How Not to Ship Books, in Two Easy Lessons


We received the book below a while back, shipped in the pictured wrapping:


Yeah, a reasonable sized and reasonably valuable book. But, wrapped in paper, inside bubble wrap, inside a box, surrounded by air pillows, inside a second box?

On the other hand, …


The following books arrive yesterday, shipped by Target:

Yep: no paper, no bubble wrap, no air pillows, no nothing except way, way too big a box. And of course one of the books was damaged. Sheesh.

Update (15/12/20) 

At Glen’s request, here’s a page from the old arithmetic book.

RatS 2: Matt Taibbi Meets the Censored

We had intended to make RatS a regular thing but, like many plans of mice and Marty, it fell by the wayside. Maybe we’ll try again.

Matt Taibbi is the nerdish heir to Hunter S. Thompson. He is simultaneously unleashed and meticulous. He also has a habit of pissing off Democrats, and plenty on the left, by suggesting that there is much more wrong with America than Trump and Republicans. Taibbi had the temerity to argue, early and strongly, that Trump’s win over Hillary wasn’t because of Russian hackers, but because of the general ineptness and meaninglessness of the Democratic Party, and the specific awfulness of Clinton. Taibbi is also a careful and incisive critic of the news media; Hate Inc. is a must.

Recently, Taibbi has been pissing off his one-would-think allies, and pretty much everyone, by arguing that seeking to throw assholes off Twitter and Facebook and the like is dooming us to doom. Somehow he’s just not comfortable with Zuck and Jack and their fellow titans acting as our guardian angel censors. Taibbi is now reporting on the early stages of this corporatised censorship, interviewing some of people who have been whacked around. His interviews, and pretty much everything by Taibbi, are well worth reading.

Meet the Censored: Andre Damon

Meet the Censored: Ford Fischer

Meet the Censored: Abigail Shrier (paywalled, and you should pay)

Meet the Censored: Olivia Katbi-Smith (added 02/01/2021)

Meet the Censored: Mark Crispin Miller (added 06/01/2021)

Cicchetti’s Random Shit

Readers will be aware that Trump and his MAGA goons have been pretending that Joe Biden stole the US election. They’ve been counting on the corruptness of sufficient judges and election officials for their fantasy grievances to gain traction. So far, however, and this was no gimme, the authorities have, in the main, been unwilling to deny reality.

The latest denial of the denial of reality came yesterday, with the Supreme Court telling Texas’s scumbag attorney general, and 17 other scumbag attorneys general, and 126 scumbag congressmen, to go fuck themselves. AG Paxton’s lawsuit, arguing to invalidate the election results in four states, was garbage in every conceivable way, and in a few inconceivable ways. One of those inconceivable ways was mathematical, which is why we are here.

As David Post wrote about here and then here, Paxton’s original motion claimed powerful statistical evidence, giving “substantial reason to doubt the voting results in the Defendant States” (paragraphs 9 – 12). In particular, Paxton claimed that Trump’s early lead in the voting was statistically insurmountable (par 10):

“The probability of former Vice President Biden winning the popular vote in the four Defendant States—Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—independently given President Trump’s early lead in those States as of 3 a.m. on November 4, 2020, is less than one in a quadrillion, or 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000.”

Similarly, Paxton looked to Trump’s defeat of Clinton in 2016 to argue the unlikelihood of Biden’s win in these states (par 11):

“The same less than one in a quadrillion statistical improbability … exists when Mr. Biden’s performance in each of those Defendant States is compared to former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s performance in the 2016 general election and President Trump’s performance in the 2016 and 2020 general elections.”

On the face of it, these claims are, well, insane. So, what evidence did Paxton produce? It appeared in Paxton’s subsequent motion for expedited consideration, in the form of a Declaration to the Court by “Charles J. Cicchetti, PhD” (pages 20-29). Cicchetti’s Declaration has to be read to be believed.

Cicchetti‘s PhD is in economics, and he is a managing director of a corporate consulting group called Berkeley Research Group. BRG appears to have no role in Paxton’s suit, and Cicchetti doesn’t say how he got involved; he simply writes that he was “asked to analyze some of the validity and credibility of the 2020 presidential election in key battleground states”. Presumably, Paxton was just after the best.

It is excruciating to read Cicchetti’s entire Declaration, but there is also no need. Amongst all the Z-scores and whatnot, Cicchetti’s argument is trivial. Here is the essence of Cicchetti’s support for Paxton’s statements above.

In regard to Trump’s early lead, Cicchetti discusses Georgia, comparing the early vote and late vote distributions (par 15):

“I use a Z-score to test if the votes from the two samples are statistically similar … There is a one in many more than quadrillions of chances that these two tabulation periods are randomly drawn from the same population. 

Similarly, in regard to Biden outperforming Clinton in the four states, Cicchetti writes

 “I tested the hypothesis that the performance of the two Democrat candidates were statistically similar by comparing Clinton to Biden … [Cicchetti sprinkles some Z-score fairy dust] … I can reject the hypothesis many times more than one in a quadrillion times that the two outcomes were similar.”

And, as David Post has noted, that’s all there is. Cicchetti has demonstrated that the late Georgia votes skewed strongly to Biden, and that Biden outperformed Clinton. Both of which everybody knew was gonna happen and everybody knows did happen.

None of this, of course, supports Paxton’s claims in the slightest. So, was Cicchetti really so stupid as to think he was proving anything? No, Cicchetti may be stupid but he’s not that stupid; Cicchetti briefly addresses the fact that his argument contains no argument. In regard to the late swing in Georgia, Cicchetti writes (par 16)

“I am aware of some anecdotal statements from election night that some Democratic strongholds were yet to be tabulated … [This] could cause the later ballots to be non-randomly different … but I am not aware of any actual [supporting] data …”

Yep, it’s up to others to demonstrate that the late votes went to Biden. Which, you know they kind of did, when they counted the fucking votes. As for Biden outperforming Clinton, Cicchetti writes (par 13),

“There are many possible reasons why people vote for different candidates. However, I find the increase of Biden over Clinto is statistically incredible if the outcomes were based on similar populations of voters …”

Yep, Cicchetti finds it “incredible” that four years of that motherfucker Trump had such an effect on how people voted.

What an asshole.

Signs of the TIMSS

The 2019 TIMSS results are just about to be released, and the question is should we care? The answer is “Hell yes”.

TIMSS is an international maths and science test, given at the end of year 4 and year 8 (in October in the Southern Hemisphere). Unlike PISA, which, as we have noted, is a Pisa crap, TIMSS tests mathematics. TIMSS has some wordy scenario problems, but TIMSS also tests straight arithmetic and algebra, in a manner that PISA smugly and idiotically rejects.

The best guide to what TIMSS is testing, and to what Australian students don’t know and can’t do, are the released 2011 test items and country-by-country results, here and here. We’ll leave it for now for others to explore and to comment. Later, we’ll update the post with sample items, and once the 2019 results have appeared.

UPDATE (08/12/20)

The report is out, with the ACER summary here, and the full report can be downloaded from here. The suggestion is that Australia’s year 8 (but not year 4) maths results have improved significantly from the (appalling) results of 2015 and earlier. If so, that is good, and very surprising.

For now, we’ll take the results at face value. We’ll update if (an attempt at) reading the report sheds any light.


OK, it starts to become clear. Table 9.5 on page 19 of the Australian Highlights indicates that year 8 maths in NSW improved dramatically from 2015, while the rest of the country stood still. This is consistent with our view of NSW as an educational Switzerland, to which everyone should flee. We’re not sure why NSW improved, and there’s plenty to try to figure out, but the mystery of “Australia’s” dramatic improvement in year 8 maths appears to be solved.

UPDATE (09/12/20)

OK, no one is biting on the questions, so we’ll add a couple teasers. Here are the first two released mathematics questions from the 2011 year 8 TIMSS test:

1.   Ann and Jenny divide 560 zeds between them. If Jenny gets 3/8 of the money, how many zeds will Ann get?

2.   \color{blue}\boldsymbol{\frac{4}{100} + \frac{3}{1000} = }

(The second question is multiple choice, with options 0.043, 0.1043, 0.403 and 0.43.)

To see the percentage of finishing year 8 students from each country who got these questions correct, you’ll have to go the document (pp 1-3).

WitCH 49: Trigged Again

The question below is from the second 2020 Specialist exam (not online), and was flagged by commenter John Friend in the discussion here. John has spelled out the problems, but the question is bad enough to warrant its own post, and there’s arguably a little more to be said.