“Halloween is a day when we all get to fool people into thinking we’re someone else. Or as Mitt Romney calls it, campaigning.” –Bill Maher
“Halloween is a day when we all get to fool people into thinking we’re someone else. Or as Mitt Romney calls it, campaigning.” –Bill Maher
It is human nature to dislike bearers of bad news, but conservatives are extending this to a visceral hatred of those who even predict bad news. This has been compounded by the anti-fact/anti-logic/anti-science sentiments which now dominate the right wing. While there have been comments for months on conservative blogs showing denial of bad polling results, this has escalated over the past week, and become far more personal. Last week The Examiner laid down this battle-line:
While many conservatives look to former Clinton political consultant Dick Morris to understand the polls and political surveys on the elections, or even a site like UnSkewedPolls.com, those on the left look to New York Times blogger Nate Silver.
I have read Nate Silver’s blog as just one of many sources which evaluate the polls, but the authoritarian mindset of the right wing does tend to see things in terms of following one or the other leader. A look at how the left and right view this issue is consistent with how they differ on more substantiate matters than mere predictions.
First let’s look at UnSkewedPolls.com. They have been predicting a Romney victory well in excess of 300 electoral votes. Maybe this will happen, but it would require either that the polls are way off or that things change drastically before the election (which is possible, but not predictable). In other words, their predictions are based on the hope that their candidate will win as opposed to actually paying attention to the polling data.
Today Dick Morris is predicting a Romney landslide. Throughout the election his predictions have also been based upon what the right wingers want to hear, not based upon any facts. Perhaps he is trying to help Romney, or perhaps he is trying to increase readership among conservatives by saying what they want to read. Either way, he is also ignoring the actual polling data. I have also seen many posts from conservative blogs which distort the findings in polls, declaring a victory for Romney when the actual polling data shows the opposite or at most a tie.
Looking at actual polling data shows the popular vote as being too close to call while Obama continues to have a lead in the battleground states. Obama has leads in the latest polls in Ohio, Virginia, and Florida. It is certainly possible that Romney could still take one or more of these states, but he would need to either win all three or win in other states where Obama is now leading to win the election. With that in mind, let’s compare what Nate Silver says about the race compared to the two right wing commentators above. Silver’s map of state by state probabilities is based upon the polls, but he does adjust them to take into consideration factors such as the state of the economy and the historical partisan tendencies of the state. Unlike the conservative commentators, Silver’s electoral predictions have been very close to the status at sites such as ElectoralVote.com which are purely poll driven. Silver predicts Obama victories in Ohio and Virginia while his last prediction continued to predict Romney would win in Florida. He predicts an approximate two percent victory in the popular vote, which is the same as I and many others have been predicting (at least prior to Superstorm Sandy).
What especially confuses conservatives is that Silver includes odds, now predicting a 77.4 percent chance of Obama winning (up 9.3 percent over the past week). That sounds like a reasonable prediction, except to those who do not understand the concept of probability. Last week Silver gave Romney well over a one in four chance of winning, and continues to give him over a one in five chance. Ezra Klein defended Silver (with his post written when Silver’s chances of an Obama victory were a little lower than at present):
So before we deal with anything Silver has specifically said, it’s worth taking in the surrounding landscape: Every major political betting market and every major forecasting tool is predicting an Obama victory right now, and for the same reason: Obama remains ahead in enough states that, unless the polls are systematically wrong, or they undergo a change unlike any we’ve yet seen in the race, Obama will win the election.
There’s no doubt about that. Real Clear Politics, which leans right, shows Romney up by 0.8 percent nationally, but shows Obama up in Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Romney is up in Florida and North Carolina, but note that his lead in Florida is smaller than Obama’s lead in Ohio. And RCP shows Colorado and Virginia tied. Pollster.com, meanwhile, shows Obama leading by a point in Colorado and Virginia and the race tied in Florida.
It’s important to be clear about this: If Silver’s model is hugely wrong — if all the models are hugely wrong, and the betting markets are hugely wrong — it’s because the polls are wrong. Silver’s model is, at this point, little more than a sophisticated form of poll aggregation.
But it’s just as important to be clear about this: If Mitt Romney wins on election day, it doesn’t mean Silver’s model was wrong. After all, the model has been fluctuating between giving Romney a 25 percent and 40 percent chance of winning the election. That’s a pretty good chance! If you told me I had a 35 percent chance of winning a million dollars tomorrow, I’d be excited. And if I won the money, I wouldn’t turn around and tell you your information was wrong. I’d still have no evidence I’d ever had anything more than a 35 percent chance.
Nate Silver is one of the sources I look at after his predictions were extremely accurate in 2008, but I also don’t follow any one source, suspecting that another source could edge him out in other elections. It will be interesting to see if his model is any more accurate than other means of predicting electing results when the results are in next week. Util then I will continue to look at a variety of sources, and leave it to the more authoritarian-minded conservatives to want to follow a single leader. Looking a other of sources of predicting the election finds that Silver’s predictions are far more in line than those of the conservative wishful thinkers. For example, Intrade predicts an Obama victory at 66.1 percent.
Predicting an Obama victory also isn’t out of line with what most Americans predict. Gallup found that 54 percent of Americans think Obama will win while only 34 percent predict Romney will win. It is only the far right, which places ideology over facts in all matters, which would predict a Romney landslide based upon the information now available.
Another source that Romney is losing is speculative, but I think does say a lot about the state of the race. Mitt Romney is now running like a candidate who believes he is going to lose and must throw a Hail Mary. He has been running highly dishonest and desperate ads about the auto bail-out despite the fact-checking of newspapers who see this as Romney going too far with his lying. Seeing both Chrysler and GM debunk Romney’s false claim is reminiscent of Candy Crowley debunking Romney on Libya during the second presidential debate. He is also resorting to repeating his discredited welfare attack. He is making desperate attempts to compete in states such as Pennsylvania where he has no serious chance, most likely due to realizing his chances of winning by taking Ohio are slipping away.
While many conservatives who cite Dick Morris sound convinced that Romney will win, the attitude on liberal blogs remains more in tune with reality. Besides better understanding the math, liberal bloggers are more likely to realize that polls are a snapshot of where we are now and not absolutely predictive of the election results. With the race this close, things can still change. When pundits spoke of Hurricane Sandy freezing the race, I had fears that this might blunt Obama’s momentum in Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida, where he has recently been improving in the polls after falling behind after the Denver debate. Looking presidential, and getting the praise of Republican keynote speaker Chris Christie, might make up for any lost days of campaigning. Superstorm Sandy does provide a strong contrast between Democratic and Republican views as they relate to the real world, from views on the importance of the federal government in disaster relief to views on accepting the scientific consensus on global warming.
The most important consideration regarding Hurricane Sandy is the safety of those in its path and recovering from damage. There is the danger that discussing the political implications might seem distasteful, however very recently the Republicans began to play politics with the death of Americans in Libya with total disregard for waiting for the facts to come in. There is no reason not to look at the political implications of a tragedy where the facts are clearly on our side. Policies have consequences and Sandy shows the consequences of the Republican beliefs being wrong in two areas–disaster management and climate change.
Mitt Romney would return us to the disaster management policies of George Bush just like he would return us the economic policies of George Bush. Over the last couple of days numerous sites have linked to multiple statements from Mitt Romney talking of cutting FEMA. He has argued this should be handled by the states, but he also vetoed money for flood prevention while governor. Cutting funding for FEMA is also the position of the Republican Party:
Over the last two years, Congressional Republicans have forced a 43 percent reduction in the primary FEMA grants that pay for disaster preparedness. Representatives Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and other House Republicans have repeatedly tried to refuse FEMA’s budget requests when disasters are more expensive than predicted, or have demanded that other valuable programs be cut to pay for them. The Ryan budget, which Mr. Romney praised as “an excellent piece of work,” would result in severe cutbacks to the agency, as would the Republican-instigated sequester, which would cut disaster relief by 8.2 percent on top of earlier reductions.
Now Romney either avoids answering questions about FEMA or claims he will not cut it. Campaigning for cuts to big government programs in the abstract is popular. It is a different matter to identify individual programs. Romney claims he will cut federal spending to less than 20 percent of GDP by 2016 but refuses to say what he will cut. It would be folly to vote for someone who refuses to answer this question.
Mitt Romney made fun of Barack Obama, saying he “promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet” at the Republican convention. That doesn’t sound like such a bad idea now. Bill Clinton mocked Romney for a similar attack on Obama at the first debate (where sadly Obama failed to defend himself):
I was actually listening closely to what the candidates said in these debates. In the first debate, the triumph of the moderate Mitt Romney. You remember what he did? He ridiculed the president. Ridiculed the president for his efforts to fight global warming in economically beneficial ways. He said, ‘Oh, you’re going to turn back the seas.’ In my part of America, we would like it if someone could’ve done that yesterday. All up and down the East Coast, there are mayors, many of them Republicans, who are being told, ‘You’ve got to move these houses back away from the ocean. You’ve got to lift them up. Climate change is going to raise the water levels on a permanent basis. If you want your town insured, you have to do this.’ In the real world, Barack Obama’s policies work better.
Many Republicans deny science, claiming that global warming is a hoax despite all the evidence that the earth has warmed due to activities of mankind. Scientists, along with the insurance industry which must rely on facts, acknowledge that severe weather events are related to climate change. From Scientific American:
Hurricane Sandy has emboldened more scientists to directly link climate change and storms, without the hedge. On Monday, as Sandy came ashore in New Jersey, Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, tweeted: “Would this kind of storm happen without climate change? Yes. Fueled by many factors. Is [the] storm stronger because of climate change? Yes.”
Raymond Bradley, director of the Climate Systems Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, was quoted in the Vancouver Sun saying: “When storms develop, when they do hit the coast, they are going to be bigger and I think that’s a fair statement that most people could sign onto.”
A recent, peer-reviewed study published by several authors in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science concludes: “The largest cyclones are most affected by warmer conditions and we detect a statistically significant trend in the frequency of large surge events (roughly corresponding to tropical storm size) since 1923.”
Greg Laden, an anthropologist who blogs about culture and science, wrote this week in an online piece: “There is always going to be variation in temperature or some other weather related factor, but global warming raises the baseline. That’s true. But the corollary to that is NOT that you can’t link climate change to a given storm. All storms are weather, all weather is the immediate manifestation of climate, climate change is about climate.”
Now, as promised: If you still don’t believe scientists, then believe insurance giant Munich Re. In her October 29 post at the The New Yorker, writer Elizabeth Kolbert notes:
Munich Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurance firms, issued a study titled “Severe Weather in North America.” According to the press release that accompanied the report, “Nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America.” … While many factors have contributed to this trend, including an increase in the number of people living in flood-prone areas, the report identified global warming as one of the major culprits: “Climate change particularly affects formation of heat-waves, droughts, intense precipitation events, and in the long run most probably also tropical cyclone intensity.”
If Democrats can capitalized politically on Hurricane Sandy’s demonstration that Republicans are wrong in cutting government disaster funding and wrong about climate change they could do very well next week.
On the other hand, if they have not been able to benefit politically from running against a candidate who would destroy Social Security and Medicare, and if they still have not yet been able to sell all the benefits of Obamacare to the public, there is no reason to be confident that the Democrats will win this argument despite having the facts on their side. The Republican tsunami of misinformation,which covers up facts and presents a direct danger to liberty and democracy, is even more harmful to this nation than any single natural disaster.
There were major events this week on Fringe (MAJOR SPOILERS). It was revealed that one important aspect of Etta’s position in the resistance is her ability to not only block the Observers from reading her thoughts but the ability to teach others. This answered questions as to whether Etta had a unique ability inherited from her mother (although this could be why she was the first to succeed at this). One of the people she taught was Broyles, who we learned is working with the resistance. It is a good thing that Etta has passed her skills on to at least one other person as she did not survive the episode. At least she managed to wipe out several Observers with anti-matter.
Georgina Haig, who played Etta, was interviewed by Entertainment Weekly:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We’re not sure where to start. But I guess walk us through how much you knew before you got the script and then your reaction after you read it.
HAIG: It’s funny — going into it, I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen. When I got the call that I’d be doing the fifth season, I was excited, but I didn’t know the trajectory of the character or even how many episodes I was doing. It’s so secretive even for us! [Laughs] Then I got a call from Joel [Wyman] and he took me through the four episodes and what was going to happen and I was blown away. I was really moved and also I was — I thought it was really brave to take such an emotional leap for all the characters at that point in the story. I just thought it was a really brave thing to do with the story.
Especially because I think there’s a sector of fans who really grew to love Etta in such a short time. What was that reception like for you?
I think I’m lucky because I entered as part of the family straight away. And because Fringe is like a family — literally and metaphorically — the fans sort of embrace you if the world of Fringe has embraced you, if you know what I mean. There was definitely an immediate response as soon as it was worked out that I was the daughter, they were invested. And I don’t think they needed all that much time to invest in me because the relationships were so intense from the get-go.
Last week you had a great scene with Olivia in a car. I think that definitely threw me off the scent of this twist in the story because it seemed like they were really into progressing the mother-daughter relationship. What’s your take on that?
I know! We felt like that the whole time; they were setting it up to knock it down. As an actor I felt the same thing. I was so invested and loving being there knowing I was going to die. Being there in Vancouver and being part of this show was so reflective of what my character had to go through — you left all these great people behind. But I’m just amazed. So much has to happen on Fringe in terms of the plot and the saving the world stuff and the other characters, they’re able to make so much of these moments. That moment in the car happened so quickly and carried so much weight in amongst all the action. But that’s what the show does really well — balancing out the action with these incredible poignant moments.
You had quite a few of those moments in this episode, too, with the bullet necklace. With that exchange, do you think, as a whole, Olivia and Etta had reached a point of resolution in terms of their relationship? I’m curious to get your perspective on where their relationship ended
I think it’s really sad because, of course, a million things weren’t resolved. They got to that point where it had moved from uncomfortable to slightly more comfortable in this dynamic of being reunited. But I think she could see the strain between her parents and there was still so much she couldn’t say and was still learning so much about herself. And her own world — her perspective of right and wrong [versus] Olivia’s. In episode two we explored that quite a lot. There was so much left unsaid. But in four, I think what is resolved is the love and strength between them. But if it was my choice I wouldn’t have died and played out the family drama. [Laughs] There was a lot to explore, but there’s [also] a lot for the writers to explore with me dying and the characters dealing with that. What happens next will, I’m sure, be very interesting — not that I have any idea what that is.
Which was my last question. What do you know?
I know a little bit, but even the little bit I know is kind of vague. They don’t give too much away because they probably know we will be asked. [Laughs] But it’s going to be awesome.
Well, there are a lot of returns on Fringe. Any chance of you being a part of it in some way? Any hopes of a return?
It’s so funny because I was all emotional, and everybody was just like, ‘Ugh, whatever, Georgina, you’ll just be back. It’s Fringe. Everybody dies about four times.” And I was like, “Yeah, but I’ve been obliterated into millions of pieces!” [Laughs] It wasn’t just a death, it was a mega-death. It was a death with a full stop. So I don’t know. Anything is possible.
Anything is possible, especially on Fringe. We have already seen two parallel worlds and alternative time lines. Presumably the series will end with the defeat of the Observers. Will this be limited to the world of fifteen years from now, or will victory mean changing the timeline so that Earth was never conquered by the Observers? Somehow a plot by the Observers to go back in time to conquer their ancestors and change the world to make inhabitable to their human ancestors does seem a lot like the classic science fiction plot of going back in time and killing your grandfather. If the timeline is changed, perhaps we will return to that day in the park without any Observers arriving to take Etta, and perhaps see a future where Olivia, Peter, and Etta are a happy family.
The question of whether Etta returns was also asked in an interview from Huffington Post:
Is Etta really, truly dead, though — no time travel, no sneaky switcheroos?
Oh, man, I know. I was having a great time in Vancouver, you know? I would stay! I had my last day and I was really upset, obviously … just like, “Oh God. That was final. I could learn to ski if I stayed!” Everyone’s like, “Oh, Georgina, it’s ‘Fringe,’ you never know what could happen.” They were so nonplussed. They’re just like, “Whatever, it’s Fringe.” Whereas I was like, “No. I’ve been obliterated into a million pieces. I haven’t just died, I was like self-combobulated or whatever it was. It’s done.” And then they’re like, “But it’s ‘Fringe.’” So who knows? I feel like these guys can get around any corner but I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen.
Unfortunately Huffington Post ran this interview right after the show ended with the headline: ‘Fringe’ Season 5: Georgina Haig On Etta’s Shocking Death And Where The Team Goes From Here. Do they understand that many of us record Friday night shows and watch later in the weekend? There was a spoiler warning beneath this headline, but by this time it was too late. Spoilers of this nature should never be included in headlines with many people recording shows to watch at a later time. Normally I go through my RSS reader and save stories about genre shows I have not seen yet. Anyone using a RSS reader, or looking at headlines directly on the site, would have been tipped off about Etta’s death.
After finishing his work on Fringe, show runner Joel Wyman will be working on a new show with J. J Abrams, a futuristic cop series which deals humanity versus technology.
Doctor Who was mentioned once again on Big Bang Theory (video above). Previous references to Doctor Who on Big Bang Theory have been collected here.
Another Spoiler: Later in the episode Leonard and Penny had sex in the TARDIS at Stewart’s Halloween Party. While Doctor Who is technically a children’s show and presumably will not show sex on the TARDIS, Topless Robot found this porn parody trailer, Doctor Screw:
I think I prefer the clean but more amusing Inspector Spacetime parody from Community.
The BBC will once again include Doctor Who in their annual Children in Need special:
Doctor Who, featuring Matt Smith, will also bring viewers an extra special ‘prequel’ to its Christmas special, with a bespoke storyline made for Children in Need, and an exclusive preview trailer of the Christmas special including the first glimpse of the Doctor with his new companion. There will also be an exclusive preview of the Call The Midwife Christmas special.
“Mitt Romney is so rich he hired extra housekeepers just to launder his money.” –David Letterman
If the current polling results stay stable through the election there is a real possibility that Romney could win the popular vote while Obama wins the electoral college (and therefore reelection). Romney has gained in the popular vote since the first debate but much of his gains are leading to the likelihood that he will win the red states by even greater margins. He has come closer in the battleground states but Obama still leads in most of them.
The electoral map (based upon polling) doesn’t look that much different now than it did before the first debate. The primary difference is that Florida, which has shifted between Romney and Obama, has moved back to Romney. Obama trailed Romney in North Carolina and it appeared he might take the lead. Instead of moving ahead as it appeared he might do, he is now tied there. Virginia now looks too close to call with Obama still having a strong chance to win the state. Obama has maintained leads in key swing states such as Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa and Wisconsin. Romney is closer in these states, and leads in some polls, but at the moment Obama retains the edge even if the electoral vote will be closer than it appeared to be after the conventions. Of course this lead is far from secure, making it essential that those who support individual liberty, a market economy which provides opportunity for all to succeed financially, science, preservation of Medicare and Social Security, and reality-based public policy get out to vote to reelect Barack Obama. Current polls show a majority of registered voters support Obama, while Romney leads among likely voters.
There are strong arguments to eliminate the electoral college and have the winner of the popular vote win the presidency. Besides being inherently more democratic, it would mean that each party would have reason to try to appeal to voters in every state to increase their share of the popular vote. Perhaps Obama would be doing better in the popular vote nationally if he had reason to run up the margin of victory more in the blue states and pick up some votes in the red states where he now has no reason to campaign. A Democratic Congressman has proposed an amendment which would make it unlikely that a candidate would win the election without winning the popular vote. Steve Israel would award 29 electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the popular vote. This would be comparable to having another Florida or New York, and be worth one electoral vote more than North Carolina and Virgina combined.
This proposal would have given Gore the presidency in 2000, making up for the Republicans stealing Florida, if everything else was equal. It possible that Obama could win more than 29 electoral votes than Romney and lose the popular vote if his leads hold in the battleground states. It is more likely that if Romney wins the popular vote he will also pick up some of the battleground states where it is now close.
Having an arbitrary number of electoral votes be awarded, regardless of the margin of victory in the popular vote, is a very convoluted way around the problems presented by the electoral college. Why twenty-nine? The electoral college has its problems, but at least there is a sensible way of choosing the number of electors based upon the number awarded to each state, which is roughly proportional to each state’s population. There are conservatives who support the electoral college based upon the concept of each state being a separate entity in the United States. If the goal is to eliminate the electoral college and go to direct election of the president based upon the popular vote, propose an amendment to do exactly that as opposed to such a strange way around the current system and have a debate as how we want elections to be structured. (At the same time we might consider whether we want to continue the manner in which the Senate gives greater representation to those living in small states as opposed to large states.)
The electoral college this year might even lead to a stranger result than having the loser of the popular vote fail to win the presidency (as this has happened before). It is unlikely but possible that there could be a tie in the electoral college. The House would then pick the president, with the vote based upon the numbers of state delegations controlled as opposed to a vote by each member of the newly elected House. The Senate would pick the Vice-President. The newly elected House could elect Romney president while the Senate, assuming Democrats retain control, could reelect Joe Biden as Vice President. An even more bizarre result would be if the House was deadlocked because of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans in some state delegations and unable to elect a President. In that case, Joe Biden, if reelected Vice President, would become President. An election thrown to the House might very well lead to more support for moving to popular election of the president.