Monday, July 27, 2015

Cruising the Web

Sean Trende, who is one of the sharpest people going when it comes to analyzing polls, explains why we shouldn't put a lot of trust polling today. First of all, the refusal rate is so very high. Then there is all the problems that pollsters have in creating their model of who will be in the electorate this time.
For most election analysts, the raw material for a prediction comes in the form of polling data. In theory, polls represent random samples employing uniform methodologies that are lightly weighted. In reality, pollsters use a variety of sampling methods, and then heavily weight the data before (and sometimes after) pushing it through varying voter screens. Much of this is considered proprietary, so we don’t really know what is going on, but suffice it to say that pollsters aren’t just presenting “pristine” random samples.

Even worse, pollsters seem to be increasingly engaging in something called poll herding: a tendency to either re-weight an outlying poll to fall in line with other pollsters or to fail to publish outlying polls altogether. In 2014 alone we saw evidence that PPP, Rasmussen Reports, Gravis Marketing and Hampton University all refused to release polls; forecasters suspect that there are many more instances like this (at least two of these polls were released by accident), but it is unknowable just how many.

This matters, because if a race shifts, or if the herd is wrong, pollsters will be unable to pick up on the movement—there is a collective “you first” tendency when the data suggest pollsters should break out of the herd. Moreover, for technical reasons, models that are denied access to outlying results will tend to understate the uncertainty of their predictions. The result, then, can be the types of massive misses that we saw in the recent elections in the United Kingdom and Israel.

Paul Mirengoff analyzes Donald Trump's absurd assertion that the reason he previously was a Democrat was because he blamed the Republicans for the 2008 economic crash. It just doesn't make sense.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t make historical sense; nor is it an honest explanation. The Bush administration certainly isn’t blameless when it comes to the 2008 crash. But, as we have argued and New York Times reporter Gretchen Morgenson and her co-author Joshua Rosen have shown, it was mainly the imposition of race-conscious lending practices on the banking industry that led to the financial crisis.

In 1994, Bill Clinton proposed increasing home ownership through a “partnership” between government and the private sector, principally orchestrated by Fannie Mae. Lenders proceeded to promote reckless borrowing, knowing they could off­load risk to purchasers of bundled loans, and especially to Fannie. In 1994, subprime lending was $40 billion. In 1995, almost one in five mortgages was subprime. Four years later such lending totaled $160 billion.

The Bush administration warned as early as 2001 about the problems these lending policies were creating, and in 2003, through Secretary of Treasury John Snow, pushed for reforms to address the issue. But congressional Democrats, led by Barney Frank, blocked reform legislation.

Yes, Bush should have done more to alleviate the situation. But no, Republicans don’t bear primary responsibility for the 2008 crash.

Nor did a belief to the contrary cause Trump to tilt to the Democrats. According to this account, Trump was a registered Democrat from 2001-2008. He switched his registration the very year that, in his telling, the Republicans “crashed the economy.”

In truth, Trump is a natural Democrat. His views on major issues are — or were until recently — standard-issue liberal.

Peter Wehner has the details.
[Trump] has supported massive tax increases on the wealthy, a Canadian-style single-payer health care system, and is a fierce protection. He once declared himself “strongly pro-choice” and favored drug legalization.

Earlier this year, he accused Republicans who want to reform entitlement programs — the essential task for those who favor limited government — of “attacking” Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Barack Obama couldn’t have said it better.
And Barney Frank couldn’t have better stated the Democrats’ line on who caused the 2008 financial crisis.

We need not consult Trump’s revisionist history of that crisis to figure out why he was a registered Democrat for most of the last decade. On key issues his views align closely with those of the Dems.

It’s as straightforward as that.
It would be nice to have a follow-up question to Trump as to why, if he blamed the Republicans for the recession, he chose that year to identify as a Republican.

It's pretty bad when Hillary Clinton's only response to the administration IG's finding that her personal email account mishandled top secret information is to blame the media. If her go-to excuse includes blaming the New York Times, she's really running low on scapegoats.

When she's not blaming the media or the Republicans, her only response seems to be, "whom do you believe - me or your lying IGs?" After all, what sort of defense does she have when independent investigators did find classified emails among those she sent from her private server. The irony really is quite delicious - of all her dishonest doings, the one that is hurting the most is due to her own paranoid efforts to avoid transparency.

But will any of this lead Democrats to stop supporting her? Nope. Matt Welch doesn't think that there is anything Hillary Clinton could do, even strangling a puppy on live TV, that would lead Democrats to back off their support for her.
So how much do Democrats value basic transparency, accountability, and honesty in their presidential candidates? Not bloody much, if you go by the handy polls over at RealClearPolitics. The six national polls taken this January and February, before the email scandal first broke, averaged out to a whopping 43 percentage-point lead for Hillary Clinton. How about the next six, in March and April? Plus 50. The 11 polls in May and June, when Berniementum first started sweeping the country, came in at +48, and the most recent five in July stand at +41.

Do Democrats have any aversion left to Nixonian non-transparency, which had been so anathema to them during the presidency of George W. Bush? Here's a possible bellwether: Key Nixon-administration turncoat John W. Dean, who wrote a 2004 book entitled Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush, reacted to the latest Clinton story by tweeting "Leaking This Makes It Pure Politics," and "GOP Behind False Charges In NYT. It's gonna be a long 16 months.

President Barack Obama never paid any political price for pulling a complete 180 on his vows to have the most transparent administration ever, so none of this reaction should be surprising. Still, it's worth stressing that with Hillary Clinton, Democrats have dropped even the pretense of giving a sh*t about transparency. (links in original)
Apparently, her last name and gender trump everything else.

Michael Goodwin of the NY Post is wondering which "senior government official" leaked to the NYT the story about the IGs' report. His conclusion is that Valerie Jarrett, with the President's knowledge is behind the leak. Goodwin doesn't think that such a dangerous leak would have been made on Hillary without approval from above. Who knows, but it's just the sort of thing that Washingtonians love to discuss.

Jay Cost tweets out some good advice for the GOP leadership. His point is that Trump's rise can be explained by the base's dissatisfaction with GOP leadership and actions since being put in charge of the complete legislative branch. One way they can reduce the demand from someone like Trump is to take conservative action on issues like the Ex-Im bank and the highway bill. (link via Sean Trende)

Gosh, The Man is keeping us down. Who knew that they were using air conditioning now in the War on Women. All I can say is that I am very thankful to be kept down by AC.

One more liberal politician who wants us to do has he says, not as he does.
Democratic presidential hopeful and self-described socialist Bernie Sanders introduced a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour this week.

However, Sanders pays his own interns just $12 per hour, notes the Media Research Center.

Red-state Democrats are not thrilled about the shift of their party to the left.
Centrist Democrats were wiped out in the 2014 elections and in their absence emerged a resurgent liberal movement, embodied most recently by the surprisingly competitive presidential campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
But the suddenly ascendant left — its populist overtones becoming part of the mainstream Democratic pitch — is worrying Democrats who want to compete on Republican-leaning turf. The party lost every competitive gubernatorial and Senate race in the South last year. And Democrats didn’t fare much better in the heartland.

Now, as Bernie Sanders’ surge foreshadows a new burst of progressivism, moderate Democrats are looking to their counterparts in Washington with a plea: Don’t freeze us out.

“The national Democratic Party’s brand makes it challenging for Democrats in red states oftentimes and I hope that going forward, the leaders at the national level will be mindful of that and they will understand that they can’t govern the country without Democrats being able to win races in red states,” said Paul Davis, who narrowly failed to unseat Republican Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback last year.

This story about Pearson publishing and educational testing company is sad, frustrating, and unintentionally humorous. It's making big bucks by contracting to conduct testing programs in states across the country. And it's getting those jobs without having to go through competitive bidding. As a teacher in North Carolina, this doesn't surprise me at all.
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, for instance, declined to seek competitive bids for a new student data system on the grounds that it would be “in the best interest of the public” to simply hire Pearson, which had done similar work for the state in the past. The data system was such a disaster, the department had to pay Pearson millions extra to fix it.
Yup, I've had to use that site and it was indeed terribly designed. Fortunately, we have a teacher at our school, an English teacher even, who designed a grading program that we can use that is so well done and he is so responsive that we don't have to use Pearson except for entering our final grades. If one English teacher at a small charter school can do that for our school, why can't the mighty Pearson get its act together? I bet you had no idea how pervasive Pearson is.
Pearson wields enormous influence over American education.
It writes the textbooks and tests that drive instruction in public schools across the nation.

Its software grades student essays, tracks student behavior and diagnoses — and treats — attention deficit disorder. The company administers teacher licensing exams and coaches teachers once they’re in the classroom. It advises principals. It operates a network of three dozen online public schools. It co-owns the for-profit company that now administers the GED.

A top executive boasted in 2012 that Pearson is the largest custodian of student data anywhere.

And that’s just its K-12 business.

Pearson’s interactive tutorials on subjects from algebra to philosophy form the foundation of scores of college courses. It builds online degree programs for a long list of higher education clients, including George Washington University, Arizona State and Texas A&M. The universities retain authority over academics, but Pearson will design entire courses, complete with lecture PowerPoints, discussion questions, exams and grading rubrics.

The company is even marketing a product that lets college professors track how long their students spend reading Pearson textbooks each night.
Unfortunately, as Politico documents, there is little evidence that Pearson is achieving the gains it is supposed to be achieving.

Cathy Young examines the whole kerfuffle about Nobel Prize-winning British scientist Tim Hunt and his supposedly sexist comments that outraged feminists. Apparently, the whole thing was completely bogus and, as often, a mess of reporting by the media that didn't bother doing even a cursory amount of research.

For all those progressives who think so highly of European-style socialism, things aren't actually so great there for working mothers. (Link via Fred Schwarz) Amazingly, when employers are forced to give out two years paid leave, they aren't so eager to hire young women and treat them differently when they return.

Ace links to the story of Jon Stewart's reaction when his one black writer said he was uncomfortable with the way that Stewart was impersonating Herman Cain. Apparently, Stewart couldn't take the mere hint that he might be racist.

Find out the most conservative and liberal cities in America. No real surprises.

Scientists are trying to see if a computer can figure out, just by analyzing speech, whether politician is Republican or Democratic. They compiled a list of phrases that each party member is more likely to say in order to program their computer. What struck me was how the phrases they chose indicate that the parties talk about totally different subjects. You're not going to get a Democrat talking about the IRS or a Republican use the phrases "Tax breaks" or "wealthiest." And, apparently, Republicans are much less likely to use the word "bureaucrats" than Democrats. Just looking at the list tells us a lot more about the parties than some useless computer program.

Pew has an interesting interactive look at the political ideology of consumers of major news outlets. What I found striking is how few outlets there were that conservatives use, while there are a whole lot that liberals mostly use. Basically, if there weren't Fox News and a few online sites and radio shows, there would be no place that conservatives to feel comfortable getting their news from. No wonder Fox News drives liberals crazy. It's a lonely outpost.

So how do other countries cover the American Revolution in their schools? Apparently, most don't or, if they do, they cover it as a precursor to the French Revolution. Even in Britain, it seems to be a minor event and "historical curiosity." I get why European nations would find the French Revolution more important, but in the grand scheme of things, I think our revolution was much more important for the world.

Now that the Democrats are getting rid of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson as their party's heroes, they're in need of some new heroes. Mark Krikorian has some suggestions of other notable Democrats.
How about we offer the Democrats some friendly suggestions of other famous Democrats to rename their party’s annual dinners after? How about the Nathan Bedford Forrest-Roger Taney Dinner? The Alger Hiss-Angela Davis Dinner? The Lester Maddox-Robert Byrd Dinner?