Archive for racism

quote of the year

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2019 by xi'an

“J’ai eu une vie assez droite, je ne me suis jamais conduit comme un salaud” [I have lived a rather righteous life, I never behaved like a bastard]

Jean-Marie le Pen [condemned for apology of war crimes (1969), contestation of crimes against humanity (2009), Holocaust denial (1988, 2006), antisemitism (1986), racial hatred (2005, 2008), provocation to discrimination against Muslims (2004, 2006) and Roma (2017), and insults (1993, 1998, 2018), demoted of his European parliamentary immunity (1997), suspended from the European parliament for assault (2000), suspected of misappropriation of public funds (2019) and of torture in Algeria, founder of the extreme-right Front National (1972), &tc., &tc., speaking on France Inter]

and it only gets worse [verbatim]

Posted in Kids with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2019 by xi'an

““We do so much for Sweden but it doesn’t seem to work the other way around. Sweden should focus on its real crime problem.” DT, 25 July

“The Justice Department upholds the rule of law—and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.” William Barr, Attorney General, 25 July

“And you had the Nobel Prize? That’s incredible. They gave it to you for what reason?” DT, 17 July

“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” DT, 14 July

“Donald Trump is responsible for this. He is responsible because he is stoking fears and hatred and bigotry. He is responsible because he is failing to condemn white supremacy, and seeing it as it is.” Corry Booker, 4 August

down with Galton (and Pearson and Fisher…)

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2019 by xi'an


In the last issue of Significance, which I read in Warwick prior to the conference, there is a most interesting article on Galton’s eugenics, his heritage at University College London (UCL), and the overall trouble with honouring prominent figures of the past with memorials like named building or lectures… The starting point of this debate is a protest from some UCL students and faculty about UCL having a lecture room named after the late Francis Galton who was a professor there. Who further donated at his death most of his fortune to the university towards creating a professorship in eugenics. The protests are about Galton’s involvement in the eugenics movement of the late 18th and early 19th century. As well as professing racist opinions.

My first reaction after reading about these protests was why not?! Named places or lectures, as well as statues and other memorials, have a limited utility, especially when the named person is long dead and they certainly do not contribute in making a scientific theory [associated with the said individual] more appealing or more valid. And since “humans are [only] humans”, to quote Stephen Stigler speaking in this article, it is unrealistic to expect great scientists to be perfect, the more if one multiplies the codes for ethical or acceptable behaviours across ages and cultures. It is also more rational to use amphitheater MS.02 and lecture room AC.18 rather than associate them with one name chosen out of many alumni’s or former professors’.

Predictably, another reaction of mine was why bother?!, as removing Galton’s name from the items it is attached to is highly unlikely to change current views on eugenism or racism. On the opposite, it seems to detract from opposing the present versions of these ideologies. As some recent proposals linking genes and some form of academic success. Another of my (multiple) reactions was that as stated in the article these views of Galton’s reflected upon the views and prejudices of the time, when the notions of races and inequalities between races (as well as genders and social classes) were almost universally accepted, including in scientific publications like the proceedings of the Royal Society and Nature. When Karl Pearson launched the Annals of Eugenics in 1925 (after he started Biometrika) with the very purpose of establishing a scientific basis for eugenics. (An editorship that Ronald Fisher would later take over, along with his views on the differences between races, believing that “human groups differ profoundly in their innate capacity for intellectual and emotional development”.) Starting from these prejudiced views, Galton set up a scientific and statistical approach to support them, by accumulating data and possibly modifying some of these views. But without much empathy for the consequences, as shown in this terrible quote I found when looking for more material:

“I should feel but little compassion if I saw all the Damaras in the hand of a slave-owner, for they could hardly become more wretched than they are now…”

As it happens, my first exposure to Galton was in my first probability course at ENSAE when a terrific professor was peppering his lectures with historical anecdotes and used to mention Galton’s data-gathering trip to Namibia, literally measure local inhabitants towards his physiognomical views , also reflected in the above attempt of his to superpose photographs to achieve the “ideal” thief…

Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2018 by xi'an

and it only gets worse…

Posted in Books, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2018 by xi'an

““Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, after being presented with a proposal to restore protections for immigrants from those countries [African nations].” The Guardian, Jan 12, 2018

“The Trump administration is creating an office to protect the religious rights of medical providers, including those who may oppose abortion or transgender rights.” The Guardian, Jan 18, 2018

“Nuclear experts are warning, using some of their most urgent language since President Trump took office, that Hawaii’s false alarm, in which state agencies alerted locals to a nonexistent missile attack, underscores a growing risk of unintended nuclear war with North Korea.” NYT, Jan 15, 2018

““I don’t know if the president is clinically off his rocker. I do know, from what I saw and what I heard from people around him, that Donald Trump is deeply unpredictable, irrational, at times bordering on incoherent, self-obsessed in a disconcerting way, and displays all those kinds of traits that anyone would reasonably say, ‘What’s going on here, is something wrong?’” [Michael Wolff]” The Guardian, Jan 15, 2018

“Mr. Trump received a score of 30 out of 30 on the Montréal Cognitive Assessment, a well-known test regularly used at hospitals. It asks patients to repeat a list of spoken words, identify pictures of animals like a lion or a camel, draw a cube or draw a clock face set to a particular time.” NYT, Jan 17, 2018

““Through statistical analysis, video evidence, and personal experience, our team has uncovered a disturbing reality. In the majority of cases, US border patrol agents are responsible for the widespread interference with essential humanitarian efforts. The practice of destruction of and interference with aid is not the deviant behavior of a few rogue border patrol agents, it is a systemic feature of enforcement practices in the borderlands.” [No More Deaths]” The Guardian, Jan 18, 2018

““We’ll save a lot. We don’t care. But this isn’t like it used to be where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars,” [Trump] said. “We’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer.”” The Guardian, Dec 21, 2017