Monday, August 29, 2016

Misleading Statistics: Would the EU Really Dominate the Olympics in Medals Won If It Were "United"?

There is a meme online, as there has been four (and more) years before (I first heard it years ago by the presenter of a French TV news program), claiming that — imagine! — if the European Union were truly united, they would dominate the amount of medals won at the Olympic Games.
This is for my US friends who think they are ahead in the 2016 Olympics. Only because Europe has no sense of unity!
It is nonsense, of course, utter nonsense.

It is also evidence of the misleading nature of statistics, not to mention common folks' tendency to trust simple catchphrases.

Sure, if you add up the medals from France, and Germany, and Denmark, and the UK (for how much longer?), you arrive at a greater total number of medals.

But listen: you can't have it both ways; either you compete as one entity or you compete as 28 (soon 27).

If the EU truly had a "sense of unity", you wouldn't have up to 28 different entities (nations) competing in each sports branch at the Olympics, you would only have one. The EU "representative" might turn out to be a Swede in one area (curling?), a Spaniard in another (bull-fighting?), a German or a Pole in a third (sausage-making?). Maybe, in one given year, a plurality, or a majority, of contenders might all come from one single country. (Presumably there would have been an EU competition, a mini-Olympics if you will, beforehand — although it is a safe bet that the pétanque contender would hail from France.)

Otherwise, you have to admit the "solution" isn't a simple as the would-be statisticians would make you believe.

Indeed, why stop there?

If a certain multitude of medals ought to be counted as one, why shouldn't the logical conclusion go in the other direction, and have unitary competitors "divided" into their respective constituencies?

Why shouldn't Canada ought to have one third to half as many candidates (or teams) as the EU for each sports branch, not 1 as now but 9 extra for the Canucks' 10 provinces (Ontario, Québec, British Columbia, etc…)?

Shouldn't the United States, meanwhile, have nearly double (!) the number of candidates (or teams) as the EU, an extra 49 for a total of 50 states, with contenders from Texas, Massachusetts, North Dakota, etc, etc, etc?

Similarly, in the Soviet era, the USSR had one candidate (or one team) per sports branch at the Olympics, not 15 for the number of its constituent (Soviet Socialist) republics.

On the other hand, the USSR itself had representation in the far more important area of the United Nations (as did/as do Canada and the United States — albeit not the EU), but so did Soviet member republics Ukraine and Belorussia — which was nothing but a sham, of course. (Again, Florida, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Prince Edward Island had/have, needless to say, no membership at the UN.)

How sure can you be so sure that the EU would dominate the Olympics if its' 28 contenders had to compete against the Canadians' 10 as well as against the Americans' 50?

Related: Tyrannies demand immense efforts of their populations to bring forth trifles, and there can be no trifle more trifling than an Olympic record, or even a victory without a record

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Documentary on the Great Cinematic Epic That Never Came to Be: Jodorowsky's Dune

Being released in France right now is Frank Pavich's celebrated documentary on the filming of Jodorowsky's Dune, the genesis of one of cinema's greatest epics that never was.

The Chilean writer, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing 15 years ago (besides my many interviews with his frequent co-worker Jean Giraud (Moebius)) drips with passion as he talks of all the artists he will bring together to make a film of Frank Herbert's science fiction bestseller.

director Alejandro Jodorowsky … proceeded to approach … Pink Floyd and Magma for some of the music; artists H. R. Giger, Chris Foss, and Jean Giraud for set and character design; Dan O'Bannon for special effects; and Salvador Dalí, Orson Welles, Gloria Swanson, David Carradine, Mick Jagger, Amanda Lear, and others for the cast.
Various trailers exist for Jodorowsky's Dune, which did not come to pass, when the producers lost faith in the Paris-based film director, theater director, screenwriter, playwright, actor, author, poet, producer, composer, musician, and, last but not least, comic book writer, not to mention spiritual guru.

(Jodo's attitude probably did little to help, when the man came back with the screenplay for a 14-hour movie and when he was quoted as saying, “I don’t want to make industrial films to earn money, to make a living. I want to make films to lose money, films that oblige me to search employment in other creations.”)

Wikipedia, again:
The film notes that Jodorowsky's script, extensive storyboards, and concept art were sent to all major film studios, and argues that these were inspirational to later film productions, including the Alien, Star Wars, and Terminator series. In particular, the Jodorowsky-assembled team of O'Bannon, Foss, Giger and Giraud went on to collaborate on the 1979 film Alien.
"It was a great undertaking to do the script," Jodowrosky says in the film. Speaking of Herbert's novel, he says: "It's very, it's like Proust, I compare it to great literature."

Monday, February 01, 2016

Scandinavia’s quality of life didn’t SPRING FROM leftist policies; It SURVIVED them

When Bernie Sanders was asked during CNN’s Democratic presidential debate how a self-proclaimed socialist could hope to be elected to the White House, he gave the answer he usually gives
notes Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe:
Socialism has been wonderful for the countries of Scandinavia, and America should emulate their example.“We should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people,” Sanders said.

Liberals have had a crush on Scandinavia for decades. “It is a country whose very name has become a synonym for a materialist paradise,” observed Time magazine in a 1976 story on Sweden. “Its citizens enjoy one of the world’s highest living standards. . . . Neither ill health, unemployment nor old age pose the terror of financial hardship. [Sweden’s] cradle-to-grave benefits are unmatched in any other free society outside Scandinavia.” In 2010, a National Public Radio story marveled at the way “Denmark Thrives Despite High Taxes.” The small Nordic nation, said NPR, “seems to violate the laws of the economic universe,” improbably balancing low poverty and unemployment rates with stratospheric taxes that were among the world’s highest.

Such paeans may inspire Clinton’s love and Sanders’ faith in America’s socialist future. As with most urban legends, however, the reality of Scandinavia’s welfare-state utopia doesn’t match the hype.

 … It was in the late 1960s and early 1970s that taxes soared, welfare payments expanded, and entrepreneurship was discouraged.

But what emerged wasn’t heaven on earth.

That 1976 story in Time, for example, went on to report that Sweden found itself struggling with crime, drug addiction, welfare dependency, and a plague of red tape. Successful Swedes — most famously, Ingmar Bergman — were fleeing the country to avoid its killing taxes. “Growing numbers are plagued by a persistent, gnawing question: Is their Utopia going sour?”

Sweden’s world-beating growth rate dried up. In 1975, it had been the fourth-wealthiest nation on earth (as measured by GDP per capita); by 1993, it had dropped to 14th. By then, Swedes had begun to regard their experiment with socialism as, in Sanandaji’s phrase, “a colossal failure.”

Denmark has come to a similar conclusion. Its lavish subsidies are being rolled back amid sharp concerns about welfare abuse and an eroding work ethic. In the last general election, Danes replaced a left-leaning government with one tilted to the right. Loving Denmark doesn’t mean loving big-government welfarism.

The real key to Scandinavia’s unique successes isn’t socialism, it’s culture. Social trust and cohesion, a broad egalitarian ethic, a strong emphasis on work and responsibility, commitment to the rule of law — these are healthy attributes of a Nordic culture that was ingrained over centuries. In the region’s small and homogeneous countries (overwhelmingly white, Protestant, and native-born), those norms took deep root. The good outcomes and high living standards they produced antedated the socialist nostrums of the 1970s. Scandinavia’s quality of life didn’t spring from leftist policies. It survived them.

 … No, Scandinavia doesn’t “violate the laws of the economic universe.” It confirms them. With free markets and healthy values, almost any society will thrive. Socialism only makes things worse.