Riis's Rants

Slippery Statistics and Fantastic Facts

Much has been said about statistical mathematics in general and statisticians in particular, not all of it complimentary. Mark Twain is storied to have claimed: “There are three kinds of liars – liars, damn liars and statisticians.” Clearly Mr. Twain had a low opinion of the utility of statistical mathematics, assuming he recognized “statistics” as a mathematical science at all.

Modern Education

Not long ago, only the privileged were literate. History reveals that the literate minority could, and often did, use their literacy to take advantage of the illiterate masses. Stories abound of unlettered people who used Xs to attest to all manner of contractually binding agreements. Often, that illiterate signer later regretted his act after learning of the contents of the “fine print” to which he had agreed.

Immigration or Invasion?

The present U.S. civic unrest concerning immigration is an emotionally charged issue fueled by widely varied opinions that are largely based on “gut feelings” and popularly accepted ideas that often disregard facts. Though it may be cathartic to bolster these opinions with “sound bites”, statements of dubious factual value that have been “spun” to support some popular notion or other, such catharsis is of little real value in resolving the issues at hand.

Gun Control

This year, the season of Peace, Love, Forgiveness and Redemption has been horribly shattered by the wonton act of a deranged man who inexplicably, chose to take the lives of children to make some sort of statement. It is further shattered by politicians who, living the mantra “it's a shame to waste a good crisis”, are dividing the country even further in the name of “gun control”.