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Sic Semper Tyrannis

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Village Watchman, Who Just Puts Down What He Damn Pleases.

"The government are very keen on amassing statistics. They collect them, add them, raise them to the nth power, take the cube root and prepare wonderful diagrams. But you must never forget that every one of these figures comes in the first instance from the village watchman, who just puts down what he damn pleases."
That quote has been attributed to a guy named Josiah Stamp, a British Baron, banker, and statistician who died in 1941.

I think of it often. I thought of it just the other day, after I read this story:

Remember in January when the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its good friends in media trumpeted that 2006 was the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States?

NOAA based that finding - which allegedly capped a nine-year warming streak "unprecedented in the historical record" - on the daily temperature data that its National Climatic Data Center gathers from about 1,221 mostly rural weather observation stations around the country.
Turns out those "rural weather observation stations" might be putting down what they damn well please.