Monday, May 14, 2007

Roberts Talk at Brown

Here is a April lecture by Les Roberts given at Brown.


1) He mentions that, in Lancet I, the measured mortality rate in Falluja was 20%.

2) He highlights the accuracy of the high estimate of the proportion of deaths from air strikes given in Lancet I. He notes that this is different from other conflicts in which it is hard for someone to know which side is responsible for a given death. Who knows which side fired the artillery shell? But, in Iraq, only one side has air power so Roberts can be sure that these deaths are due to the coalition.

3) Repeats the claim that "most" of the authors were in favor of the war (although he notes that they did not discuss it at the time).

4) Shows a slide (which I really can't make out) that seems similar to one from Burnham's MIT talk. It seems to be a histogram of cluster death rates. Most of the observations form a nice normal distribution but there are at least two big outliers and a meaningful skew to the right. I am having trouble seeing this in the raw data. The simple deaths per cluster have a skew but no big outliers. Is there a negative correlation between deaths and family size? I hope to be able to reproduce this graphic by the end of the week. It could also be that the data here includes three clusters from Falluja rather than just the one that I think was distributed to me.

5) Roberts asserts that IBC's funding dried up after the first report and that their criticisms of his work are motivated by funding issues. He also asserts that there is a link (some are colleagues at Oxford) between the IBC folks and Spagat et al.

6) Roberts calls the Main Street Bias critique "absurd."

7) Asserts that most of the deaths that they recorded (might just be referring to Lancet II at this point) are not listed by IBC. How can he determine that?

8) Claims that Bagdad has lower mortality than the country as a whole.

9) Amazingly partisan at toward the end of the speech. See the video for details, but it is safe to say that Roberts is no fan of Republicans in general or President Bush in particular.

10) Compares estimates which are much lower than the Lancet data to Holocaust denial. Nice!


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