take their own lives as those who died by firearms in a homicide. Given the tree of problems causing death, that's a much larger fruit to think about. Then there's the larger DUI fatalities, cell phone fatalities. There are some serious medical conditions which take more lives per year than homicides, suicides and DUIs combined. And yet, the public money spent on solving those problems is far less than that spent in pursuit of law enforcement and infrastructure for arms related crimes and control.

Whether you're for guns or against them, there's obviously some larger, lower hanging fruit to go after than guns if you're trying to reduce deaths. Going for new gun laws and all the infrastructure to enforce new gun laws to the extent that some wish right now, because of an emotional motive, and ignoring the statistical priority of the problem would be like trying to outlaw airplanes because you're afraid of dieing in an airplane accident.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

"The Art of War" was written by the Chinese.

This famous text, "The Art of War" was believed to have been originally written around 600 B.C. by Sun Wu, who was recorded in the "Grand Historian" and the Spring and Autumn period Annals in the State of Wu in ancient China during that period. If you've never read this short and great collective of philosophy and tactics to waging war successfully, you'd be surprised at its' direct and machine like theories.

Much later there was a famous saying here in the US you may have heard, "speak softly and carry a big stick", courtesy of the 26th President of the United States (POTUS), Theodor Roosevelt.

PRIME POINT: But, one doesn't need to read the Art of War or recall our 26th POTUS's quote to understand that positioning yourself for power or to challenge power is best done with the utmost silence and during times of poor visibility. From the time of our rise as the world's most powerful nation, many of us including myself have tried to warn our leaders that China will surpass us if we do not stay ever vigilant, if this crown is to be ours.

But alas, most of our leaders are ignorant or succumb to greed and short sightedness and have thus not only not been vigilant, but have helped the rise of China. So let's review some things quickly:

1. We know Chinese currency manipulation is what allows China to be a prime exporter. Thus, they get our cash, we get their plastic. See "PRIME POINT" above.

2. China is advancing their military strength. See "PRIME POINT" above.

3. Chinese manufacturing has eclipsed or will eclipse US manufacturing shortly. *There are many economists saying they have already. Of course, China will not let this be known until the very last second. See "PRIME POINT" above.

4. China has exceeded advanced US medical capabilities for accessing genetic information (no link - source Popular Science October 2012 page 6 , RE: Animal to human viruses, "Dr. Chui also mentioned that a single Chinese company has more than 160 of the deep-sequencing machines we need to identify those sources. As of last year, he told me, that's more than we had in the whole United States). See "PRIME POINT" above.

5. China's been on a massive land grab for sometime now.

And there's probably a dozen or more additional other major categories we could go through this exercise on. The Chinese are not arrogant or egotistical as we can be. They're much more practical and concerned with function. Short-term thinking is not part of their nature. This philosophy can be seen in the spirit of their text, "The Art of War". The point is, if you think they're going to warn us before they make their alpha male move... you're wrong. If you're thinking that the things I've said, things that maybe you've heard elsewhere and have chosen to ignore, are all just conspiracy theories, then you're helping us lose whatever upcoming challenge they are preparing - just as our "patriotic" leaders have in the past and continue to do now. There's two kinds of animals on the Ranch, the cattle and the Ranchers, which are you?

I'm not saying China is our enemy. I'm saying the Chinese government is an efficient, calculating, focused, relentless and patient machine. It will steam roll us as a matter of necessity or blind ambition. Are we going to continue to be the road for them or will we rise again and make our own roadway as we did in the years when we became great?

As is the theme of my blog here, I try to offer solutions and not just rant about the problems like many others do. SO, I still stand by the solutions I offered in my text I wrote back in 2002.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Rethinking America...

Does America need to change? If America needs to be like some other country, I'd like to know what country that is. You may have your idea, but I can assure that there are many people who have different ideas than yours. I hear many people say we should be more like Europe, we should be more like Canada, Sweden, etc. But here is the thing, America was once a place where you could find a place that suited your desires. We had "States". And those states had prevailing rights of autonomy. The people that lived in those states had more power to control what the laws were and how those laws affected their lives. The people in counties within those states, and the towns within those counties had even more power over their own lives as those perimeters became smaller. But over time, the power has been sucked up from the bottom, and is now primarily at the top.
At some point, the direction to make everything the same became the prime goal, one size fits all as it were, and it seems like that is what we have moved towards ever since. But it's a known consequence that the larger the committee, the lesser the answer suits the individual. Like what they say about elevator music and the platypus, they're both designed by committee.
I'm not saying committees don't produce useful results. But as with most everything, there is a scale at which things work and a scale at which they don't. Nature is full of these examples. Fusion reactions within the Sun, the design of an insect's exoskeleton does not work on this planet past a certain size. A sheet of paper makes for a great paper airplane, but get much bigger than that and paper is simply not a strong enough material for larger airplanes.
We have moved towards a central committee in Washington to govern most of the United States of America. People seem to forget that Russia tried this not too long ago and the population mostly lived in poverty. This Washington committee tries to regulate almost everything in the US now. It stands to reason that if everything were the same, this maybe practical. But, people are not the same. Resources are not the same, climates, terrain, social interfaces and thousands of other things are not the same the farther you get from Washington. The job they're trying to do is impossible if competence and success are important factors.
And, not only that, but in order to manage so much from one small area, a tremendous amount of power must be granted to that small area. Everyone's heard Lord Acton's saying, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Why should we be surprised then that every time we give power away to Washington, the corruption becomes worse? The United States has become the honey pot of the world for corruption and we've allowed that to happen incrementally by agreeing (or not fighting) to let one little thing after another become the domain of the Federal government.
I've lived long enough now to know that everything has balance. Light and dark, good and evil, health and sickness, poor and rich, kindness and cruelty and many more. Just try to eliminate one and you'll find the universe manages to compensate and maintain the balance of both sides somehow.
Here are a couple more to think about, success and failure, safety and freedom. You can see over time how our centrally controlled educational system has attempted to remove failure but has resulted in a capping of success. And that in most almost every case, attempts to improve our safety have resulted in losses of freedom.
I've also noticed that everything is in motion and tends to oscillate. A perfect balance is only ever an instant and everything else is out of balance in one direction or the other causing a pendulum type of behavior between the two opposites. The builders of our Constitution had a sense for this left us mechanisms for keeping those pendulums in motion allowing for happy mediums over time. But if those mechanisms allowing us to change the directions of things are removed as they have been over the years, then that pendulum could make much larger swings. For example, instead of a law raising taxes one year, and a law lowering them another, multiple years of raising taxes may result in an exodus of workers and businesses causing the pendulum to swing hard in the other direction when it finally has to.
If exoduses, suicides, migrations, revolts or even armed insurrections are the only mechanisms left for us to change the laws which we are forced to live by, then we are doomed to the fate of many nations before us and around us to suffer these dramatic and tumultuous swings between opposite forces which affect our economy and our life styles. It is better that we the people, keep writing laws and repealing laws as we need through time than that we lose those abilities by granting them to a more centralized and remote authority which we have less control over and is more likely to be corrupted.