Greenberg’s Laws

Universal truths about the world around us.


Want to end gun violence? End violent inequality   Recently updated !

Greg Palast has the article Florida = Honduras: Inequality kills. Want to end the American shooting epidemic?.

The result of my scatter plot came as quite the surprise to me: there was just about no correlation between number of guns and number of gun homicides.”

In fact, “the correlation coefficient was -0.105871699.” That is, by a small amount, more guns meant fewer homicides.

So what DID prove a strong correlation? Homicides versus the “GINI” coefficient. GINI is the measure of income inequality in a nation.

The graph he presents makes little sense as an explanation of the excerpt above. I have yet to figure out exactly how the horizontal axis of the graph should be labeled to make sense of it. We must also remember that correlation does not prove causation. However, at least in this case the premise does make sense to me. Given this hint of what these measures might be indicating, I’d like to see someone publish a real study of the possibilities.

Reluctantly, I have to file this story in the category of Greenberg’s Law Of The Media – If a news item has a number in it, then it is probably misleading.


The tricks propagandists use to beat science

MIT Technology Review has the article The tricks propagandists use to beat science from January 22, 2018.

It’s a mildly interesting article, but I would be very, very wary of the suggested “solution”.

…the solution is clear: bigger, more highly powered studies. “Given some fixed financial resources, funding bodies should allocate those resources to a few very high-powered studies,” argue Weatherall and co, who go on to suggest that scientists should be given incentives for producing that kind of work. “For instance, scientists should be granted more credit for statistically stronger results—even in cases where they happen to be null.”

I have noticed this in the electrical engineering technical papers I have read over my 40 year career. One respected university had one bent in their work and a different respected university had a different bent. Knowing authors from both universities, I could tell which side of the discussion a paper would fall on based on which school the author came from. Faculty from both universities were the peers reviewing the papers published in peer reviewed journals. In this case, I don’t even think the bias was from the sponsor’s of the research because the companies I worked for sponsored research from both universities. Although I don’t doubt that there were influential engineers in the company that had received their advanced degrees from one university or the other.

Neither of the universities discussed above were MIT. However, I have had my dealings with sponsoring research at MIT, and I can tell you that the people there are human, too. To that, I guess I have to say #MeToo. I am aware that I have my own biases.

I have posted this article in the category of Greenberg’s Law of The Media – “If a news item has a number in it, then it is probably misleading.” This category applies to the subject of the article and to the article itself.


What The Pentagon Papers Didn’t Know

I have come to the part of The Pentagon papers that discusses the Strategic Hamlet Program in Viet Nam in 1961 to 1963.

Finally, the physical aspects of Diem’s program were similar if not identical to earlier population resettlement and control efforts practiced by the French and by Diem. The long history of these efforts was marked by consistency in results as well as in techniques: all failed dismally because they ran into resentment if not active resistance on the part of the peasants at whose control and safety, then loyalty, they were aimed.

Another summary sentence concluded

The weight of evidence suggests that the Strategic Hamlet Program was fatally flawed in its conception by the unintended consequence of alienating many of those whose loyalty it aimed to win.

In a previous post Pentagon Papers – Mistakes of Ho Chi Minh i mentioned something that I read in a book that came out long after The Pentagon Papers were written.

“Perhaps the most intriguing case of espionage involved Colonel Pham Ngoc Thao, whose mission was to destabilize the anti-Communist government of South Vietnam. …”

“Thao became one of the strongest advocates for agrovilles, self-contained modern villages aimed at separating insurgents from the rural population by moving peasants into large, well-defended villages that would allow the government to protect them. Thao knew the program would alienate peasants, and that is why he became its strongest proponent.

What the authors of The Pentagon Papers probably had no way of knowing was that the programs like the Strategic Hamlet Program had the intended consequence of failing.


Flu Vaccine: Half a Statistic Is Worse Than None 1

NBC Nightly News had a story Growing concern over children dying of the flu.


There is one statement in the report that is a perfect example of how the media mislead you with half a statistic.

The report never told you what this number means. What did they expect you to learn from this? I can think of three possible conclusions you could take depending on what is the value of the statistic they did not report. What they failed to report was what percentage of the children who survived were never vaccinated.

In the figures below I have chosen three possible values for the missing statistics of the percentage of children who were not vaccinated that survived. Above each graph, I have put a label of what you might be able to conclude given any one of the green bars compared to the red bar.

In the above figure, of the children who survived they had a lower percentage of not being vaccinated so you might conclude there was an advantage to being vaccinated.

In the above figure, of the children who survived they had the same percentage of not being vaccinated so you might conclude there was neither an advantage nor a disadvantage to being vaccinated.

In the above figure, of the children who survived they had a higher percentage of not being vaccinated so you might conclude there was a disadvantage to being vaccinated.

Without seeing a green bar, there is nothing you can conclude from seeing the red bar alone. You might have concluded that certainly the vaccine had whatever advantage or disadvantage you had assumed before seeing the number. In other words, this half statistic may have made you more sure of the wrong thing.


Nunes Memo That Claims FBI Conspiracy to Take Down Trump

Alternet has the article Read It: House GOP Releases Controversial Nunes Memo That Claims FBI Conspiracy to Take Down Trump.

House Republicans on Friday released a controversial memo written by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) that alleges a conspiracy within the FBI to bring down President Donald Trump.

You can read it for yourself. You can decide what of this memo you believe. If there are errors of fact in what Nunes says, then he can be rebutted. I doubt you will incur serious brain damage if you read what he has written.

When will the powers that be understand that trying to suppress documents is counterproductive? There is a reason why our founding ancestors thought we needed a First Amendment to the Constitution. You have to wonder if the powers that be understand why we have the First Amendment.

Always remember Greenberg’s Law Of Counterproductive Behavior.

If you see a behavior that seems to you to be counterproductive, perhaps you have misunderstood what that behavior is meant to produce.


A Revolutionary New Type of Lens Focuses All The Colours of The Rainbow Into a Single Point

Science Alert has the article A Revolutionary New Type of Lens Focuses All The Colours of The Rainbow Into a Single Point.

A brand new type of lens called a metalens has just passed a major hurdle. A metalens is a flat surface that use nanostructures to focus light, and it could change optics forever by replacing the traditional bulky, curved lenses we know.

This was an interesting read, but the following stopped me in my tracks.

Making a metalens like this is so tricky because different wavelengths of light move through materials at different speeds. That leads to focusing errors known as chromatic aberrations, which traditional lenses get around through curved surfaces.

And here I thought that lenses used curved surfaces as a way of changing the magnification of an image. In other words the curved surface is what makes it a lens. I went to WikiPedia to see what it had to say in the article Chromatic aberration.

There exists a point called the circle of least confusion, where chromatic aberration can be minimized.[6] It can be further minimized by using an achromatic lens or achromat, in which materials with differing dispersion are assembled together to form a compound lens.

This is the explanation I imagined. Of course, the Wikipedia has much more detail and talks about other techniques of correcting chromatic aberration.

I just think this is an example of what happens when an author with a tenuous understanding of a scientific topic tries to simplify an article to explain science to other people with a tenuous understanding of the topic. Don’t treat as gospel what you read in a news medium that has the word “science” in its name. Actually, such a medium may be no more trustworthy than a medium that makes no claim to be about science.


US strikes Syrian airfield in first direct military action against Assad

The Guardian has a series of articles US strikes Syrian airfield in first direct military action against Assad.

The European commission head, Jean Claude Juncker, responded that “he understands efforts to deter future attacks” and that the EU stood ready to play its role in finding a political solution to the crisis.

If the rebels led the gas attack to get the USA to retaliate against the Syrian government, then our retaliation will only encourage more gas attacks by the rebels.

Will the USA take responsibility for encouraging more such gas attacks in the more likely reality that the latest gas attack was by the rebels who wanted to encourage the USA to launch attacks against rebels’ enemy, the Syrian government? Will we gladly accept strikes against our Navy in retaliation for our encouraging these gas attacks war crimes?

I know there is an urge to avoid analysis paralysis in our military response, but to lash out at the victims instead of the perpetrators is a very counterproductive response if the intent is really to protect the lives of the citizens of Syria.

This is why I have assigned this article to the category of Greenberg’s Law of Counterproductive Behavior.

If you see a behavior that seems to you to be counterproductive, perhaps you have misunderstood what that behavior is meant to produce.

What this behavior is meant to produce is the overthrow of Assad and the building of the pipeline through Syria that the Saudi’s so desperately want. The Saudi Arabian government wants a pipeline through Syria to ship their oil directly to the European market. Exxon wants to profit by the opportunity to manage a new pipeline as part of their agreement with Saudi Arabia to manage the oil sales of Saudi Arabian oil. These two want their choice of pipeline in order to cut Russia out of the European market. Russia and Assad of Syria want to build a Syrian pipeline to help ship Russian oil to market.

The lives of people in Syria play no role in the what Exxon and Saudi Arabia want. The Saudis are the biggest backer of terrorism in the world, if you want to know how much they care. One might even say that the USA is complicit in war crimes. What about our corporate media that is paid to cover this all up? Will the citizens of the USA be forgiven beacuse they have plausible deniability, “How were we to know?”


It Is FBI Director James Comey Who Should Be Investigated

Truth Dig has the article It Is FBI Director James Comey Who Should Be Investigated by Juan Cole.

In fact, I can’t make any sense of his actions at all. Why taint Clinton with nothing investigation that went nowhere? Why protect the Trump campaign by keeping knowledge of the Russia investigation from the public? Why drag the Russia investigation on from last July till now (surely the transcripts and emails either provide evidence or they do not)?

This is a perfect example of Greenberg’s Law of Counterproductive Behavior.

If you see a behavior that seems to you to be counterproductive, perhaps you have misunderstood what that behavior is meant to produce.

Neither Juan Cole nor I have figured out what this behavior was meant to produce. Clearly it isn’t for producing any of the obvious results that we can think of.


Wolf Richter: How Much Money Laundering is Going On in the Housing Market? A Lot

Naked Capitalism has the article Wolf Richter: How Much Money Laundering is Going On in the Housing Market? A Lot.

The US housing market has been a perfect platform to launder large amounts of money, no questions asked. Brokers, banks, and other industry professionals played along. There were no reporting requirements. Everyone in the world knew it. And they came to launder their cash by buying expensive homes.

I hadn’t thought about this activity until reading about it in this article. It is valuable information because it may give a hint at a bubble that is about to burst. As a participant in the economy, it is always nice to know when it may be wise to take cover.

As an aside, this may explain why 45 thought this was an opportune moment to get out of the luxury housing market and take a safe job as President of the United States.

I am going to file this under Greenberg’s Law of Counterproductive Behavior.

If you see a behavior that seems to you to be counterproductive, perhaps you have misunderstood what that behavior is meant to produce.

In case you wondered why there were people who were willing to pay exorbitant (and seemingly counter-productive) prices for luxury homes, now you know what they were trying to produce. They were paying to get their money laundered.