Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Stop the Killings and the Fallacy of Selective Attention

Suppose one day you receive an email from a stock broker who offers to send you every week for four weeks a prediction of whether the Dow Jones Industrial Average will go UP or DOWN during the next week. Such predictions, if they were reliably accurate could be very lucrative since people can play the market long or short depending on what they believe the market will do in that following week.

Okay. Several years ago an email scam based on this idea was discovered in the US and broken up by the FBI. Quite a large number of people from a large data base of regular investors lost money to the scammers before they were busted. But here is what happened.

One day, Mr. Jones on the list receives an email from the scammers claiming that they will send him totally for free, four weeks worth of predictions of the Dow Jones. And they say that the Dow will go UP in the coming week. Mr. Jones ignores the email as another bit of spam, but he notices a week later that indeed the Dow has gone UP. He receives that notice along with a second email that claims in the second week, the Dow will go DOWN. Sure enough it does! Still two in a row is nothing, but when a third and fourth email arrive in the succeeding weeks and after he has received four successive correct predictions of the Dow Jones he is impressed enough to send in a requested $100 for future weekly predictions. Several thousand people were induced into doing so after they too received four successive correct predictions of whether the Dow would go up or down in the following week. I might have fallen for it too.

This really happened before the scammers were caught. But how did they do it? How did they convince thousands of people that they had predicted the Dow four straight times in a row?

Here is the answer. The scam was based on something called the Fallacy of Selective Counting.

The scammers had a database with a List of regular investors numbering several hundred thousands. In Week One, they sent half of the people on the List a prediction that the Dow would go UP in the next week; the other half of the people on the List got a prediction that the Dow would go DOWN. Thus, after the first week, half the List has lost interest because they got a wrong prediction. But in Week Two those who got a correct prediction in Week One get a second prediction: half of them that the Dow will go UP, half that it will go DOWN. Thus after Week Two a quarter of the original List have received two successive correct predictions of the Dow. They are feeling sorry they didn't take advantage of the free prediction and play the market long or short. In Week Three they receive a third prediction and sure enough, at the end of the third week, an eighth of the original List have received three successive correct predictions of the Dow! In Week Four one-sixteenth of the original List of several hundred thousand, have received four successive correct predictions. A large number of them sent in their hundred dollars and in the following week bet their life savings on the Dow and the fifth prediction they just received. Half of them doubled their life savings in the fifth week, but half of them lost their shirts.

I invite Philippine Commentary readers to apply the above analysis of a real-world fallacy to the issue of "Extrajudicial Killings" in the Philippines.

There is no doubt that a large number of murders have occurred. Are they related? Do they belong to a pattern because someone is responsible for most of them? Are all those being killed leftists, journalists and church people? What about soldiers, policemen, mayors and local officials, businessmen, farmers, store operators, and others who are not on the lists one normally sees publicized in the Media? The Catholic Church, the Philippine Military and police, have other lists that do not seem to get the same publicity from the Media and the Left.



Well, what do you think? They have any connection, I mean those murders, they connected or not?

Maybe they were all killed by the Pinoy Communists - all 750+ of them...

Rizalist said...


The 750+ list you mention is not the only list HB. That list is selected from among all the politically related murders that occur to make it appear that only leftists are dying. I am willing to stipulate to you, even if it is probably not true, that all 750+ were killed by the military, the police, or death squads run by mike arroyo or gen. palparan. IF you are also able to explain the list mentioned by Archbishop Lagdameo that the Catholic Church has of those killed, kidnapped and terrorised by communist insurgents in the course of their "middle class existence."

Rizalist said...

HB--I ask you, do you know for a FACT who killed even a single one of the 750, and why? Name one, just one, and the known circumstances by which we are asked to accept that that was an unjust killing?


I don't know about Archbishop Lagdameo's list but I believe you - I am against extra-judicial killings, whether they were performed by your Pinoy military or by your Pinoy communists but tell you what, your president, the self-styled commander in chief of the 1,200 islands and islets in the Philippines, her government, and her bunch hooligans could do something against it if she could only put it in her head to be a bit more decent and while she is at it, to put a bit of decency in the government of that god-forsaken republic we all adore - PINAS!

She could start by eliminating that dastardly pig-like spouse of hers!!!


How about you Dean,

Do you know for a FACT who killed even a single one of those killed by your Pinoy commies?

I saw pictures of those who were killed in Brussels and I saw a listing - I don't know who killed them, maybe the apostles of Cardinal Sin killed them, I don't know or maybe they killed themselves! But they are dead! Explain! How did they get killed and why?


I don't care if there are 20 lists of people being killed for political reasons, whether they are human rights activists, anti-NPA people, journalists, bishops, trade union leaders, or what else but this frigging woman who styles herself your commander in chief HAS GOT to get to the root of the problem...she's got to explain why the killings...

Also, do you honestly believe that a person's life ain't worth a dime just because he/she happens to be a leftist?

Rizalist said...

At least SOME of those who've been killed are combatants in the insurgency against the government. Both on the insurgent side and the govt side. At least SOME of those who've been killed are innocent victims of death squads AND NPA extortionists. We know for a FACT that the CPP NPA have killed their own in the past and at least SOME of those on these lists are CLAIMED by the NPA to have been done by them, like Popoy Lagman. But HE is not on these lists is he? Why? Nor the thousands claimed by the Church and Military to be ordinary people or soldiers or govt officials killed by the insurgents.

Do you deny that a violent insurgency to overthrow the govt has caused casualties and fatalities?

Where are those victims in your lists?

As for the President, yes it is her responsibility to solve the killings. But that is a continuing work, and to lay it all on her doorstep is patently wrong.

Stop the Killings yes. But ALL of them!

Rizalist said...

I bet you if the CPP NPA were to lay down their arms--NOT their IDEALS--the political killings would stop! Because we would battle it out in elections and blogs instead of the hills and Europe.

Rizalist said...

YOUR French-fried leaders are no better than her! How many of the 100,000 car bombing arsonists have they caught from the riots last year? Crime all over Europe is up because the inteligentsia there is stung to paralysis by the Leftist ideologues. As for the leaders of the Dutch and the Norse, heck they are the biggest state supporters of Filipino communist terrorism in the world! Oh and why oh why were there those riots? Aren't your ever so civilized leaders getting down to ROOT CAUSES?

manuelbuencamino said...


There is no moral equivalence between killings by insurgents and extrajudicial or political killings by government.

You know you are one step away from the slippery slope of the bad soldier's favorite argument - "human rights? what about my human rights?"

We hate all killings. We want the Joma rebellion to stop. But we have to do it the right way. We believe in democracy and the rights of man. We cannot suspend those principles and the rules we live by just because our enemy respects nothing, because if we do so we become like the bad guys. As Bob Dylan once said, "we may never defeat those pigs, but we don't have to like them or be like them."

So let's rein in our troops. Keep them within the principles we live by. We're the good guys. Let's stay that way.

ricelander said...

If these are political killings perpetrated by the left, it's good propaganda material to be fully exploited to paint them Reds in very bad light, don't you think. An honest-to-goodness investigation would easily do the trick I suppose. You wonder why that's not the impression we are getting with all the propaganda muscle the government has at its disposal. Either they are guilty or are simply incompetents.

My take is: there is a clique of hawks who regard the targets as legitimate combatants-- communists bearing arms at night sight unseen who turn respected farmer/priest/academician/human rights advocate at daytime.

john marzan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
john marzan said...

I bet you if the CPP NPA were to lay down their arms--NOT their IDEALS--the political killings would stop! Because we would battle it out in elections and blogs instead of the hills and Europe.

I disagree. i believe most of the political killings are being perpetrated by the arroyo hawks and the ISAFP types that tortured the erap 5. the same military operators who were involved in the GLORIAGATE dagdag bawas were probably involved here too.

kung wala ang CPP/NPA, the arroyo admin would probably blame the opposition/destabilizers or the abu sayyaf for such acts.

maganda sana kung mag-surrender na ang NPA/CPP/ASG/JI, pero mukhang hindi mangyayari yan. so we need to either capture or kill them.

mas maganda kung mag-resign na rin si Arroyo para ma-reporma ang military at comelec, pero kapit tuko pa rin siya.



You are out of touch. Your extreme-right wing xenophobic Brussels journal ain't the right paper to read... Lemme tell you, guys who belong to the group of extreme right wing journals ain't gonna give you a minute coz you are a Pinoy so stop banking on that journal for news on Europe.

Re: "YOUR French-fried leaders are no better than her! How many of the 100,000 car bombing arsonists have they caught from the riots last year? "

More than 3,500 suspected leaders among those arsonists were caught Dean. While I'm no longer up to speed with regards how many were put in prison, lemme tell you that the French-fried leaders you speak of are doing a much better job in France for its people than your adored Gloria and her bunch of scalawags for people in Pinas!

And lest you forget Dean, let me reiterate (again and again), I am opposed to extra-judicial killings whether Gloria government sponsored or NPA hooligans sponsored, OK?

What I abhor is that you should deem that a person's life is worth less because that person is purported to be a leftist.

Let's be consistent, ok? Either we oppose all sorts of killings in the name of the fundamental Bill of Rights or not but we can't go on and on about which life is worthwhile keeping and which one is not!

Rizalist said...


No murder can be justified. But as long as there is a communist insurgency to overthrow the government, violently, by force of arms and propaganda, it is to be expected that there will be deaths on both sides. I do not claim that the Left perpetrated ALL or even ANY of the killings on the Left's list. I am saying there are other lists that do not get brought up to the People's Permanent Tribunal by Jamby Madrigal and Satur Ocampo. This is a fallacious selective attention to what may, or may not be combatant or purely accidental deaths, deaths by robberies, rivalries, jealousies, etc. OR deaths by death squads as some claim. In other words, people die at the hands of the NPA too folks and that the Catholic Church has indicated it has testimonial evidence for it.

Even if I agreed with you John that most of the killings on the Leftist list were done by the military, who do you think killed the people whose names the Left does not mention on their list?

Rizalist said...

I am sure you don't mean to distort my word or my meaning. Every life is equally sacred, left, right or center. My beef is, why are the Leftists' Lists of Extrajudicial Killings almost exclusively of Leftists? Are there no other deaths in a war that has been declared by the CPP NPA on EVERY democratically elected govt, not just GMA's.

You can't say I'm for GMA because I am against the CPP NPA. I am for the government and the Republic for which it stands. That's not the same as GMA.



Not meaning to distort your meaning but I was expecting YOU, of all bloggers, you who have been a strong proponent for the rule of law to indict Gloria, at least in your blog, for the extra-judicial killings en totto being committed in Pinas - killings of suspected leftists and/or rightists and not single out one or the other.

That's why I was quite disappointed with the tenor of your entries.

Rizalist said...

Suppose you have a priest or nun who NEVER actually bears arms, but suipplies food, medicine, and money to the NPA. All day and all night however, they operate purely as priest or nun.

Is that combatant would you say?

How would you define a COMBATANT that deserves to be killed?

Or do only the military and police and ordinary people deserve to be killed?

Edwin Lacierda said...


Very spirited discussion in Manolo's show. And I concur with John Nery's observation of your goatee.

Maybe Twink should guest you in Square Off and square you off with John or Manolo since you find Inquirer infinitely leftist to your palate.

The proposition is: Does The Inquirer have an destabilizing agenda?

Ha ha ha! Whadya think?

manuelbuencamino said...


"But as long as....it is to be expected that there will be death on both sides"

True and when those deaths occur because of encounters your statement makes sense. However when those deaths are political killings or extrajudicial murders then your statement is out of place. There is a difference and you know that. Don't blur the difference. We are the good guys only when we are food. Once you start blurring lines then you are one of them.
Don't confuse the issue.

manuelbuencamino said...


"we are the good guys only when we are good. "

Sorry for the misspelling. It turned out to be pun because we are indeed fodder until we figure a way to defeat the enemy without having to become like him.


Rizalist said...

Does PDI have a destabilizing agenda? There's no debate in that is there? Actually I wouldn't mind debating the HEADLINE they put out just one day before Lambino v. Comelec was promulgated: "60% of Filipinos doubt fairness of Supreme Court, says poll" They can even have Mahar Mangahas on their side. I'll go in alone with THEIR data.

Or the one on hunger and poverty, which are UNSCIENTIFIC POLLS. They are as useless and unverifiable as any call-in poll on AM Radio.

The Public should not accept, and the Code of Ethics of newspapers ought to avoid making into headlines the unscientific parts of the SWS surveys, namely those where the statistical findings will NOT be put to some kind of objective test like an election or plebiscite.

beatrixpg said...

Hello Mr Bocobo. this is actually my first time to visit your site and leave a comment. i've heard quite a dose about your insightful writings, but like i said this is my first time to go through the stuff that are posted here. i was able to watch the Explainer show last night where you guested, and i learned quite a lot about the scientificity of survey guesstimates. i'm currently writing my first book on sociocultural theory which i hope to publish abroad, and i wonder if i may be permitted to quote some of your writings. your explanations for stock market predictions are quite hilarious but enlightening. i too am a blogger, posting online some essays i write for Philippine News USA (http://beatrixpg.blogspot.com). but currently i simply don't have the time to write short essays. (smile)

Rizalist said...

A Warm Welcome to Philippine Commentary Beatrix!

If you click on the ABOUT button on the left side of this blog, you will see my statement that everything here is in the Public Domain and you are welcome to use it as such. I would appreciate attribution and links, but even that is not really necessary or enforceable!

Jego said...

My beef is, why are the Leftists' Lists of Extrajudicial Killings almost exclusively of Leftists?

Theyre not a news organization, Rizalist. Propaganda is as part of the insurgent's tactics as it is a part of the government's tactics. Theyre using (mis)information as a weapon.

itchy mind said...

I agree with the Fallacy of Selective Attention.Perhaps,this is one of the tactics of those, who want people to side with them regarding certain groups that they oppose.What we can do is to be careful of the information we get from the media and other sources. We must not jump into conclusions without carefully examining both sides of the coin. As a Mass Communication student, this is one critical practice that we are being trained..though there are still circumstances where flaws occur. Despite this exeption,I hope that everyone will exerts an effort to do the same. Awareness regarding social issues is very necessary nowadays but it is also our own duty to screen the information we'd like to ponder on..let us not blame everything to the media..

I appreciate posts such as this a lot for it opens my mind to the unobvious.