DOUG SMITH: THE STATISTICS LIE ON THE COMET

17 Nov

DOUG SMITH PIC

“I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year (1910), and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet.”

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

– Mark Twain

mark twainhaley's cometlie

Alright, I admit it: I am a geek. So I was fascinated at the pictures this week of a probe resting on a comet.  How far, in some ways, we have come.  I am anxious for more of those million dollar photos and lots of cool stuff we never knew about comets.  I also remember that Mr. Twain was born within days of Halley’s Comet, and, true to his prediction, died just after its closest approach to Earth.

I was also fascinated, rather like a bird watching a snake, at the comments of our latest “scientific expert”, Jonathon Gruber. (Is it a bad thing that when I hear his name, I think Blucher, and hear horses neighing?)

gruberhorse neighing

Well, the comic opera of a comet whizzing across our brief attention span, while Gruber ( horses neighing ) alternately brags about, defends, and apologizes for his 2500 page tissue paper of lies got me to thinking.

What would the estimable Mr. Clemons have thought of Mr. Gruber (Yep, horses again), I wonder?

blucher

Twain had the benefit of history on his side. He hardly had to wait for our boy Johnny to hear the horse chips he is spreading today. Karl Marx, about the time Sam was a young boy in Hannibal, began to pen his Das Capital, in which he criticized money and all those who gather or possess it. Productivity, i.e. the work of the masses, was the only true source of wealth, he argued.  He wrote a few books, which sold very poorly, and lived, along with his family, in dire poverty.  Ah, but he did have one thing in his favor.  His wealthy friend, Frederic Engels, son of a textile manufacturer, supported Marx for most of his life.  While Das Capital was bad stuff, apparently Dis Capital which his rich buddy put in his pocket was ok.  This, in his mind, qualified him as an expert (this is defined as a guy travelling to another town to quote his own book as proof that he is right) on what other people should do with their money.

yfdws

Well, now, our own little “expert” has been running his mouth about how all the rest of us who were working had a duty to pay the bills for the ones who don’t.  Now, of course, we are too stupid to realize how truly good that is, so it was necessary to lie to us about it for the greater good of getting to pick our pockets. It seems also that the greater good involved putting 4 million bucks in Gruber’s (Neigh!) grubby hands for being a liar and pickpocket.  It seems once again, that the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few. Except when the “few” are the self-righteous experts telling us how we need to pay for their great ideas, while they get fat in the process and everyone loses, except the experts.

So, back to our original point, what would Mark Twain think about Jonathon Gruber (Whinny)?   I expect he would poke fun at him just like he did with lawyers. (Perhaps slap a horse every time he was around, just for comic relief.)

Mark Twain invested most of his money in an automatic typesetting machine.  It was complicated, and obsolete due to the invention of the Linotype, before he could make his money back. He went bankrupt.  He called on, not an expert, but a no nonsense, evil banker (oh perish the thought) to take charge of his finances. He embarked on a world speaking tour that kept him away for over a year.  At the end of the process, he paid off all his creditors in full, though bankruptcy protection did not require him to do so.

He did not shirk his debts, nor did he expect others to pay them for him, nor did he employ “experts” to tell others why it was their responsibility to do so.  I believe I can deduce what Mark Twain would say about Mr. Gruber, from his comfortable perch on that comet, watching over the foolishness of his countrymen.

There are three kinds of liars. There are ordinary liars, there are outrageous liars, and there are scientific experts.

Now why in the world are we expected to take any of them seriously? Gruber, Gruber, Gruber. (Cue horses. Fade to black. )

that's all folks

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