Saturday, September 26, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
One of the things I learned while exploring the statistical proprieties of the Iranian election, the results of which were probably forged, is that human beings are really bad at randomization. Tell a human to come up with a set of random numbers, and they will be surprisingly inept at trying to do so. Most humans, for instance, when asked to flip an imaginary coin and record the results, will succumb to the Gambler's Fallacy and be more likely to record a toss of 'tails' if the last couple of tosses had been heads, or vice versa. This feels right to most of us -- but it isn't. We're actually introducing patterns into what is supposed to be random noise.Hopefully those first few paragraphs will be a sufficient teaser to get you to read the whole thing, including the charts. Bottom line is that there seems to be something fishy about the data from Strategic Vision's polls. Saying that a person or an organization is doctoring data is pretty damned serious, but from my initial reading, I'd say there is good reason for suspicion from the looks of things. At bare minimum, I would probably look at poll results from this particular organization with even more skepticism than I do as normal practice with other polling organizations' results.
Sometimes, as is the case with certain applications of Benford's Law, this characteristic can be used as a fraud-detection mechanism. If, for example, one of your less-trustworthy employees is submitting a series of receipts, and an unusually high number end with the trailing digit '7' ($27, $107, $297, etc.), there is a decent chance that he is falsifying his expenses. The IRS uses techniques like this to detect tax fraud.
Yesterday, I posed several pointed questions to David E. Johnson, the founder of Strategic Vision, LLC, an Atlanta-based PR firm which also occasionally releases political polls. One of the questions, in light of Strategic Vision LLC's repeated failure to disclose even basic details about its polling methodology, is whether the firm is in fact conducting polling at all, or rather, is creating fake but plausible-looking results in order to increase traffic and attention to its core business as a PR and literary firm.
I posed that question largely as a hypothetical yesterday. But today, I pose it much more literally. Certain statistical properties of the results reported by Strategic Vision, LLC suggest, perhaps strongly, the possibility of fraud, although they certainly do not prove it and further investigation will be required.
The specific evidence in question is as follows. I looked at all polling results reported by Strategic Vision LLC since the beginning of 2005; results from 2008 onward are available at their website; other polls were recovered through archive.org. This is a lot of data -- well over 100 polls, each of which asked an average of about 15-20 questions.
You know that old adage "numbers don't lie"? The truth is a bit more complicated. Numbers themselves are inanimate so in a very narrow sense they can't lie; but the people who present the numbers can - and sometimes do - lie.
Since I'm a bit of a pop culture junkie, I've been indulging in sharing some of that with you in recent weeks and months and will continue to do so much more often. I happen to find much in contemporary pop culture that is helpful in understanding the American Zeitgeist. A simple cartoon such as Venture Bros. can, for example, is a rather stunning commentary on the state of American society and its concerns and offers a contrast to the "anything is possible" mindset of the middle decades of the 20th century. I started an essay on that particular cartoon, and hope to have the finishing touches completed sometime in the next few weeks.
I've been advocating health care reform quite often in recent weeks - not so much due to some affinity with the Obama regime or the Democrats, but rather simply because the status quo is so bad that even the rather ideologically stunted efforts by the Pope of Hope and his minions would serve as a major improvement (and might within a few years bring our quality of life indexes up to par with those of some of the more successful post-Soviet-era eastern and central European nations, as opposed to being barely better off than most third-world nations).
I really haven't had much time to focus on American hegemony, but will from time to time use this space as a voice against war and against economic exploitation. If it weren't already obvious to many who characterize themselves as "left or left-leaning" it should be now: neither of the two major parties is willing or able to break with the status quo: occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq; threatened invasions and occupations elsewhere around the globe; a failure to abandon the "free trade" agreements that have starved and displaced millions throughout the Americas and across the globe.
Oh, and somewhere the should be some room to discuss baseball. Life can't be all bleak.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Social psychologists such as James Jones have been saying it for decades, and before him activists and social critics from various angles. In the case of Matthews, his perspective is shaped from growing up in Apartheid-era South Africa. Something insidious to relatively well-off white Americans may seem considerably more often to someone outside of that particular bubble (including, the occasional well-off rock star).
CNN: President Carter said he thinks that a lot of the animosity directed toward President Obama is race related.
Dave Matthews: Of course it is! I found there's a fairly blatant racism in America that's already there, and I don't think I noticed it when I lived here as a kid. But when I went back to South Africa, and then it's sort of thrust in your face, and then came back here -- I just see it everywhere. There's a good population of people in this country that are terrified of the president only because he's black, even if they don't say it. And I think a lot of them, behind closed doors, do say it.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
“It was not easy to persuade our poor white and black brother and sisters to rise up. We told them that rising up, standing up, whatever the consequences, would inspire future generations. Our courage, our bravery would be remembered and copied. That has been the Indian way for centuries, since the invasions. Fight and tell the story so that those who come after or their descendants will rise up once again. It may take a thousand years, but that is how we continue and eventually prevail.” – An Oklahoma Seminole Woman speaking about her remembrances of The Green Corn Rebellion, a failed revolution in Oklahoma in which the poor Indians, Blacks and Whites united in fighting against the oppression of the rural poor and against the draft of WWI
There’s a new administration in Washington — but the USA PATRIOT Act is still on the books, and some provisions are up for renewal. Gentle reader, will you be watching this as closely as you were before January 20, 2009?Or as I am fond of asking, so where's the change? The Patriot Act should have been one of the first pieces of nefarious legislation to be rescinded the moment Obama took that oath of office. And yet, there it is, with nary a hint as to when we might see the Patriot Act swept into the dustbin of history. How about it Dems? We know that movement conservatives and their party, the GOP, fetishize raw power - which is what the Patriot Act was all about. So why the silence, Dems? What about the progressive activists? Just going to give the Pope of Hope and the party's Congressional leaders a free pass? Where's the change?