More on Rigging Elections

Now, let us suppose that somehow the Hillary campaign actually managed to

(a) make sure that a rigged coin – supplied by them, not taken from somebody’s pocket – was used in each of the six coin toss cases

(b) figure out in advance which caucuses had to get those coins

(c) tell their person which side of the coin to choose in case a toin coss came up,

(d) none of the other folks noticed any of this skullduggery taking place right in front of their eyes — (by the way, you should watch this video of how this worked in practice)

THEN, yes, that weighted coin might help their odds, as you can see in this chart:


I used the binomial theorem to figure this one out. Let me give a few examples: in the row that’s highlighted in green, the probability of heads and tails is both 50%, and as I indicated int he last post, the probability of getting ‘heads’ five times out of six is about 9.38%. However, if you could somehow figure out how to make a coin that came up ‘heads’ 60% of the time, then your chances of getting 5 heads would improve to 18.66%.

And if you could boost the unfairness of your coin to the point that it would come up heads 80% of the time then your chances of getting 5 ‘heads’ would be 39.37%. Still not a slam-dunk.

I only know of two ways to make a coin biased. One method is to carefully split two coins in half the hard way, and make a two-headed coin (or two-tailed) coin. Such coins are actually sold in magic shops.

The other method is to bend the coin slightly – I am told that the concave side will end up being on top more frequently (like a cup).

So, Hillary’s nasty minions would have had to either distribute a bunch of bent coins or two-headed coins, and nobody else would have had the brains or eyesight to notice, for this to have been rigged.

I don’t think so.

Probability and Vote Rigging

A fellow in one of my astro clubs is a vehement Trump supporter — mostly because of 2nd amendment issues, he told me. But he also greatly dislikes Hillary Clinton, believing that she rigs everything. I believe he said that the fact that Hillary beat Bernie in 5 out of 6 coin tosses used to settle dead heats in some small mostly-white northern caucus state (I forget which), proved that she cheated.
I’d like to go into that here.
He also wrote: “Read the leaked DNC emails. Look at the videos of voter fraud. Tell me they are not true. The emails alone are dam[n]ing…”
My reply was:
“Lessee, the leaked DNC emails are, what, a million or so pages? It’d take me HOURS to read all that (sike – decades!) Mind giving me a clue as to what to look at first? Help me out here?
 “And which voter fraud videos? The ones where this one person, or another person (gosh, possibly as many as a full DOZEN?) voted twice? Or the ones where racist politicians wipe tens of thousands of their political enemies off the voter list, and enact policies that they know good and well will further reduce the voter turnout of their enemies’ supporters by tens of thousands more? Which one do you think is more serious []?” — I continued…
I haven’t seen his response yet.
And by the say, to get 5 heads out of six flips is not all that unlikely – I think it will happen about 10% of the time if you reproduce the experiment a few million times on a computer. Here’s how I calculate that: we only really need to figure out what are the odds of getting exactly one tails in the experiment, which is much easier to calculate. For each of the six coin tosses, I am going to assume that the probability of getting heads = p(tails) = 1/2 or 50% or 0.5. [Obvviously if the game is rigged, then the probabiolity is gonna be different, and wer’ll look into that in a bit.
So the probability of getting tails on the first toss and all the others heads is 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/1 * 1/2 because the coin tosses in our ideal experiment are completely independent – nobody’s cheating, no magnets or tiny weights or two-headed coins. Or (1/2)^ 6 , or 1/64. Now if you think about it a bit, the probability of getting tails on throw #2 and heads everywhere else is exactly the same: 0.5 ^ 6, or 1/64. And in fact, there are six places that your solitary heads can come up – first, second, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th, and the probabilities are all the same, so we can just add them or all together, or else multiply 1/64 by 6, and we get 6/64, of 3/32, 9.375% of the time. So I was off a bit, it’s closer to 9% than 10% . Not a big deal.
In fact, if you use something called the binomial theorem, or better yet, Pascal’s triangle which you can write on a piece of scratch paper in a minute or less, you can calculate what is P(0 tails), P(1 tail), and P(2 tails) all the way up to P(6 tails.)
P0 = 1/64 = P6 = 1.5625%
P1 = 6/64 = P(5) = 9.375%
P2 = 15/64  = P(4) = 23.4375%
P(3) = 20/64 = 31.25%
I hope you underrstand my shortcuts. if not, please tell me and I’ll explain more clearly.
In any case, the chance of getting exactly 1 head or exactly 1 tail adds up to about 19% of the time — not impossible.
If, howebver, the coin (or whatever it was they were using) was rigged, then things are different, and I’ll look into that later. Gotta run now.

Super Scenario for Tonight’s Debate

Wonderful screenplay for an alternate-reality presidential debate, from Aaron Wiseman, who’s been a friend of my own kids for decades – they’be been to each others’ weddings, etc. I had no idea he could write like this. It’s fantastic, don’t you agree?
“Best case scenario for tonight’s debates?
10-minutes in, we’re seeing the same bullshit.
Suddenly, all the house lights go down. The arena is awash in total darkness. Panic begins to set in when the lights flicker and momentarily reveal a cloaked figure in the rafters.
The lights flash again and the figure is gone. Suddenly, a crushing guitar riff fills the entire venue. A spotlight shines down on the arena floor. The figure from the rafters has magically moved with supernatural speed.
As the music builds, the cloak falls to the floor. IT’S JOE BIDEN! He’s wearing a crisp blue two button suit complete with arm tassels and full Warrior face paint.
As the music hits full crescendo, Joe takes off towards the stage at a full sprint! In one graceful move he slides onto the stage and hits Trump with a forearm to the dome.
The Great Pumpkin, takes the blow like it’s nothing. That doesn’t slow ole Joe and he hits the Cheeto Demon with a super kick to the face. B-Side Beelzebub just smiles.
Is he even human? How can he take so much punishment? Joe looks to the audience pleadingly.
As if to say, “I hit him with my best shot. How?” But then the carroty façade begins to falter and Trump’s knees buckle. His eyes roll into the back of his head and he begins to stagger around the stage.
Joe goes in for the finisher and hoists Trump into the air by his belt. As Trump begins to flail, Joe sends the would-be-dictator-tot crashing to the floor. A perfectly executed Gorilla Press.
Hillary walks up to Joe, her arms open in gratitude. But instead of matching her embracing, Joe grabs the mic from the former Secretary of State.
This wasn’t for you. Hill. A. Ry. Clin. Ton” Joe growls, “It was for America!”

Right-wing Extremists Are a Big Problem

Judging by the results, home-grown right-wing terrorists and extremists are a bigger problem in America than Islamic jihadis. They have killed more Americans, if you start the clock after 9-12-2001. And if you go back to 1865, when the KKK and similar groups were founded, the body count of death by lynching, shooting, and beatings is incomparably greater for racists and such than all the twisted followers of Daesh, ISIS, al-Qaeda or their ilk.

This article is a somewhat detailed summary of the three major (and often overlapping) types of home-grown, right-wing, often racist American extremists that have been plotting to overthrow the government and to kill individuals they don’t like. Please read it and share.

Published in: on October 17, 2016 at 11:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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Chicago Teachers Win!

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Michelle Strater Gunderson with Karen Jennings Lewis.

Karen Lewis signing the tentative agreement between the Chicago Teachers Union and the city.


  • The Chicago teachers were able to reach an agreement with whatever it is that passes for a school board there, without a strike, but at the very last minute. The board knew quite well that teachers (and their supporters, who include the vast majority of parents) were strongtly united and WOULD have gone on strike had the board not caved in and agreed.


    That being said, I’m sure the contract isn’t perfect and that the teachers and parents will need to continue to unite to press for positive reforms.

“You will differentiate instruction for every student in exactly the same way, or else”


One of the many reasons I rejoice every day that I was able to retire!


Read what classroom observations have devolved to:

What A Joke DC Education Chancellor Kaya Henderson Was – City Paper

Very detailed article in the Washington City Paper showing how our recently-resigned Chancellor, Kaya Henderson, failed to do much of anything to narrow DC’s extremely-high gap between high-achieving and low-achieving students, even though she had oodles of money, complete control over resources, and the ability to fire teachers and administrators almost at will.

As I have shown repeatedly (see here, here, here, here, and here for starters. Or else here) DC has the widest gap of the entire USA between the scores of poor kids vs the non-poor, between white kids and black or hispanic kids, and between those in Special Ed and those who are not. This article shows how the Henderson and Rhee administrations failed to do pretty much anything to improve conditions at schools where there were large concentrations of ‘at risk’ kids, other than saying that by some miracle, they would improve scores by 40 percentage points at all of the schools where 40% of the kids were ‘at risk’.

(A quote from the article: ‘ “No school in the history of time has achieved such goals,” counters a D.C. Council staffer familiar with DCPS school reform. “On its face, the concept of this as a reachable goal was ridiculous.” ‘)

And of course, it never happened. No extra resources, and no miraculous gains.

But according to the article, Kaya has an excuse – just the sort of thing that she and Michelle Rhee used to berate actual, um, educators for saying:

‘ when Payne persisted with a question about Henderson’s “personal goal of closing achievement gaps,” the chancellor explained: “I am not exactly convinced that schools alone can close the achievement gap. I think about the fact that in Washington, D.C., we have the greatest income inequality in the country. That gap is only growing, and the fact that our achievement gap is growing in a similar way shouldn’t be baffling. But I think what we’ve learned is that equity is really more appropriate, giving different people different kinds of support…And for different groups and different kids that means different things.”

My friends and colleagues Elizabeth Davis and Mary Levy are quoted. It’s a long article, but well worth reading.

Trump, Finance, and Outsourcing

I listened to Trump talking about the Chinese and Mexicans ‘stealing our jobs’. In fact, it’s American companies who shed American jobs either by automating the production (so that 1 worker today can do about the same amount of work as 10 workers back when I had summer jobs in factories making automobile parts and clamps and such, 40 or 50 years ago) or else by closing the entire American branch of the firm down and selling off all its assets and machines and renegotiating for suppliers of its raw materials and for customers, and generally stiffing the workers who had oftentimes accumulated a promise to some sort of a pension and life long health care plan after working a set number of years. So after working in a factory or mine for their entire able-bodied adult life, they end up with almost nothing.
(Trump would have a bit more credibility on this topic if he hadn’t for years had almost all of his branded products made in China, Vietnam, Mexico and so on. ‘Makes him smart’ to do an end-run around American wages, worker protections, and taxes. While he complains to American supporters about other corporations like Ford and Caterpillar doing exactly the same thing.)
When I went to school and worked for about 6-7 years in NH, MA, NY and VT during my ‘teens and 20’s, I knew older workers (like at my college) who lost had lost multiple fingers in the textile mills — which had already closed because the corporate heads were chasing cheaper labor in the American South. The janitor in my college dorm was a really nice older fellow. I think he still had a majority of his fingers, but I vividly remember that he was unable to go up a flight of stairs without immediately sitting down for 10 minutes at an oxygen tank, because he had contracted ‘white lung’ from years working around whirring machinery and breathing hot, moist air filled with cotton dust. [The hot, moist air and high levels of cotton dust made for better production levels and thus, higher profits for the company, workers’ long-term health be damned.] Despite his advanced age, he clearly still needed to work at the College because his Social Security and whatever pension he may or may not have had wasn’t enough.] He had an oxygen tank on the second and third floors of our dorm, IIRC.
Extremely highly-skilled tool and die workers in Springfield, VT, which was once the very center of precision machine manufacturing of the United States, have seen the entire industry in that so-called ‘precision valley’ get shipped overseas. All of those factories are now empty shells, it’s true.
I talked to coal miners in West Virginia in the 1970s and 1980s who were similarly scarred for life by black lung disease; they were upset 35 years ago that their lifetime health care plans would be taken away or dramatically reduced.
But it’s not immigrant workers who sneak across our borders with secret plans to remoove all those machines in the dead of night, with the open or hush-hush agreements of state and local and federal governments, banks & other financial institutions, lawyers, and other companies that supply them with spare parts, raw materials, and markets. It’s not illegal aliens doing this. It’s sleaze bag financiers and businessmen like Donald Trump, Goldman Sachs, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, the Walton family, and the Koch brothers who do this. Not desperate workers looking for a life but who can’t afford the fees, bribes, lawyers and connections needed to get official, legitimate, visas and green cards.
In fact, one can make the argument that it’s the Walton family itself that has nearly single-handedly made China the manufacturing center of the entire world. David Stockman among many others has shown that Walmart’s relentless pressure to reduce prices forced American companies to lay off almost all of their American workers and to outsource production to countries where workers are killed by goons and their bodies bnurned or fed to crocodiles if they try to organize unions (as opposed to simply being fired, bankrupted and disgraced, which is the American way) to try to get better than starvation wages, some personal privacy and respect, shorter hours, and safer working conditions. So that’s why if you visit places like Rochester, Phoenixville, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Springfield (VT), Detroit, or Indianapolis you won’t see the factories that gave employment to (and also maimed and wore out) millions of American workers. We also don’t have the smog or severe air and water pollution of yesteryear. The heavily-polluting coke mills of Gary or Weirton WV are (I think?) all closed too, thanks both to EPA rules and the impersonal dictates of the ‘invisible hand’ and the Walton family fortune.
But all is not so wonderful in China (or India, Thailand or Vietnam) for those peasants-turned-factory workers who are no longer spending their lives hoeing rice, millet, or sorghum but instead making toys, clothing, textiles, electronics, cars, and anything else for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, all $100/month (Vietnam) see this for US, Germany, China comparisons
For one thing, the air pollution in India and China reminds me of the similar and famous problems of London or Pittsburgh back in the 1950’s (see London 1953 and Beijing 60 years later, below)
London during the Great Smog  
In addition, China is itself in a completely unsustainable bubble, where the financiers and Party heads command enormous empty modern cities to be built in the middle of nowhere, in which nobody works or lives except for a few security guards and custodians, and there are no open businesses or shops – as a way of making jobs, but nobody appears to be able to afford to buy the apartments and condos there. I don’t pretend to understand how that makes any sense, nor do I comprehend, high finance, but some people say they do, and their predictions for the Chinese economy make for pretty alarming reading.
And of course, the fact that nearly all Trump products are made overseas is a pretty good indication that he’s just pandering to an easily-fooled section of the electorate. It’s divide-and-rule: make American workers (who have been screwed by the 1/10 of 1% who rule this country) hate and blame workers overseas, especially if them furriners come here looking to make a better life and don’t have the right papers or might have some funny ideas or aren’t Baptists or Methodists …
Published in: on September 29, 2016 at 11:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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How Finland Handles Education: By Doing About the Opposite of Everything Advocated by American Educational ‘Reformers’

Yet another article on the Finnish education miracle, this one in The Guardian. Definitely worth reading.

Vision vs Practice

One more article from Peter Greene, the best educational blogger I am aware of. I’m copying and pasting the entire thing.


Forest and Trees

Posted: 15 Sep 2016 10:24 AM PDT

Like many jobs in the world, particularly those that deal with humans, teaching requires focus on both forests and trees.

A teacher faces questions like these in the classroom:

What body of information do I need to convey to my students in a deep and integrated manner that best fits their pedagogical requirements and will most help them take their place as fully-actualized adults in the world?

What instructional techniques can best be used with this particular set of content-based objectives that also blend with and respect the cultural and personal backgrounds of my students while maintaining a whole child approach that helps achieve my global objectives?

But these questions are also part of the classroom world:

What’s the most efficient way to get these test papers passed back?

Do I have enough copies of this worksheet?

Can I get Chris to stop jabbing Pat with a pencil?

You can’t have one without the other. Focusing on the broad and deep concerns of education is like loving someone deeply and fully and never doing anything about it but sitting in your room and writing angsty poems. A broad vision without an action plan gets nothing done, achieves nothing for the students. But focus too intently on the nuts and bolts and you end up with a technician who completes tasks efficiently, even though the tasks have no real useful purpose behind them. You need a vision of how to get through the next year, and a plan for how to get through the next forty minutes.

Educational amateurs and neophytes often suffer from this balance problem. Beginning teachers may enter the classroom with Big Dreams about Touching the Future and Shaping Young Minds, but with no idea of how to get twenty-five teenagers to keep watching while the teacher writes on the board (chalk, white or smart). I’ve also seen new teachers arrive with stacks of unit plans and worksheets, ready to deploy them while moving briskly through the textbook, but with no idea of why they’re doing any of it except that it’s their idea of what teachers do. Each creates their own problems– one leads to students who ask “What the heck are we doing?” while the other prompts students to ask “Why the heck are we doing this?” And the teacher has no answer, and the class sinks further and further into the weeds.

The educational amateurs who push the reformy agenda have similar issues.

On the one hand we have visionaries who offer broad vague ideas, like we will lift up teachers so that they will raise expectations of students, who will rise and succeed, emerging from school well-educated and primed to succeed while also closing the achievement gap. All of which is pretty, but completely avoids the question of how, exactly, this will work. You are face to face in a classroom with a student who doesn’t understand what the first paragraph of “Call of the Wild” says– exactly how will you Higher Expect him into understanding. And you’re doing it in a room with thirty other students, some of which haven’t eaten in twenty-four hours, and the walls in the room are crumbling, and you don’t have enough copies of the book, so you’re looking at a projection of it on the stained and peeling wall in a neighborhood historically riven by all the stress that comes with being on the wrong side of poverty and systemic racism. What exactly will you do in the next fifteen minutes? Visionaries don’t have an answer. They just want you to keep your eyes on those higher expectations and big dreams etc etc etc. and when anyone brings up the “How do we spend the next forty minutes” question, visionaries level the accusation that folks lack vision and keep making excuses.

On the other hand, we have the technicians. These reformsters are excited because technology answers all the questions about how to manage tests and practice and worksheets and all the record-keeping. They know exactly what you’re going to do for the next forty minutes– have students log on to their program and pull up the next module of materials that have been selected by the AI and answer questions as the software process those answers so that you can see the data crunched on the monitor on your desk. Technicians are so excited about the efficiency and elegance of this system that they forget to ask if any of it actually is a good way to serve the educational needs of the students. They are so excited about the pipeline they’ve built that they never stop to consider that the solid, unyielding shape of that pipeline completely dictates what can pass through that pipeline, allowing curricular and pedagogical decisions to simply happen as a side-effect of the technical delivery system.

Visionaries build gorgeous golden imaginary productions without any means of transporting them into the world. Technicians build efficient systems for delivering things that don’t do anyone any good.

Teaming them up is not enough. They will fight. They will argue, and they will ultimately produce something that includes the worst of both worlds.

No, an actual teacher has to have both a vision and an understanding of how to make it real. A teacher must always balance a broad, deep view, and a detailed, granular one. A teacher must see forests and trees, as well as leaves and bark and full-scale ecosystems. When we tell reformsters that they should talk to actual classroom teachers, it’s invariably a reaction to their lack of a full scale of sight, their childlike belief that if you just concentrate really hard on the forest, the trees will take care of themselves– or vice versa.

Teaching is by no means the only profession where this sort of many-scales issue exists. In most professions, part of the training and the wisdom of experience is based on learning to see forests and trees and how they fit together. But in every other profession, it is widely understood that it takes a professional to see All That. It is in teaching that powerful amateurs continue to believe that since they once camped in a forest or they have this one tree they know really well, that makes them knowledgeable to act like a professional educator (and in some cases, qualified to wave a giant chainsaw around with abandon).

Like any metaphor, this one this limitations, and not everyone fits inside. But we’ll wait for another day to discuss the people who want to clear cut the forest and replace the trees with condos.

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