Dodgy Stats

Some actual numbers

The Lower Kootenay Band said on Wednesday that ground-penetrating radar had revealed 182 human remains at St Eugene’s Mission residential school,


Assume that all are of children.

The school opened in 1890 and became an industrial school in 1912. According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it was the site of recurring outbreaks of influenza, mumps, measles, chicken pox and tuberculosis.

Hmm. Some 5,000 went through that school. That’s a death rate of near 4%.

By today’s standards that’s appallingly, horrendously, high. By general population standards of 300 years ago that’s probably pretty good. The probably because we’ve not really got – or I don’t at least – any real guidance on child mortality. We know roughly what young child mortality was. One in four didn’t see their fifth birthday sorta numbers. 25% that is. But that’s for, obviously enough, under fives. What normal mortality was for those between say, 5 and 15, I don’t know.

Sometime between 300 years ago and today whatever that old mortality rate was declined to today’s. And it declined bit by bit in different places. Child mortality in London was always much higher than in the country for example, it only became self-sustaining in population quite late in history.

What was child mortality – child, 5 to 15 – in Canada generally between 1890 and 1970? What was it among the bands? Then what was it in these schools?

No, I dunno. But those are the numbers we should be trying to see.

So what is this really telling us?

The peer-reviewed study, published on Thursday in the Environmental Science and Technology journal, found PFAS at levels in milk ranging from 50 parts per trillion (ppt) to more than 1,850ppt.

There are no standards for PFAS in breast milk, but the public health advocacy organization Environmental Working Group puts its advisory target for drinking water at 1ppt, and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, within the Department of Health and Human Services, recommends as little as 14ppt in children’s drinking water.

Actually, it’s telling us that analysis of trace elements has become better in recent years. When I first started in metals in the 1990s analysing to parts per million was still a fairly hazy idea. Could be done, certainly, but you’d not get the same results from different labs. Parts per billion, ppb, was something even the environmentalists only started worrying about more recently. Now we’re on to parts per trillion, ppt.

It’s possible that there is a real problem here, possible. But the real lesson to take first is how much better we’re getting at analysis.

As to personal opinion I’d worry much more about the contamination of the sampling equipment than anything else. The claim is that these chemicals are in packaging. OK, so, what’s the packaging of the testing equipment?

If only this were true

However elevated, we are all prisoners of the moment. We see the world as it is;

Given the general beliefs about inequality – it ain’t increasing nor is it at record levels, certainly not record highs – climate change – we’ve already dodged the bad scenarios – and so on we’d dp rather better if at least a few people did in fact see the world as it is.


Almost three times as many under 60s died in road crashes last year as those without health conditions killed by coronavirus, NHS data shows.

Just 388 people under the age of 60 with no underlying health conditions have died of coronavirus in England, NHS data has revealed.

The figures show that only 0.8 per cent of all deaths from coronavirus between April 2 and December 23 came from this group of the population.

In the same time 45,770 people had died with underlying health conditions, while 1,979 were viewed as healthy.

Policy didn’t particularly follow this information though, did it?

Isn’t this disgusting!

Many, many cities in the country do zoning in this way, but Atherton is what you could say is the most successful in using zoning to keep out anyone who is not wealthy or white.”


In a town of just over 7,100 residents, the population is 73% white.

California in toto is about 60% white. That thus seems well within normal statistical variation to me……

Isn’t this a hell of a surprise?

In 2018/19, a little over 1,000 social homes were delivered across 91 rural local authorities in England. On current building rates, it will take 154 years to clear the backlog in social housing.

Social homes, “affordable housing”, is offered below market price. There’s a long waiting list for below market price housing.

Gee, ya think?

The bit Steve McQueen misses

Ultimately, British production companies, financiers and the US studios working here need to make a decision about what side of history they want to be on. They need to start reflecting the diversity of the UK, not just in front of the camera, but behind it. Every British production should have a quota in place for actors and crew. We need to put an infrastructure in place where people from the BAME community, who make up around 14% of the population, have access to jobs, have access to training and apprenticeship schemes and can further their careers.

OK, cool. That will mean discriminating against BAME applicants. Yes, against.

For workforces are not drawn from the national pool but from the local. Once you get away from leading name actors that is. And much of the UK’s TV and film production is done in areas – like London or nearby – where the BAME portion of the population is higher than that national average of 14%. So, a 14% target means discrimination against BAMEs in that local population that workforce is drawn from.

This also works the other way of course. The Tyne area is – as an example – one of the least BAME areas in the country. Blacks were something like 1 % or so at the last census from memory.

Looking at the national population doesn’t in fact tell us much useful about what should be the mix in a specific area.