Sunday, September 04, 2005

The New York Times Predicts the Past

It is easy to predict the past. Once we know what actually happened it is easy to construct a logical argument which shows how anyone could have predicted it. This is called hindsight bias. In American football it is called Monday Morning Quarterbacking.

I don't have much respect for people afflicted with hindsight bias. They delude themselves and others into believing certain events could easily have been forseen because they are good at exercising 20-20 hindsight, i.e. good at predicting the past. Inevitably, they are totally incapable of actually predicting events before they happen.

The EU Rota blog has done a comic send up of The New York Times lastest effort to predict the past. In its September 3 editorial, "Katrina's Assault on Washington", the NYT claims that Katrina was a ".. natural disaster everyone knew was coming". The Times asks us to believe that the Department of Homeland Security should have known Katrina was going to hit New Orleans and should have prepositioned relief forces and supplies so they would have been available as soon as the hurricane hit.

EU Rota does a great job of demolishing this NYT foolishness. Check out its screenshots of the weather forecasts of Katrina's predicted paths and its hilarious shot-by-shot commentary. The bottom line is that it was only on August 28, the day before the hurricane hit New Orleans, that there was any certainty about where it would make landfall. Prior to that the entire area from the Florida panhandle through Alabama and Mississippi was endangered. Should Homeland Security have prepositioned supplies everywhere and evacuated the entire southern coast of the USA?

And, like EU Rota, I wonder why the New York Times didn't run an editiorial on August 23 or 24 or 25 demanding the evacuation of New Orleans and the immediate dispatch of relief supplies to the area to alleviate the effects of the "disaster that everone knew was coming?" I think we all know the answer to that one!

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