Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics
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Dan is a student at Georgetown University. He is currently trying to think of a new biography for this space.
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This blog translated:
Two wrongs don't make a right, but three lefts do.
"There are three types of lies - lies, damn lies, and statistics." - Variously attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, Alfred Marshall, Mark Twain and many other dead people.
Songbook by Nick Hornby
The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
You should read:
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby
Bobos In Paradise by David Brooks
Madam Secretary: A Memoir by Madeleine Albright
Damned Lies and Statistics by Joel Best
Books written or edited by my professors (well, only the good ones)
The Economics of the Welfare State
The Welfare State As Piggy Bank
Introduction to Econometrics
The Collected Poems of Robert Lowell (ed. with Frank Bidart)
In the Belly
The Sleep of Reason
To Dwell Secure
The Human Web (with William H. McNeill)
Something New Under the Sun
Western Europe: Economic and Social Change Since 1945
Across the Atlantic
Brazos de Dios Cantina Carl with a K
Dilettante's Guide to Life
Enemy of the People
Equilibrismi ridanciani Fester's Place
I Know What I Know Interesting by Association
Kick the Leftist
More White Teeth
No More Mr. Nice Blog Notes on the Atrocities
Open Source Politics
Peevish...I'm Just Saying
Politics and Policy
Sha Ka Ree
Sick of Bush
Something's Got to Break
Truth is a Blog
Vast Left Wing Conspiracy
We Report... You Deride
2004 ESPN Information Please Sports Almanac
"Everything to Everyone" by Barenaked Ladies
"In Between Evolution" by The Tragically Hip
"Phantom Planet" by Phantom Planet
The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell
"One Plus One Is One" by Badly Drawn Boy
"Sultans of Swing" by the Dire Straits
"Best of the Talking Heads" by the Talking Heads
How Shareholder Reforms Can Pay Foreign Policy Dividends, James Shinn, ed.
Weaving the Net, James Shinn, ed.
Fires Across the Water, James Shinn, ed.
Panasonic ES8017SC Men's Triple Blade Pro Curve Rechargeable Linear Shaver
Monday, May 31, 2004
A little bad news
The Plain Dealer (yes, that is the actual name of an actual newspaper) published a statewide poll yesterday, indicating that the Democrats are lagging in both the presidential race and the race for the Senatorial seat.
Bush was given a 47-41 lead over Kerry, with Ralph Nader polling at 3%. Bush's lead is just outside of the margin of error, which was +/- 2.6%.
This cuts both ways, I guess. The bad news is that Bush leads Kerry by a few points, just outside of the margin of error, a slight move ahead of earlier polling that gave Kerry and Bush statistically insigificant leads, or even gave Kerry a statistically significant lead. The good news is that Bush has spent millions of dollars in Ohio in recent weeks (in the past few days, I've seen far too much of it), far more than Kerry and yet not enough to open a dominant lead. So you can take this poll and be an optimist or a pessimist with it.
Now for the unquestionably bad news. The same statewide poll (though in a different article) found George Voinovich to have a rather dominant 55-24 lead over Eric Fingerhut. This contrasts with a poll commissioned by Fingerhut's campaign a couple weeks ago that seemed to show Eric down by only 47-32, putting Voinovich in a rather vulnerable position given his incumbency.
The good news - to the extent that there is good news - is that Fingerhut is down because of very low name recognition, something already known. Voinovich, who's been involved in Ohio politics for nearly two decades, name recognition is around 80-90% in most polls. The PD poll put Fingerhut's name recognition at around 50% - which, actually, sounds a little high. I still don't doubt that Eric - if he can ever get enough money to do some advertising (donate here, by the way) - could make Voinovich rather nervous and force him to spend the rather large bank accounts that he's sitting on at home rather than spreading it out to other Republicans. On the other hand, though - despite this being still really early, I have to admit - I'm starting to wonder about Fingerhut's chances of upsetting Voinovich, rather than just polling him in one of the 55-45 contests that statewide Ohio Democrats always seem to manage.
There was some speculation among the pundits and chattering classes that Eric was running with an eye towards putting himself in a position to win in 2006 for the governorship or DeWine's senate seat (it's often thought that, barring a famous name a la Taft, it's essentially impossible to win statewide office in Ohio without losing once beforehand), when there'll be more attention and Jerry Springer might run for the other of the two offices, drawing further attention and money to the state. Anyhow, it looks like those plans might just work out.
Usual disclosure: Eric is, broadly speaking, a family friend.
I think that more than enough has already been said about this WaPo article in today's paper about the need of the Bush administration to go and make stuff up in their negative ads against Kerry, which I've been seeing en masse lately. But if you haven't read it yet, I'd suggest you should.
(And how many ways can you point towards "lying" without actually saying "lying", anyway)
Saturday, May 29, 2004
Idiocy masquerading as wishful thinking:
"Mr. Perle said the action against Mr. Chalabi would burnish his anti-American credentials in Iraq and possibly help him to be elected to political office. "In that regard, this clumsy and outrageous assault on him will only improve his prospects," Mr. Perle said."
(To be fair, it is statistically impossible for Chalabi's popularity to do anything but improve, as no one has yet discovered a way for popularity to drop below zero)
Friday, May 28, 2004
Matt Yglesias writes:
"On the left, the College Democrats are treated like shit, the think tanks do approximately nothing to help their young research assistants move on to bigger things, the junior staffers on the Hill get no support and encouragement to stay involved in politics, and in general no one seems to give a damn whether or not there will be a next generation of professional progressives."
Well, as with everything, yes and no.
From what I've seen, I'd disagree with the comment that the College Dems are treated like shit. Generally, the College Dems seem to be treated pretty well by the DNC, et al, in comparison with the RNC, et al, relates to the College Repubs. The problem is that the DNC, et al, views the College Dems as a student group (which it is) rather than a pre-professional group (which it also is).
Now, the job market for young politically minded right wingers is clearly more favorable right now in DC than the job market for young politically minded left wingers. This is a regular phenomenon, and not just a part of the Republicans holding the White House and Capitol. It's particularly extreme at the undergraduate level - once one reaches the more rarefied air of graduate graduates, it's somewhat more even. The result is that a lot of politically minded progressives with undergraduate degrees get weeded out, while politically minded rightists get fed into the incubators, researching articles at AEI, Cato, the National Review, the Weekly Standard and so on.
This is partially, as Matt notes, the result of crappy treatment by the national organizations who aren't interested in facing off against any young whippersnappers. It's also broadly a reflection of two other things though. First, young leftwingers are a lot more likely to get siphoned off to work at international organizations and groups. Second, the dearth of job opportunities for young progressives is in large part reflective of the dearth of job opportunities for progressives at any age. The right wing did a very good job of building up thinktanks and other organizations to back its causes during the 1970's and 1980's, while the left wing rested on its laurels.* As a result, there is a far greater supply of politically oriented young left wingers than the job market for that type of interest can handle.
*Some might point to Brookings as an exception, but it's worth noting that Brookings is now officially non-partisan, notoriously tough for young individuals to break into, and has aspersions towards academia.
Thursday, May 20, 2004
Blogspot has been acting up a bit lately - when I try to load up Blogspot sites, I just get a generic Blogspot error message saying that no such website exists (this happens about a quarter of the time - the rest of the time, it goes through normally). Is anyone else having this problem?
Monday, May 17, 2004
The good news is, it's looking more and more like that a problematic Supreme Court nomination isn't likely to occur this summer. Generally, Supreme Court retirements happen during the summer break (excepting cases of illness), which starts fairly soon. If any of justices were to retire right now, it seems unlikely it's probably too late for the White House to put forward another uber-conservative on the court without creating a rather big issue for the presidential election, something the polls seem to show that can't be afforded right now.
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Given the recent questions about Rumsfeld, I've started to wonder about whether there's a method for impeaching Cabinet secretaries.
I should note that I don't actually think that this should be done, at least not yet, as it would be overplaying the hand by a lot. I'm just wondering about it. If there's anything the Clinton impeachment should've proven, it's that impeachment proceedings should not be so much a means of dealing with an inability to be have in a trustworthy manner, but only to deal with cases where there has been a clear and conscious decision to violate the law (see Nixon, Richard).
Monday, May 10, 2004
One of the Daily Kos posters is waxing enthusastic (uh, I think I've just committed a rather serious sin against the English language, but you get the point of what I'm trying to say ... I hope) about the chances of Capri Cafaro of unseating Steve LaTourette in OH-14.
If there's a year to unseat LaTourette, this is certainly it - while no one wants to expressly bring his marital difficulties to the fore (well, OK, I'll do it - he cheated on his wife with a lobbyist and then called his spouse over the phone to inform her of this and tell her that he was filing for a divorce) - the district is never going to be too favorable to electing a Democrat. Moreover, the job losses are hurting the district as well (though the 14th isn't as manufacturing-oriented as neighboring districts).
A lot is made of the fact that the district elected a series of Democrats up until LaTourette. It certainly hasn't helped that the Democrats couldn't find a top-tier candidate against him for so long - nor would Cafaro count as one, but for the fact that her family is enormously wealthy - but Lake County has been trending Republican for a while, and the district as a whole has been doing so as well. The district elected Democrats for a couple of decades until 1994, when LaTourette upset Eric Fingerhut,* who had taken over for Dennis Eckart in 1992. It became clear over the next couple of elections, though, that 1992 had been more of an abberation than 1994 - the district turned out more Republican than had been intended by the redistrictors during the post-1990 Census revisions. This trend was exaggerated further when most of the Cleveland/Cuyahoga County precincts were cut off in the last round of redistricting.
(Before any of my Democratic-leaning readers start lamenting this, despite the fact that the redistricting was clearly Republican-oriented, the changes to the 14th district were mostly motivated by a need to adjust for the fact that Stephanie Tubbs Jones' neighboring district had lost a significant amount of its population and had to be maintained for reasons pertaining to the Voting Rights Act).
Anyhow, with most of the Cuyahoga County portions of the district gone, the 14th leans even more to the right than it did previously. Her family's links with disgraced Rep. Jim Traficant, currently sitting in jail, probably won't help. Cafaro was actually granted immunity for her testimony in the trial. Caparo's campaign, previously quite impressive, doesn't seem to be doing the same job of outreach to the general population - the campaign website doesn't seem to have been updated since the primary. She might be doing a great job of linking up with the movers and shakers, but it'll be the decisions of the voters that actually count in November.
The moral of the story is this: If anti-Bush momentum picks up further, Cafaro could be one of the likeliest upsets of an incumbent Republican Congressman. Without it, though, she's going to face an uphill battle, money and all.
*Usual disclaimer: Eric is, broadly speaking, something of a family friend.
I found myself watching the Indians beat the Red Sox on ESPN2 tonight, and the announcers kept marvelling about the addition of new seats to Fenway Park brought in by the (relatively) new ownership, and how it affected the stadium for the first time in its history (this isn't true ... I'll get to it later). Well, in reality, the field of play hasn't been affected significantly by the new seats on the roof in right field nor the Green Monster seats, no matter how much they alter the view from the press box. The only change to the field of play has been the slight alteration resulting from the addition of a few dozen seats in foul territory in front of where the fences used to be (incidentally, the people who owned the seats that were just behind the old boundary must have been mighty pissed about that change). This only barely reduced the already small foul territory, though.
Anyway, this brought me back to a Tim Keown column from a couple of weeks ago criticizing the addition of quirks to the new stadium in San Diego, Petco Park.
Keown said: "Petco Park in San Diego is the latest retro ballpark to incorporate funky angles and cheeky quirks in an attempt to appeal to the bohemian sensibilities of the well-heeled baseball fan. The result of all this visible strain, sorry to say, is a wonderful trend that threatens to turn into self-parody.
Some of the new ballparks -- not including the design brilliance in Baltimore, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Cleveland -- are too damn cute. The old parks, the ones they're trying so strenuously to imitate, came by their eccentricities naturally."
Anyway, it seems to me that this is a bit false. There's a real difference between those baseball stadiums that were designed with quirks that actually reflected the layout of the surrounding neighborhood. Camden Yards and Jacobs Field were limited by the layout of the neighboring streets (and Camden Yards by the desire to leave the B&O Warehouse intact). The stadiums in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Cincinnati were strongly limited by large bodies of water adjacent to the stadiums.
On the other hand, the Ballpark in Arlington, Safeco Field in Seattle, Miller Park in Milwaukee, Citizens Bank Park in Philly and Tropicana Field in Tampa were all set down in parking lots, and given cutesy little quirks because they could. And they all look a lot worse for it. The Seattle, Houston and Milwaukee stadiums were all heavily affected by the desire to include a retractible roof, anyhow.
The other point is that the latter type was designed with significant quirks in them for no reason. On the other hand, most of the legendary stadiums that the new stadiums want to mimic - pre-renovation Yankee Stadium, Ebbets Field, and the Polo Grounds in New York, Shibe Park in Philly, Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Fenway, Wrigley, and a few others - almost entirely developed their quirks over time, mostly as the result of a desire to shoehorn new seats into existing stadiums in sites that were already bound by existing streets and seating areas. In almost all of these stadiums, the stadium had far more quirks in its later years than its earlier years. Indeed, if one looks at the photos of these famous stadiums in their early years, the stadium layout looks downright boring. Basically, it's often the renovations that produce the quirks that make great stadiums great, not the initial construction of quirks.
I don't think it's visible here, but Blogger has updated its template for posting once again. I'll probably test out the new comments system in a few days, which will once again get rid of the old comments. The new system is rather annoyingly user-friendly (I'm rather stuck in my ways about old software), though it does have a few new bells and whistles.
Sunday, May 09, 2004
George Will: "Michael Barone, America's foremost political analyst, wonders why America produces so many incompetent 18-year-olds but remarkably competent 30-year-olds."
Uh, maybe it's because I'm 22, but I've often seen it the other way around, with the 18-year-olds far more competent than the 30-year-olds.
Will seems to blame increased schooling for coddling our youngsters, but to the extent that Americans become more competent from ages 18 to 30 is not so much a reflection of the failings of the secondary schooling system at younger ages but the success of the higher education systems, warts and all.
Will also says: "Barone says racial preferences, which were born in the 1960s and '70s, fence some blacks off from Hard America, insulating them in 'a Soft America where lack of achievement will nonetheless be rewarded.'"
Uh, I have to think that neither Will nor Barone has been to Northeast DC, or any other ghetto in a damn long time if they can actually believe this. Pardon my language, but it's utter bullshit.
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
Three things strike me about the current CNN top story - that George Bush is angry with Donald Rumsfeld about the lack of accountability in the situation at Abu Ghraib.
1. Uh, how nice of the Secretary of Defense to fall on his sword for Bush.
2. Except that he's not actually falling on his sword. There utter lack of any culture of responsibility in the current administration continues to astound me. There's not one peep of accepting any sort of punishment for this. If this were the British cabinet, the Defense (well, Defence) Secretary would have resigned, or been fired by now. Here, though, the buck seems to stop ... well, it mostly seems to peter out on its own eventually.
3. It was leaked anonymously. Now, one can start getting into the conspiracy theory mindset that the White House purposely leaked this so as to deflect any harm from Bush to Rumsfeld. On the other hand, though, this White House seems to have steadfastly avoided the leaking game that most White Houses tend to play. Most senior officials have been extremely tight-lipped, unwilling to bad-mouth each other. Maybe that's coming to an end. Or maybe it was on purpose. I don't pretend to know (that's Bob Woodward's job, I guess ...).
I realize I've got three hundred years of history of semantics and literature going against me, but if D'Artagnan - whose actual remains may have been found recently - was a swordsman, why was he called a musketeer? I mean, a musket was a gun, not a sword. Shouldn't Dumas have written about the 'Three Swordsmen'?
Tuesday, May 04, 2004
I have Pardon the Interruption on the TV right now, and Kornheiser, Wilbon and Jon Miller are discussing the possibility of changing the intentional walk rule - requiring that one strike be thrown first, sending the runner to 2nd base, etc., because of Barry Bonds.
First of all, it's a dumb idea. The intentional walk is good strategy, whether it's exciting or not. Secondly, it'd tip the balance towards the batter in a wholly unnecessary. How about starting to testore the balance and banning those damn elbow guards that Bonds wears. I'm willing to accept that they have a valid role when someone is coming off the DL, but there's no way that they should be allowed year-long - batters should be worried about the possibility that pitchers are going to throw inside. Maybe then we can think about changing the intentional walk rule.
Sunday, May 02, 2004
I'm watching the evening news (actually, 'watching' is a fairly generous term but ...), and they're discussing possible running mates, listing Dick Gephardt, Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa and John Edwards.
Now, I don't have much reason to admire Gephardt. He's unabashedly protectionist, and while he does appeal to the 'old Democrat' wing of the party, I don't think that's as large of a block that needs to be appealed to as in the past. As far as Edwards, I don't think he'd do badly, but I don't know that he'd set the house on fire, either. And as far as Vilsack, well, I guess Kerry wants to carry Iowa, but I really don't think Vilsack will help at all elsewhere. I saw Vilsack speak here a few months ago, and he's a deadly boring speaker. Admittedly, he was mostly speaking off the cuff, and didn't seem to have much in the way of prepared remarks. It's possible that he's better when working off of a stump speech (Kerry does seem to do better with prepared remarks than when winging it). But he wouldn't seem to bring much excitement to a ticket that seems to need it.
Looking around, it's disappointing how little 'outside-the-box' thinking seems to be going on ... unless you listen to the inane chatter about McCain. There's little talk of, say Gov. Locke, Sen. Lincoln or Sen. Breaux (who, though planning to retire, and one of the more conservative members of the Democratic party, would seem to be a pretty attractive choice when you think about it). Then again, most of the recent VP choices have been individuals who were generally a surprise to the public. I can't really recall whether Gore's name was tossed around that much in 1992, but Kemp clearly came out of the blue in 1996, Cheney sort of chose himself when put in charge of the Bush campaign's search for a VP candidate in 2000, and Gore's choice of Lieberman, though mooted a little bit in the media, was still fairly surprising. So it wouldn't be surprising to see Kerry go out there and choose someone surprising, I guess.
The feds have seized all of the steroid test samples for Major League Baseball from last year. If there ever was a case that called for a leak to the media, this is it.