Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Election Prediction Recap

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

In trying to model any phenomenon, it always possible to bring in too many correlated independent variables. With enough variables, it is always possible to fit past data. However, the question is whether the true dynamics have been captured. The simplest model that can reasonably explain the data is usually the safest.

The professionall analysts in this past election did not fair too well. As it looks now that there will be a net 65-seat pickup for Republicans in the House of Representatives. Larry Sabato, Director of the University Center for Politics, predicted a gain of 55 seats. Nate Silver, political statistician supported by the New York Times, used elaborate simulations to predict a 54-seat gain. The Rothenberg’s Political Report faired better with a 55-65 seat gain prediction.

Using a simple linear regression model, we were able to predict a 69-seat gain with a +/- 10 seat standard deviation. The plot below shows the advantage in the actual Democratic vote versus the pre-election Gallup generic preference poll. The indicated point shows the result of this past election. Note that the linear fit very closely predicted the outcome. We submit here the humble thesis that some rather simple models have been adequate to explain events like the House election, where the 435 seats available allow the statistical means to prevail.

Public Sentiment is Everything

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

“In this and like communities, public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently he who moulds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.”Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas engaged a series of debates in pursuit of the Senate seat from Illinois in 1858. The campaign was indirect in that state legislatures appointed Senators at the time. Hence, Lincoln and Douglas were entrusted with the banners of their respective parties (Republican and Democrat) to wrestle control of the Illinois legislature.

The key Lincoln argument was that the Federal Government can and ought to control whether or not slavery was permitted in the territories as they became states. That had been the conventional wisdom since the adoption of the US Constitution. Moreover, Lincoln was concerned that the logical extension of the infamous Dred Scott decision — a radical departure from Constitutional precedent asserting that local state law against slavery was superseded by Constitutional protections of property — was that states would be prohibited from banning slavery. Douglas argued for local popular sovereignty as to the question of the extension of slavery. Douglas refused to concede that the logic of the Court in Dred Scott would be used to compel slavery to by recognized in all states.

Lincoln was subject to the criticism of hypocrisy. He personally objected to slavery, but it was not his position to abolish slavery in those states in which it had already been established. The key [1] he used to free himself cage of hypocrisy was the observation that “Public sentiment is everything.” In the South, public sentiment would make the abolition of slavery impossible. Perhaps with time, public sentiment would change, but it was imprudent to impose a policy against which there was strong public antipathy. Lincoln was right. Ultimately, it would take a bloody Civil War to eliminate slavery.

We do not argue here that opposition to the particular health care reform offered by the Democrats is morally equivalent to the abolition of slavery  in 1858, or opposition to the current bill is as blind to the real moral issues as Stephen Douglas was. Indeed, there is a strong argument that individual freedom and liberty, at the very core of the anti-slavery position, animates opposition to the current health care bill. However, independent of the correctness of one policy or another, it is clear that a majority of Americans oppose the health care reform as the Democrats have cobbled it together. Most people want to start over with a clean slate to construct a more reasonable, less radical, and more transparent approach to change. Public sentiment is strongly against the President and Congress.

President Barack Obama fancies himself in the mold of Abraham Lincoln, a tall well-spoken person from Illinois, elected President despite modest beginnings. If the comparison is to be more than superficial, Obama ought to adopt the profound wisdom of his erstwhile political model. Leadership in this case requires making a successful public case for Obama’s brand of health care reform before compelling its implementation against the clear public sentiment. Obama has the opportunity to be one who is “deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions.”

[1] David Zarefsky, “‘Public Sentiment Is Everything’: Lincoln’s View of Political Persuasion,” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, Summer 1994.

You Lie, [fill in]

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Maureen Dowd is an amazing women with a remarkable acuity of hearing and the ability to read other people’s intentions. As everyone now knows by now, Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) rudely shouted out “You lie!” as President Barack Obama argued that his health care would not cover illegal aliens. Wilson quickly apologized to the the White House for the outburst — an apology accepted by the President.

However, Dowd says, “…fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!” What makes this feat extraordinary is that most people watching on television could barely hear anything, but the growns and boos  in response tp Wilson. In addition, Dowd was immediately able to know which particular representative made the remark. Her instant recall and in depth knowledge of all 435 Congression representatives allowed her to know that what she describes as a “milquetoast Republican backbencher ” is a racist. I respectfully submit that Dowd hearing was largely improved by  her later by reading of either, Left-leaning blog posts or the reports of the NY Times research department. Dowd’s reading of Joe Wilson’s intentions probably are more revealing of Dowd than of Wilson.

Earlier in his speech, Obama perhaps began the attack when he said.

“The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren’t so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.”

Everyone knows that Sarah Palin is associated with the death panel charge. Would someone with as acute hearing as Dowd, whose head is tilted with different political perspective, hear at the end of the statement, “It is lie, plain and simple, bxxxx]?”