Telling Lies #2: Conflation

oitnb-10

Black Prisoners outnumber Whtes 4 to 1

You have heard it every time you have heard a US politician up for election.  Being tough on crime gets you elected.  So forget the truth, it’s time for conflation!

Conflation is when you take data from different sources and blend them into a statement that appears, on the surface to be correct.  It seems right.  Who’s going to challenge it?  And if anyone tries to challenge it just bury them in statistics.

So the US politician will wade into the debate saying that “we need to get tough on repeat offenders” and nobody will argue with that.

Then they say “our jails are overflowing with repeat offenders” and nobody will argue with that.  The prisons of the USA are the product of the plea bargain system where you throw the book at an offender and have them plead to a misdemeanor and let them walk, first time out.  So the prisons ARE overflowing with repeat offenders.

Then they move into conflation.  “Men of colour are proportionally the majority prisoners in our jails”.  The audience nods.  The audience assumes the candidate just said “Most of the prisoners are black”.  But he didn’t.

He took a couple of different statistics and sort of blended them together into a statement that, while not an outright lie, is intended to misdirect you.

THIS IS THE BORING BIT THAT YOU WILL NOT WANT TO READ:

In the USA the Black people make up about 13% of the population.  Black people make up about 37% of the prison population.  Black people have an incarceration rate 4 times higher than white people in the USA.

So how can this political candidate say 37% is the majority?

Well, he kept the word “proportionally”.  In long worded terms he is saying that if you took 10,000 Black men and 10,000 white men and 10,000 Hispanic men and filled a prison from these 30,000 men you would find that 45 prisonners are white, 83 are hispanic and 231 are black.  So man for man, in a prison population of 359 people 64% would be black.  If the USA poplation was divided equally by the 3 races, which it is not.

This is the kind of maths that easily sells the public on harsh sentencing and larger prisons.  Especially when the public are white voters.  These are the kind of conflated statistics that sound very real.  They just seem to be right.  Every time you turn on the TV and see inside a prison what do you see?  A LOT of black folks.

This same process of conflating different statistical sets can be used to confuse any argument.  It is a very popular tool with populist politicians who tend to represent more marginalised and less educated people in society.  If you just lost your job to a Romanian immigrant you WANT to believe that 80% of Romanians are here illegally.  You WANT to believe that they are criminals.  So when someone hands you those statistics on a plate you eat them up.

If you live in a small rural village in the West of Ireland and you hear that 200 Syrian refugees are arriving next week to live in the closed hotel what is your first assumption.  Do you believe that 50% of the Syrian adults have 3rd level education?  Or do you believe that 10% of the young males have been radicalised by Islamic fundamentalists?  I can conflate statistical sets to sell either side.  But you, as a reader, which will you consume?

It is a technique of marketing also.  Nowhere better than in marketing of weight loss products.  How do you get fat?  By eating lots of fat.  So if you cut fat out of your diet you will lose fat!  Here is our sugar, it is 100% fat free.  They have conflated the fat on your waist with the fat in your diet.  Which is a bit like saying that bats can fly, so watch out for flying baseball bats.

How can you spot conflation?

A trick is to tell yourself to look for the kid in the china store.  You know the kid who went wild and broke all the china?  Seems correct?

It was a Bull in a china shop.  And it was a kid in a candy store.

One a metaphor for a pending disaster, the other for unbridled excitement.

Conflate them and suddenly you have a kid in juvenile court facing a charge of vandalism.

 

Hey Lard Ass!

OBESE-MAN

I lost a few pounds over the last few weeks and was very proud of myself.  Then I checked out my weight on one of those online BMI calculators and I got this nasty message:

Your BMI is 25.4. This BMI indicates you are overweight. There is an increased risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers with a BMI in this range. Losing weight is beneficial and can be achieved through healthy eating and being active daily. It is a good idea to set a realistic target of amount of weight you would like to lose over a number of weeks. If you are muscular as a result of a lot of sport you don’t need to lose weight.

OK, that sounded like there was hope for me at the end.  Am I muscular from playing a lot of sport?  Is gardening a sport?  Does golf count?

So I looked further into these BMI thingy’s.  On a US medical website I learned that my weight is actually in the “Normal” range.

BMI

Normal hell!  Look at that statistic at the end.  My weight is in the 32nd percentile for my age and height, IN AMERICA.

For those who don’t dabble in statistics allow me to explain.  If I live in the USA 68% of my peers are heavier than I am.  That makes me feel positively skinny.  And there is the worry.

When the societal norm is obesity, overweight seems slim.

Truth is, I am overweight.  I have to lose a few more pounds.  In Ireland I “feel” fat.  That puts positive pressure on me to watch my weight.  If I lived in the USA I would not have that positive pressure.  I would probably be half a stone heavier.  I would probably suffer from high blood pressure.  Chances are I would be taking drugs to control my blood pressure.

There is a lesson here for overweight people.  If you really want to lose weight, move to a land of slim people.

According to Suzie Orbach “Fat is a feminist issue”.  Suzie was instrumental in developing the psychology that led to the fabulous Dove advertising campaigns.  Fat is an issue that defines how many women see themselves, it affects their self-confidence, and how they interact with the world.

There is a growing movement amongst young (at heart) women who reject being thin in favour of being fit.  Advertisers are no longer afraid to show women sweating when they work out.  Cross-fit gyms have embraced this new culture by removing mirrors from their gyms.  It’s about the work, the discipline, the muscular integrity.  It is about looking good because you worked to look good.  It is about looking good to feel good about yourself, not to be an accessory to a man.

But there’s more.  In the USA in the 20th century one of the key photo opportunities used by US electoral candidates was the shot of them emerging from church/temple on the Sabbath with the family.  This said everything about strong morality, ethics, conservatism, family values, hetrosexuality, Mom, apple pie and the USA, without ever having to say a word to the waiting press.  Today the goalposts have shifted.  The modern electoral candidate must demonstrate personal strength of character by displaying a fit body.  The president of the USA cannot be a fat guy.  Fat people can’t control their own appetites.  What hope do they have of controlling the nation?

In modern society to be fit to rule you must be fit to run for office, and to do that you must be fit to run down the road.

Fat Thursday

Paczki

Paczki

Fat Thursday is a traditional Catholic Christian feast marking the last Thursday before Lent and is associated with the celebration of Carnival. Because Lent is a time of fasting, the next opportunity to feast would not be until Easter.

Fat Thursday is celebrated in Central and Eastern Europe.  It is similar to, but should not be confused with the French festival of Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”), Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday as we know it in Ireland.  There is clearly an East/West divide between the whole Thursday and Tuesday thing.

Traditionally both focus on the eating of treat foods that are soon to be banned for Lent.

Today I celebrated my first ever Fat Thursday by gorging on Polish pączki, fist-sized donuts filled with rose jam and slathered with a sticky marmalade flavoured icing.  We have a very international office where I work at present, in HostelWorld.  As a result we get to eat ALL the party foods.  It’s great!

 

Ode to a Donut; by Donal Clancy with help from John Keats

 

My stomach rumbles, and a drowsy numbness pains

My sense, as though of decaf I had drunk,

Or emptied some caffeine free beverage into my veins

Three O’clock, and feeling punch drunk:

‘Tis not for naught called the mogadon slot,

But being too happy in thine happiness,—

That thou, lardy Dryad of the teas

In some melodious plot

Of powdered sugar, and sprinkles numberless,

Singest of simmer in full-fat grease.

 

O, for a draught of chocolate! that hath been

Warmed a moment in the microwave,

Tasting of marshmallow and the cocoa brown,

Dance, and Aztec song, and sunburnt mirth!

O for a beaker full of the warm South,

Full of the true, the blushful cacao,

With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,

And chocolate-stained mouth;

That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,

And with thee fade away into the tea-station dim:

 

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget

What thou among the PC’s hast never known,

The weariness, the fever, and the fret

Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;

Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,

Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;

Where but to think is to be full of sorrow

And leaden-eyed despairs,

Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,

Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

 

Thou wast not born for keeping, immortal pastry!

No!;  hungry generations chomp thee down;

The noise I hear, this chew and swallow was heard

In ancient days by emperor and clown:

Perhaps the self-same song that found a path

Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,

She stood in tears amid the alien cronut;

The same that oft-times hath

Charm’d magic croissants, opening on the scone

On Devon teas, with clotted cream forlorn.

 

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell

To toll me back from thee to my hungry self!

Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well

As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.

Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive savour fades

Past the gums, over the tongue,

Down the throat; and now ’tis buried deep

In the straining belly:

Was it a Berliner, stuffed with jam and cream?

Fled is that donut:—Do I wake or sleep?

Five foods you should never eat

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The internet is filled with ads and articles telling us the five foods you should never eat.  There are three general commonalities in the five foods you should not eat.  They are white, they are full of sugar or they are highly processed (which means they are full of sugar or full of salt).

Here are my rules for a happy and healthy  eating life:

  1.  The longer it takes the healthier it is.  A four hour casserole is hands down healthier than a freezer to microwave meal.  The casserole may contain red meat and saturated fats such as lard or butter.  But it will have not a fraction of the salt, carbohydrates, sugars and strange chemicals you get in processed foods.
  2. If you make it yourself it will be healthier, tastier and you will eat less.
  3. You can get full, but you can’t get fat on salad.  You can get fat on buckets of mayonnaise, so eat salad with vinaigrette– Olive Oil, Vinegar, Mustard, Sugar.  Make it yourself and avoid all the processed crap.  Just one other thing:  Pasta is not salad!
  4. Coloured food is better.  Red, green, yellow, purple, eat lots of tomatoes, peppers, chilies, onions, garlic, sprouts, salad, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, celery, herbs, courgettes, squashes, go for it big time.  You will get full but you won’t get fat, unless you smother it in cheese sauce.
  5. Brown food is not great – sausage rolls, buns, fried food, deep fried food, breaded anything.  White food is even worse.   Ease up on pasta, rice, potatoes (eat as many sweet potatoes as you like), white bread, sugar and salt.
  6. Do not eat diet food.  It is only low in fat because it is full of sugar.  It is highly processed and the texture probably comes from the slime you get on rotting cabbages (really true).
  7. Eat fat.  Fat does not make you fat.  Sugar makes you fat. (Watch those sugary drinks)
  8. Eat broadly and in moderation.  Eat a little of a lot of different things and leave the table before you are full.
  9. Eat slowly.  Chew properly and savour every bite.  If you eat too fast you cannot follow rule 8 because your brain does not know how full you are.  If you are inclined to eat fast, then go to rule 3 and start every meal with a large salad.
  10. Enjoy food in a civilized manner.  Sit at a table with a knife and fork and plate, surrounded by other people.

Of course the other side of eating is exercise.  If you get off your ass you can eat as much as you want.  When did you see a fat postman?

Now, 5 things you really should never eat….

  1. Don’t eat your hat.
  2. Don’t eat humble pie.
  3. Don’t eat your words.
  4. Don’t eat your heart out.
  5. Swallow your pride, but never eat shit.

 

Italian Food : by Shel Silverstein

Oh, how I love Italian food.
I eat it all the time,
Not just ’cause how good it tastes
But ’cause how good it rhymes.
Minestrone, cannelloni,
Macaroni, rigatoni,
Spaghettini, scallopini,
Escarole, braciole,
Insalata, cremolata, manicotti,
Marinara, carbonara,
Shrimp francese, Bolognese,
Ravioli, mostaccioli,
Mozzarella, tagliatelle,
Fried zucchini, rollatini,
Fettuccine, green linguine,
Tortellini, Tetrazzini,
Oops–I think I split my jeani.