Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Unskewed Minds (Now with more Bayes!)

At the risk of feeding the troll at unskewedpolls.com and barackofraudo.com (both run by Dean Chambers) or legitimizing its claims of voter fraud which journalists are thoroughly debunking, let me add one more reason why the claim that voter fraud flipped the results of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and Florida is absurd.

If the claims of fraud are right, Obama would have won Nevada, Colorado, Michigan, Wisconsin and New Hampshire but lost Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia.  You don't have to be Nate Silver to know that the odds that Obama would win close swing states like Colorado, Nevada and Virginia, and at the same time lose a reliable Democratic state like Pennsylvania and other close swing states like Ohio and Virginia are very low.  That's just not a plausible electoral result.  If Obama is doing well enough to win swing states like New Hampshire and Nevada it's just absurd to think he would really lose a state like Pennsylvania.  Chambers' "map" belongs in the realm of unicorns and birtherism.

Moreover, for Chambers to be right, the polls, which were reasonably accurate nationwide, would have to be (for some unexplained reason) wrong for only those four states.  The whole thing is just nuts.

If you want to get nerdy, this comes down to Bayes theorem, which in very simple terms says that when judging the likelihood that something is true, we have to consider the evidence of its truth or falsity in the context of the baseline probability that that thing is true.  If you say the sky is purple, I should be very hesitant to agree based on your anecdotal evidence because I already know as an initial matter that the odds that the sky is purple are extremely extremely low.

As applied the voter fraud claims, before we even consider Chambers' anecdotal (and highly suspect) evidence of voter fraud, consider it in the context that the map he is proposing is highly highly implausible.  As a result, there is very little evidence that should convince anyone (thinking clearly) that voter fraud really caused the outcome he claims since that outcome to so unlikely.  Yet, hope springs eternal.




Monday, November 19, 2012

Earth to Rubio...

I think people miss the point a little bit when they look at Rubio's response to the question about the age of the earth in the context of Iowa.  The real state to watch for with Rubio is New Hampshire.  Right now Huckabee is leading the polls Iowa.  Let that sink in a bit, Huckabee.  Rubio's better path to the nomination, should he choose to accept it, would be to follow the McCain strategy and do well in New Hampshire, where a more moderate, independent Republican can do well, and then dominate the Republican primaries in the large blue states.  For two cycles now Iowa has nominated an unelectable fundamentalist and has diminished its importance in the process.  Rubio is better off skipping it and scoring a decisive win in New Hampshire, where an ambiguous answer on creationism is more useful than the definitive response that would play well in Iowa.

Personally, when I heard Rubio's waffling answer I got the sense that the answer in his mind was no, but that he had to be non-committal to offending his base.  Young earth creationists, as a group, tend not to be shy about their belief, and if he really thought the earth was less than 10,000 years old I imagine he probably would have said so.  This isn't an issue like abortion or rape where saying your fundamentalist beliefs out loud can sink your candidacy.  A substantial portion of Americans, and nearly all Republicans are still skeptical of evolution.  I embrace evolution, but am skeptical that there is a real downside to him embracing biblical geology as a Republican candidate as long as he really believed it. The fact that he gave such a non-committal response to me suggests that he isn't a true fundamentalist at heart and/or he won't be making a genuine play in Iowa.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Too Little, Too Late.

Watching Bobby Jindal decry the anti-intellectual trend of the Republican party reminds of when Jeb Bush spoke up a few months ago to say that he was very disappointed in the lack of bipartisan cooperation between Obama and Congressional Republicans.  Yes, I guess it's better that they say these things, but where were they the last four years?  Jeb Bush's point about compromise and cooperation would actually have been useful during the debt ceiling and health care debates, and Jindal's new-found voice of reason would have been nice before he had signed bills to permit and fund the teaching of creationism in Louisiana.

Forgive my eye rolling, but if they really wanted to get serious, they should have said so back when it would have mattered.  That they lacked the courage to do so then and only do so now says enough about them.

It's not a gift if you are entitled to it.

Isn't the whole "gifts" thing a perfect example of the sense of entitlement that has come over the American right.  When they explicitly vote for the candidate who will give them a tax cut, that's not a gift, it's a matter of patriotism.  When Democrats vote for candidates who propose programs they benefit from, it's a gift and bribery.  It's like the right thinks the largess they receive isn't a gift because they are entitled to it, but Democrats are entitled to nothing and therefore receive only "gifts."