December 28, 2012

when NPR gets unlistenably stupid:

Filed under:, , , — cwage @ 6:06 pm

During elections, arguably during pledge drive season and, apparently, after school shootings.

I consider myself a pretty liberal left-leaning NPR-friendly sortof guy (describing what I actually am involves a lot more -isms), but I find myself turning off NPR in disgust a lot more since sandy hook. This story, for example, was so mindblowingly dumb I had to turn off the radio, because I was afraid I might plow my car into a telephone pole:

Yang is from China. She says that in college there, she studied math, and then suddenly — totally without prompting — I find myself in another conversation about possibilities and probabilities. Yang, it turns out, specialized in statistics, and since the shooting has been thinking a lot about possibilities and probabilities, reconsidering her original feelings about them.

Yang tells me that she had always assumed that she was safe because the chance of a shooting happening to her specifically was very small. But since the shooting she's been focused on this one rule of statistics she learned in college, which she calls the "large number certainty theorem."

"If the base is big enough," she explains, "even though the probability is small, things will happen with certainty."

By Yang's reckoning, this is how the large number certainty theorem applies.

...

"So, you know, mathematically, something somewhere will happen with certainty," she says.

And so though Yang previously depended on the idea that school shootings were so rare they would probably happen to someone else, the shooting has taught her that "we should not wait until it actually happens to us to take action."

Yang has decided to get more involved with fighting for gun control. This, to her, seems like the logical thing to do.

I .. I just .. What do you say to this? First, I love the hilariously awkward and blatant appeal to authority in the way that they present her as some sort of statistics expert because of a "rule of statistics she learned in college". See? It's a theorem! That sounds very sciencey! You can't argue with FACTS like that!

A fun mental exercise is to substitute literally anything into this line of thought:

Yang tells me that she had always assumed that she was safe because the chance of slipping on a banana peel and splitting her skull open specifically was very small. But since some other guy slipped on a banana peel and split his skull open she's been focused on this one rule of statistics she learned in college, which she calls the "large number certainty theorem."

...

"So, you know, mathematically, something somewhere will happen with certainty," she says.

And so though Yang previously depended on the idea that slipping on banana peels open was so rare it would probably happen to someone else, the dude that slipped on a banana peel has taught her that "we should not wait until it actually happens to us to take action."

Yang has decided to get more involved with fighting for banana control. This, to her, seems like the logical thing to do.

SCIENCED!!!

March 17, 2011

the radio/CPB/NPR thing

Filed under:, , , , , , , , — cwage @ 8:59 pm

In which I comment on a news story about a pointless bill that passed the house but will never pass the senate:

The bill (HR 1076) as stated, would "prohibit Federal funding of National Public Radio and the use of Federal funds to acquire radio content". What does that actually mean? Lots of people claim that NPR doesn't actually get any money from the federal government -- so what's the point? Well, that's not exactly true. A quick rundown of the situation, as I understand it (which may be wrong. okay, it's probably wrong):

  • NPR produces content. It's not a radio station.
  • NPR is funded by a bunch of different sources, including some federal competitive grants amounting to around 2% of its budget. However:
  • It also receives a large amount of revenue from member stations (around 34%), which buy its content. Those member stations are funded by lots of things, including the CBP (around 10%), and various governments (including federal -- about 6%).
  • The CBP is funded almost entirely by the federal government (as of 2010, around $422 million)

What does this mean if the legislation would pass? (which it won't)

  • Member stations could no longer use the ~16% of their budget from the federal government to purchase NPR content (all things considered, morning edition, etc etc).
  • So, NPR would lose some portion of the 34% of their revenue which comes from member station purchases. The exact amount, I guess, boils down to how many member stations wish to continue buying the content versus finding alternative sources (local content, PRI, etc).

In conclusion, it doesn't sound like that big of a deal, really. I half-wish it would pass just so we could stop arguing about it -- the whole situation has been politicized into oblivion, and it doesn't seem like anyone would fare too badly if the bill passed. My question is: if the Republicans are supposedly so opposed to the use of government funds for this, why are they attacking NPR (a non-profit provider of content) instead of just floating legislation to take apart the CPB? The CPB is the actual source of federal funding. My guess: attacking CPB doesn't win them as many points with their base as attacking NPR.

So, there's that. Now we can move on to arguing about things that actually matter. Isn't there some war or something?