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Well, he would, wouldn’t he?

Peter Travers, writing in a 1989 Rolling Stone magazine review of the film Scandal, describes a scene depicting call girl Mandy Rice-Davies played by Bridget Fonda:

Her court appearance during Ward’s trial for pimping is one of the film’s highlights. Told that Lord Astor has denied their assignations, Mandy retorts, “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?”

That’s the line that I remember from the film and it comes to mind from time to time when I find someone doing something totally predictable.

I think about predictable self-serving statements like Astor’s denial in terms of  information theory. In information theory, it is observed that a message whose content is known beforehand with 100% certainty, itself carries no information (has no entropy). There is no reason to send a message if it’s content is already known, and I consider valueless political speech where the self-serving speaker acts the same way they always do in a totally predictable manner.

Much of birther speech these days consists of predictions that we label “any day now.” To me, those predictions, not based on any new facts, and part of an unvarying pattern of unjustified optimism, convey no information. Containing no information, there is no difference between them being said and them not being said.

I don’t want to go off topic and so I will only say that comments from politicians and pundits on a broad range of recent events evoke the same response from me: “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?”

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21 Responses to Well, he would, wouldn’t he?

  1. avatar
    Arthur June 4, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    Doc,

    That would be Bridget Fonda as Mandy Rice-Davies, not Jane Fonda. You got it right on the tag, so this must have just been a typo.

    [Typo. Doc]

  2. avatar
    Andrew Vrba, PmG June 4, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    Oh, and here I thought it was the “before” pic of Orly Taitz, prior to her six pounds-a-day meth habit. ;)

  3. avatar
    bgansel9 June 4, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

    I would say that there is one thing that we can garner from the birthers’ inane statements and that would be how far they have invested themselves in a world view where our president is believed to be illegitimate and committing treason.

  4. avatar
    Benji Franklin June 4, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

    Doc,
    You wrote:” There is no reason to send a message if it’s content is already known…”

    I understand the sense in which you mean that, but there can be an associated reason to send such a message, that being to test the ability of the channel chosen to carry the message, to do so without changing its critical meaning.

    If there is not enough redundancy built into the message to make its intended content still discernible when it arrives, you would have discovered a degree to which the channel is an unreliable means of conveyance for a message of that message’s degree of redundancy. Analysis of the differences might tell you a lot about the configuration or condition of the channel’s component parts.

    Lying human beings like Birthers, have proven to be unreliable channels through which to send messages complimentary of President Obama, regardless of the redundancy built into the message when they are given it.

    So you could perhaps tell if someone is a Birther by telling them something positive about Obama and seeing how faithfully they retell it?

  5. avatar
    bob June 4, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

    This looks to be like Zullo’s “universe-shattering” information:

    http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/valleyfever/2014/06/joe-arpaio-investigating-judge-murray-snow-doj.php

  6. avatar
    Arthur June 4, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

    bob:
    This looks to be like Zullo’s “universe-shattering” information:

    http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/valleyfever/2014/06/joe-arpaio-investigating-judge-murray-snow-doj.php

    Fascinating . . . so it was always just about the money.

  7. avatar
    Notorial Dissent June 4, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

    So maybe now we know why the Klown Prince made a sub rosa trip to WA, and it may not have just been to see ding a ling Vogt, begins to make a great deal more sense now, one con artist conniving with another one. This could fill in a lot of the gaps in the Kommandate’s stories about the “universe-shattering” pat. pend. info he is eventually, someday, maybe gonna release.

  8. avatar
    Comrade Fogovich June 4, 2014 at 8:53 pm #

    Well, it most certainly would shatter the universe if Zullo and Shurf Joe were able to put all these rascals behind bars.

    1. President Obama
    2. Eric Holder
    3. Federal District Court Judge Murray Snow

    Yowza! Biggest scandal in American history!

    All done by scammers, hacks and grifters!

    It doesn’t get any bigger than this!

    I predict this will be a national story by tomorrow, and then we’ll finally see the first of Zullo’s promised press conferences, but IT WON’T BE PRETTY. :mrgreen:

  9. avatar
    Comrade Fogovich June 4, 2014 at 9:00 pm #

    Bringing it back on topic:

    Obot #1: “Sheriff Joe is secretly investigating Judge Snow and Eric Holder, using a scammer from the state of Washington.

    Obot #2: WELL, HE WOULD, WOULDN’T HE??

    :D

  10. avatar
    Keith (not logged on) June 4, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

    bob:
    This looks to be like Zullo’s “universe-shattering” information:

    http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/valleyfever/2014/06/joe-arpaio-investigating-judge-murray-snow-doj.php

    Wow. Just wow.

    I always knew Joe was crazy, but I never thought he was stupid. Live and learn, I guess.

  11. avatar
    CarlOrcas June 4, 2014 at 10:09 pm #

    Comrade Fogovich: I predict this will be a national story by tomorrow, and then we’ll finally see the first of Zullo’s promised press conferences, but IT WON’T BE PRETTY. :mrgreen:

    I’m not sure about tomorrow. It’ll probably bounce around for a couple days as it sinks in and people like the county supervisors and managers respond to the spending of over $200,000 on a snipe hunt.

    But from there on it will it will only get uglier for Zullo and Arpaio.

  12. avatar
    alg June 4, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

    bob:
    This looks to be like Zullo’s “universe-shattering” information: http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/valleyfever/2014/06/joe-arpaio-investigating-judge-murray-snow-doj.php

    Whoa. If any of that is actually true, the person potentially subject to RICO is the good Sheriff himself. This is something the Arizona Republic should pick up on. Whoa.

    By the way….here is something else of interest:

    http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/politics/2014/06/02/wilcox-arpaio-payout-lawsuit-abrk/9884143/

  13. avatar
    GLaB June 5, 2014 at 12:41 am #

    By the way….here is something else of interest:

    http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/politics/2014/06/02/wilcox-arpaio-payout-lawsuit-abrk/9884143/

    Amusing that disgraced, disbarred former Maricopa County Atty Andrew Thomas is running for Governor He has a near Orlyesque lack of self-awareness.

  14. avatar
    Slartibartfast June 5, 2014 at 1:07 am #

    Aaacckk pptthhbbtt!

    Now you’ve got me trying to figure out the entropy of an Apuzzo blog post. For any meme x_i, the entropy h is given by

    h(x_i) = -p(x_i) log p(x_i)

    For instance, if 90% of the comments on his blog mention the “definition” in Minor, this would mean that meme adds about 0.137 bits of entropy to Mario’s comments. If we compute this value for each meme Mario uses and sum over them, I doubt we would get more than a couple of bits of entropy. It would be very interesting to compute the entropy for all of the birthers to see which ones have the most information in their comments…

  15. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 5, 2014 at 7:51 am #

    Two bits, four bits, six bits A Puzzo!

    Slartibartfast: I doubt we would get more than a couple of bits of entropy. It would be very interesting to compute the entropy for all of the birthers to see which ones have the most information in their comments…

  16. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy June 5, 2014 at 9:58 am #

    I read a book on Information Theory in high school (a miraculous thing in itself given the rural Alabama town I grew up in had no book store) and it is one of the mathematical concepts that has informed the way I have looked at the world all my life.

    Slartibartfast: Now you’ve got me trying to figure out the entropy of an Apuzzo blog post. For any meme x_i, the entropy h is given by

  17. avatar
    Slartibartfast June 5, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

    I spent two years studying dynamical systems and ergodic theory under Sheldon Newhouse (a student of Stephen Smale) at Michigan State. If I had gotten my phd there, he probably would have been my advisor. He was very keen on teaching us all about measure-theoretic entropy (and an awful lot about the work of Kolmogorov). I find the subject fascinating and can understand why a book on information theory would have a big impact on you. I have what I think is a big idea born out of my knowledge of entropy that I hope to be able to develop one day.

    Thanks for enabling me to play with one of my favorite mathematical toys for a bit, Doc!

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    I read a book on Information Theory in high school (a miraculous thing in itself given the rural Alabama town I grew up in had no book store) and it is one of the mathematical concepts that has informed the way I have looked at the world all my life.

  18. avatar
    RanTalbott June 6, 2014 at 1:11 am #

    To me, those predictions, not based on any new facts, and part of an unvarying pattern of unjustified optimism, convey no information.

    Ah, but that’s because you’re looking at it from the wrong perspective: instead of just information theory, you need to also look from the perspectives of psychology and sociology, because some of what you’re dismissing as mere “meta-information” is actually part of the content.

    Your viewpoint would assert that there’s no point in cheering at sporting events, because everyone already knows that the fans want their guy/gal/team to win.

    But part of the content is implied messages like “We’re still supporting you, even though you’re losing at the moment”, or “We remain confident that you can win if you just try hard enough”, or “That was great. Do it again”.

    Those seemingly-redundant messages also fill human needs for self- and mutual-reinforcement of shared beliefs through repetition, and strengthening the group bond through shared effort toward the group goals (even if that “share” consists only of watching and cheering).

    And a lot of that applies quite directly to birfering, because birfers see it as part of the struggle of their “tribe” for dominance over “the Other”.

    Their “communication” is much more like sports cheering than it is like two PCs sharing files through ftp or scp ;-)

  19. avatar
    Keith June 6, 2014 at 2:19 am #

    Slartibartfast: Thanks for enabling me to play with one of my favorite mathematical toys for a bit, Doc!

    Can you guys sign on to Above Top Secret once in a while and lecture the anti-science folks about information theory?

    I only know enough about it to know that they are full of bovine excrement when they complain that random mutation and natural selection must ‘add information for evolution to work’ but that ‘they cannot and do not’ and therefor evolution cannot work because entropy (and probably Bengazi too) all that. I think they really need a good understanding of the difference between closed systems and not closed systems.

    You won’t actually get anywhere with educating them, but you might have some occasional fun, just like we do here, and you might get some practice developing ways to communicate that idea you are working on so mere mortals can understand it.

    I don’t know of any threads about that at the moment, though they come up fairly regularly. Just don’t eat anything just before reading ATS; a glass of scotch might be useful though.

  20. avatar
    Keith June 6, 2014 at 3:51 am #

    Keith: I don’t know of any threads about that at the moment, though they come up fairly regularly. Just don’t eat anything just before reading ATS; a glass of scotch might be useful though.

    Huh.

    No sooner had I written that than I went over to ATS and found just such an opportunity.

    My response to someone who thinks entropy rules out evolution.

    I am not convinced that my explanation of entropy in Information Theory is very coherent.

    My handle there is ‘rnaa’.

  21. avatar
    Slartibartfast June 6, 2014 at 5:11 am #

    Your explanation isn’t bad. Kudos for referencing the fusion of two great ape chromosomes into one human chromosome—I think it’s the strongest evidence for evolution available. I’ll try and look at more of the thread over the weekend and maybe jump in if I can find the time…

    Keith: Huh.

    No sooner had I written that than I went over to ATS and found just such an opportunity.

    My response to someone who thinks entropy rules out evolution.

    I am not convinced that my explanation of entropy in Information Theory is very coherent.

    My handle there is ‘rnaa’.