Amplifying ignorance through technological empowerment

There are numerous reports around the Internet about a supposed fraud. People that has never heard about the Drunkard’s Walk is firing up Excel or SPSS to plot variables and doing correlations, and while some of them actually ask for interpretation from someone else (an expert, preferrably), all of them are quick to state that the election is rigged, even when they lack either the knowledge or the experience to realize that they are wrong. Most arguments are critically flawed, the methodology is just wrong or anything resembling actual math is completely absent.
Some people are amazed when they apply a curve-fitting algorithm to some data and then -OMG!- it actually fits (What the fuck where they expecting?). Some other people find linear correlations in time series that represent percentages. A lot of people -a whole lot- are amazed that the lines in the PREP never crossed and believe that it is impossible. A couple of so-called experts were on the radio today discussing “mathematical irregularities” without providing real -scientific- arguments. AMLO himself has spoken about “mathematical impossibilities”. His cynicism -and the irony of the phrase- is mindboggling.
I have seen this same problem before in another context, and you might be familiar with it too: Someone learns to program using Visual Basic by drawing buttons and filling up code. He’s a programmer, right? Now he fires up VB.NET, learns to draw “web forms” and fills out some more code. Now he’s also a web programmer!
The same thing happens in other circles. For instance, we all know that anyone that can fill up a form in Blogger or LiveJournal is a journalist. Now we can prove that this very same phenomena -technological empowerment amplifying ignorance instead of supressing it- seems to work out with statistical programs -even with spreadsheets .
Hypothesis: If you give them SPSS, everyone is a statistician.
[tags]Mexico, IFE, PAN, PRD, PRI, Mexican Elections 2006, Math, Statistics, Ignorance, Education[/tags]

Mexican elections 20060704 @ 1600hrs

The PREP does not determine the actual winner, but a preliminary result within a certain error magin. The “Preliminar” part in “Preliminar Electoral Results Program” is conveniently ignored by many. Since the election numbers are too close to call, and given the error margin (that may account for human error, among other things), the IFE decided to go for a full vote before pronouncing a winner.
The data that the PREP reports is NOT random. The time series does not reflect the measurement of a social variable (e.g. number of births) but a sucessive approximation to a final state (the number of votes for each candidate).
There may be validations in place to detect typing errors (e.g. 129 instead of 124, 272 instead of 212) using the sums in the voting documents but the IFE may not be willing to discard the results of internally inconsistent voting documents (e.g. a bad sum).
The rules are clear, signed by every political party and written somewhere, but the great majority of the people does not know what they are.
As usual, the problem is either education, simple ignorance or disinformation.
[tags]Mexico, IFE, PAN, PRD, PRI, Mexican Elections 2006, Math, Education[/tags]

Mexican elections 20060703 @ 01:00hrs

Yesterday at 11pm IFE asked for prudence and -mostly- for silence. Once again, *both* PAN and PRD ignored the authority and jumped the gun to declare themselves the winner. The PAN cited hard -if somewhat uncertain- numbers. The PRD called to defend the vote, and that they will respect the results if the are real and the process was clean, which to me sounds like a poorly veiled threat. PRI -irrelevant as it may seem- is still in sweet denial and define themselves as “Mexico’s most important force for stability”, setting the table to negotiate with whomever comes out on top.
Myself, I will go to bed without the certainity of either a bright or a bleak future for me, my family, my business and my country, even if these elections demonstrate beyond doubt that those discrete black-or-white realities don’t apply to Mexico anymore. Uncertainity is definitely a lot worse.
I guess Paco Calderón says it best.
Now I just hope the rest of the world behaves with more responsibility than the candidates and that the market doesn’t punish us too much.
[tags]Mexico, IFE, PAN, PRD, PRI, Mexican Elections 2006[/tags]