About Lisa Caballero (Southwest Correspondent)
Lisa Caballero (Southwest Correspondent) Posts
Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World (Penguin Random House, 2020) is a much-needed guide for folks awash in numbers who are just trying to make informed decisions. Anyone working or advocating in transportation should read it.
The preface begins with a definition of bullshit and a discussion of its different types. The authors, Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin D. West, a biologist and a data scientist at the University of Washington, distinguish between old-school and new-school bullshit. Their book focusses on the new-school type which “uses the language of math and science and statistics to create the impression of rigor and accuracy,” and they introduce the concept of “mathiness,” their analog to comedian Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness.” Mathiness refers “to formulas and expressions that may look and feel like math—even as they disregard the logical coherence and formal rigor of actual mathematics.”
Each chapter guides the reader through topics like causality, selection bias, data visualization, and big data, with examples from contemporary news. The result is a topical, fast-paced and laugh-out-loud funny book.
The idea that cars = freedom is a pervasive American myth. The truth is that the rise of the automobile — and rampant illegal behaviors that have always accompanied it — helped give rise to an armed street security force that too often acts as judge, jury, and executioner.
Sarah Seo’s book, Policing the Open Road (2019, Harvard University Press), is a cultural history of how we arrived at the system we have today, told through the lens of jurisprudence and law enforcement. It’s about how governments scrambled to regulate the automobile revolution, about the overwhelming volume of laws they created, the need to make them uniform, and how the process of creating the rules of the road, and enforcing them, transformed America’s concept of privacy and freedom.
Take, for example, driving on the right side of the road. After being ticketed by a state trooper for driving on the wrong side, a man hired a lawyer who argued that there was no “wrong” side, that the law merely stated that you had to pull to the right when you met an oncoming car. That man had his day in court and won. It seems that proto-advisory shoulders were the law of the land in early 20th-century Iowa.[Read more…]