Tag Archives: true

The Quest for Truthiness: Study Conclusions

For this study I used PolitiFact.com as an existing data source. For Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, I looked at the 20 most recent ratings, as issued by PolitiFact, on statements each person had made.

Possible ratings are: True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False, and Pants on Fire.

To simplify things a bit I grouped the ratings as follows:

True: True, Mostly True
Half True: Half True
False: Mostly False, False, Pants On Fire

On now to the study results and conclusions.
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Lie Hard II – Lie Harder: How The Presidency Was Won – Obama Edition

This is part two of my pseudo-scientific examination of truthiness in presidential politics. It was prompted by this vague feeling of dread that Romney and Ryan were lying a lot. I was desirous of quantification (and hopefully confirmation) of my feelings. So like any good empirical scientist, I set off on an expedition to prove what I already felt was true. I found me a data source and produced some pie charts.

Methodology: I did an existing data study to produce the pie chart graph shown on the right. The data set consisted of the last 20 “Truth-O-Meter” responses to statements by Barack Obama as evaluated by PolitiFact.com.

I did not “cherry pick” the source data. I merely used the 20 most recent statements by Barack Obama at the moment I happened to look. I then counted each type of rating and produced the chart.

Additional analysis and source data is provided after the jump.
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Humble Lie Pie: How The Presidency Was Won

For today’s science experiment I wanted data to support a hypothesis: Mitt Romney isn’t a very honest person.

Methodology: I did an existing data study to produce the pie chart graph shown on the right. The data set consisted of the last 20 “Truth-O-Meter” responses to statements by Mitt Romney as evaluated by PolitiFact.com.

I did not “cherry pick” the source data. I merely used the 20 most recent statements by Mitt Romney at the moment I happened to look. I then counted each type of rating and produced the chart.

Additional analysis and source data is provided after the jump.
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Obama gets logically fingered

“Sorry, kids. Those answers – all of them – are wrong. Looks like, once again, I’m the only one with the right answer. What did you expect? After all, don’t forget who’s the teacher and who’s the student here. That’s not by accident! Aw, don’t cry. Look. Participant ribbons for everyone, okay? Yeah!”

It’s true. My career in education was a short one.

I was going to run a caption contest for the picture of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer planting a part of her anatomy in the airspace of Obama’s face, but then I realized that such a contest would be a pointless exercise. Why? Because, of course, there is one (and only one) right answer.

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The Huevos of the Gun

McDonald's Egg McMuffin

Worth fighting for. Worth dying for.

When nothing inspires and you find yourself staring in frustration at the blank page and no words inside you, that’s when you go back to your roots. In my case, that means culling another weakling wildebeest of a true story from the herd. And here it is. Another authentic tale from my past thoughtfully prepared for your entertainment. Let’s eat.

I remember hearing the call of a rattler and the sound of buzzing flies. Somewhere a chicken clucked. Which was odd since I was in my car driving parallel to the majestic and rushing San Diego River.

The scene: A busy surface street. Just one intersection away is the 200 foot section of road that separates Mission Valley from the Fashion Valley shopping mall. Watch out! On a day with heavy mist that street floods and makes the mall a million-mile journey for weary travelers seeking the life-giving goodness of the Cinnabon. Denied!

But that road leads to another story.
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Theoretical thoughts of theological tsunami truths

Thinking About Glenn Beck's AmericaNo, Glenn Beck. I haven’t forgotten about your recent douchebaggery. Not by a long shot…

Remember the earthquake in Japan? The one that led to a tsunami that caused problems with nuclear power plants?

Oh wait, that’s not quite over yet, is it?

I still remember what Glenn Beck had to say about the earthquake. It was just a little over a month ago circa March 15, 2011:

I’m not saying God is, you know, causing earthquakes. Well — I’m not not saying that either. What God does is God’s business, I have no idea. But I’ll tell you this: whether you call it Gaia or whether you call it Jesus — there’s a message being sent. And that is, ‘Hey, you know that stuff we’re doing? Not really working out real well. Maybe we should stop doing some of it.

Corn SnakeI decided to try to think logically about the sneaky assertions in this statement. (I’ve already written about the snarkiness of phrasing crapola in the form of a question, unless one is playing Jeopardy.)

His little statement packs quite a wallop. I will try to break it down:

  • There is a God
  • God caused the earthquake
  • The earthquake was a message
  • The “messages” will continue until and unless we change our evil ways – the aforementioned “stuff we’re doing”

Remember, though, he presented most of this in the form of questions. We can stipulate he fervently believes the first one. Either that or he’s the best faker of all time, something decidedly not outside the realm of possibility.

The first assertion is one I ponder often. I tend to think of it in binary terms. It’s a true/false proposition. I believe it is something that is either true or false. To me, that seems fairly axiomatic.

One of my favorite lines of reasoning goes: “If there is no God then a lot of people are sure flaming assholes.” Mostly the ones who run around telling everyone else they are going to Hell, cashing in on religion, and stuff like that. On the other hand, there are a lot of devout and good people who truly believe, too. I can’t really find it in my heart to fault anyone for trying to live the best moral life they possibly can. Just as long as they aren’t flaming hypocrites about it, they’re fine with me.

No one can prove there is a God, nor can they prove there isn’t. Thus, I suggest we look at the probability of each possible outcome (true/false) as equally likely. (Personally, though, I’m certain there isn’t a God. But that’s just a belief.) So, in mathematical terms, the odds of each outcome is 50 percent. It’s just like flipping a coin.

Heads. There is a God. Tails. There is no God.

Let’s consider the next statement. God caused the earthquake. Again, I suggest we look at this as true/false, with each outcome equally likely. That means to get to Beck’s position that there is a God and God caused the earthquake we have to flip a coin and get heads twice in a row.

Next, we add another true/false condition for the earthquake being a message.

Lastly, we add on final true/false condition for the idea that the messages will continue unless we stop being evil. I assume this means stuff like fornication, homosexuality, etc. He’s a little vague about what “stuff” he’s talking about.

What we’re left with is a model a four true/false possibilities in a row. You can break down the odds of acheiving a particular chain of outcomes like this:

  1. 1 in 2
  2. 1 in 4
  3. 1 in 8
  4. 1 in 16

In other words, the odds of flipping a coin and getting heads four times in a row is 1 in 16.

This probability of this can be represented mathematically as: .5 x .5 x .5 x .5. That equals .0625 which is exactly what you get if you calculate 1 divided by 16.

If you look at it this way, there’s only a 6.25 percent chance this particular serpent’s statements are correct. In my book that’s what we call a long shot. Or maybe “snake oil” would be a better term.

This is my “T” post for the April 2011 “A to Z Blogging Challenge.”

Let sleeping dogs lie

What is honesty? Telling the truth? For that matter, what is truth? Hang on. I’m about to go deep.

As regular readers of this blog will already know, this year will be my 10th anniversary of working in the ecommerce industry. Along the way I’ve learned a few things, but none more stark or challenging than what I’ve faced in terms of honesty vs. dishonesty, truth vs. lies, trustworthiness vs. deception, and facts vs. lies.

Thinking back on my “career” I realize, of course, that this phenomenon is clearly not isolated to ecommerce. Not based on what I’ve seen during my experiences. If I really think it over, I can find examples of every employer I’ve ever dealt with being lying assholes. Every single job I’ve ever had taught me important life lessons like these.

Editor’s Note: At this point the writing process went decidedly sideways. The 10,000 words that followed have been cut and saved in a draft post called “My Resume.” It detailed life lessons learned from every single job I’ve ever had and in excruciating detail. Maybe somewhere over the rainbow that post will see the light of day. Until then, however, I’ve self-corrected the diversion and will now continue with the topic at hand: honesty.

Under the context of my career, I recently realized that honesty (or lack thereof) has been the Bugaboo peeking over my shoulder every step of the way. So I’ve been thinking and pondering about it quite a bit.

My last two employers have been very religious folk. Even as an atheist I would surmise that would elevate them a cut above your average bear, at least in terms of honesty. That has decidedly not been the case.

Confused by this, I turned to the word of God for enlightenment. After all, isn’t “thou shalt not lie” one of the biggies on God’s top ten list?

Turns out it’s not. Well, not exactly.

First of all, the Bible was written by humans. It is not the direct word of God. Remember that game we played as children? Stand in a line, whisper something, then pass it on down the line. More often than not, something gets changed during the act of passing the communication along. Do you think it’s possible that anything like that could have conceivably crept into the writing of the Bible by those human hands?

Then I remembered when some public figure was raising a ruckus about having a 5,000 pound monument of the ten commandments on public lands. He was asked by a reporter if he could name all ten commandments. He couldn’t. (What a shocker.) Perhaps that’s why he needed the reminder around.

The words “thou shalt not lie” (or their translated equivalents) don’t exist in the Bible. What the Bible actually says is:

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
See: Translations of Exodus 20:16

As an idiot layman, I’ve always taken this at face value. In other words, “do not lie.” It turns out, that for some, it’s not quite so simple.

According to Wikipedia, there are three schools of thought regarding the “false witness” commandment:

  1. It’s a narrow prohibition against lying in courtroom testimony
  2. It only applies to false statements that degrade a neighbor’s reputation or dignity
  3. It’s a prohibition on all lying

Wow! Who knew there could ever be so much disagreement about something as seemingly concrete as a commandment from God?

It seems to me that the Bible often works like this. One section will say, “Always do X but never do Y.” Then another section will say, “Always do Y but never do X.” Thus, you don’t simply read the Bible and do what it says. It has to be subjected to a round of interpretation first. That phase of understanding is done by humans to the word of God in an attempt to divine the real meaning. You’ll often hear people speak about how a certain text can only be understood within a certain “context” or by comparing it to other passages to get the overall meaning. That sort of thing is dangerous because it leaves things open to many varying interpretations.

As an atheist, I’m woefully free of such considerations. Some have said, “Without God there can be no ethics.” I argue the opposite. Without having to ponder and study a religious text, I can simply say, “I will not lie.” I don’t have to comb through the Bible for exceptions.

Consider the people who believe the command in the narrowest possible sense, that it only applies to courtroom testimony. The logical extension of that belief is: “It is not necessarily wrong to lie anywhere else.”

Consider the second example, where lying is only prohibited when it causes harm. I call this one the “business lie” clause. The ecommerce people who’ve engaged me in debate about the ethics of what they do frequently cite various versions of this. “I’m not hurting anyone with the lie.” The logical extension of this? “Therefore the lying is acceptable.”

I argue that my belief is actually the freest one of all. I’m unencumbered by faulty logic and justifications. I simply get to concentrate on trying to be as honest as I possibly can. In logical terms, my position regarding lying is the most ethical, not a narrower definition as allowed by some interpretation of the Bible.

By the way, guess who squeals the most when someone is on the receiving end of dishonesty? Yup. You guessed it. These very same people who lie on their websites as a matter of routine. When that happens you can bet your ass it is a Federal case. That’s hypocrisy, a close personal friend of dishonesty. They skip together through life hand in hand.

In my opinion, telling the truth isn’t about positive or negative. However, I still feel pretty darn negative about what I’ve seen in the business world and, more specifically, ecommerce. And that’s the truth!