Football and Polls Favorable For Obama Victory

The Alabama-LSU game is getting more hype today, but the Oh0 State-Illinois game was far more important for the future of this nation. That is because a correlation has been found between winning football games and how voters feel about voting for the incumbent:

What exactly is it that makes voters reward a challenger or punish an incumbent?  Do they care about the unemployment rate, GDP, or inflation, or is it how those variables are moving? Are voters motivated by position papers or a candidate’s personal history?  Is the electorate responding to slick TV ads or how the candidates performed in the debates?

It may be something else altogether. Recent research has revealed that voter irrationality may be more arbitrary than we think. And in a razor-thin election just enough irrationality can make all the difference. Just how irrational are voters? It is statistically possible that the outcome of a handful of college football games in the right battleground states could determine the race for the White House.

Economists Andrew Healy, Neil Malhotra, and Cecilia Mo make this argument in a fascinating article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. They examined whether the outcomes of college football games on the eve of elections for presidents, senators, and governors affected the choices voters made. They found that a win by the local team, in the week before an election, raises the vote going to the incumbent by around 1.5 percentage points. When it comes to the 20 highest attendance teams—big athletic programs like the University of Michigan, Oklahoma, and Southern Cal—a victory on the eve of an election pushes the vote for the incumbent up by 3 percentage points. That’s a lot of votes, certainly more than the margin of victory in a tight race. And these results aren’t based on just a handful of games or political seasons; the data were taken from 62 big-time college teams from 1964 to 2008.

The good news, we suppose, is that sports really can cheer us up and make the world seem like a brighter place. The sports fan is left happier and more satisfied all around, not just on the gridiron. When you are feeling upbeat and happy, you feel more satisfied with the status quo in general. And feeling satisfied with the status quo makes you more likely to vote for the incumbent politician, even if that’s totally irrational.

The study’s authors control for economic, demographic, and political factors, so the results are much more sophisticated than just a raw correlation. They also did a deeper analysis that took into account people’s expectations. It turns out that surprise wins are especially potent, raising local support for incumbent politicians by around 2.5 percentage points.

Alabama and Louisiana will go to Romney regardless of the score of a football game, but Obama has such a narrow lead in Ohio that we’ll take any benefits from Ohio State beating Illinois. Michigan is probably safe for Obama, but it doesn’t hurt that Michigan won today (despite Denard Robinson still being out after the injury suffered during the Nebraska game). Florida came back to beat Missouri, possibly delivering another swing state. Virginia beat North Carolina State, helping in the southeast swing state where Obama’s chances were already better. Miami beat Virginia Tech on Thursday, providing mixed results. Colorado was no match for Stanford so Obama better clinch reelection without waiting for the results from the western states just to be safe.

Going to more serious predictors. Obama maintains a lead in Ohio and  smaller leads in Florida and Virginia. Karl Rove says that Sandy has helped Obama. Is he preparing the spin for a loss by Romney? Authoritarian war-monger Rudy Giuliani calls on Obama to resign in a fiery speech which sounded much better in the original German. This looks like a faux issue which only those already believing the right wing alternate reality believe. A more objective view, and consideration of the facts, shows that this attempt to Swift Boat Obama has failed. Despite the attempts by the right wing to twist the facts, Condoleeza Rice  has defended the actions of the Obama Administration regarding  the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

Happiness Is Crushed Buckeye Nuts

Occupy Wall Street At A Cross Roads

The forced clearing of Zuccotti Park this week represents a turning point for the Occupy Wall Street movement–one which possibly could be to its advantage. So far Occupy Wall Street has one significant achievement–turning discussion from which government program to cut next to an examination of how the system is rigged to transfer wealth from the middle class to the top one percent. Unlike the Tea Party movement, they show far more understanding of the issues they are discussing. These are important issues to bring to the nation’s attention considering the degree to which the unprecedented level of income inequality, along with the factually incorrect misconceptions upon which conservative economic policies are based, have caused our economy and country to stagnate in recent years.

The question has been where Occupy Wall Street would go from here. It has always been at risk of fading from attention, between a natural diminishing of interest over time and cold winter weather forcing many to return home. If the the movement was based upon a permanent occupation of Zucotti Park and other areas, it would soon become old news, assuming that it would never increase in size to the point where it would become appear even more meaningful. Zucotti Park would never become Tahrir Square in Cairo.

Now that they are being forced out of their around-the-clock encampments, OCS supporters have an important decision to make. They could become either the start of a new progressive movement in this nation, or a brief protest which loses its significance. They could center their activity upon fighting to maintain the protests in their current form, but this would be a Pyrrhic victory even if it could be achieved. Such a victory would do little to  promote the more serious economic message behind the group. This would play into the hands of the dishonest propagandists for the authoritarian right from Fox and talk radio who would be able to exaggerate every episode of misconduct conducted by people in the area who have nothing to do with the actual movement, resulting in a further decline in their support. I wouldn’t be surprised to see end of year “news” summaries at Fox next month claiming that Occupy Wall Street supporters had spent the year molesting children in the showers at Penn State.

I hope that Occupy Wall Street decides to concentrate on promoting their economic message as opposed to fighting to continue their occupations. At this point intermittent political rallies and other events are likely to receive more media coverage than a permanent “occupation” which gradually dwindles in size over the winter. While OCS is quite distinct from the Democratic Party, I have seen multiple interviews in which supporters did acknowledge that the Democrats are far preferable to the Republicans on economic issues. As we face a tough race next year to prevent government control by supporters of the no-nothing polices of the far right, OCS members might devote some energy to getting out the vote, even if they feel compelled to hold their noses when voting Democratic. Perhaps they could even influence some Democratic primaries, as long as they don’t do this to nominate unelectable extremists as the Tea Party has done.

I also wouldn’t mind if they concentrated more on names such as the 99 percent rather than Occupy Wall Street should the occupations no longer become the centerpiece of the movement. Both the concentrating on occupying a location and the concentration on Wall Street alone distract from their central issue of how an unprecedented level of income inequality has been harmful to the nation, leading us to a position where we can no longer afford many basic government services and promoting of a 21st century infrastructure which would promote greater economic development.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, The Girl Who Waited; Torchwood Blood Lines; Shada Completed; Michigan Beats Notre Dame 35-31

It was a great weekend for television, with an excellent episode of Doctor Who, the season finale of Torchwood: Miracle Day, and a Michigan vs. Notre Dame football game which not only once again wound up being settled by four points scored in the last thirty seconds, but also had three touchdowns in the last seventy-two seconds. In the final second Notre Dame also lost the ball and I believe that if the Michigan player pushing it into the end zone had actual possession it would have been counted as a fourth touchdown in the last seventy-two seconds.

The Girl Who Waited was the economy episode of Doctor Who, having less of the Doctor and minimal use of other cast. While not as great as another Doctor-lite episode, Blink, it was an excellent episode with an interesting timey-whimey idea. A planet with a plague, which killed beings with two hearts, including Time Lords, in one day, set up a Two Stream facility. Those infected with the plague lived in one time stream where they could live out their entire life in one day, while family could watch them from the other time stream over twenty-four hours. After their arrival to the planet,  Amy ran back to the Tardis to get her phone. The Doctor, who so far thought they were just at a recreational facility, had the first of two great lines during the episode: “I bring you to a paradise planet two billion light years from Earth and you want to update… Twitter?”

When Amy caught up, she pushed the wrong button and wound up in the wrong time stream. She had to beware of being killed with kindness as medications from this planet would be fatal to her. There were certainly a number of holes in this setup, and a bit of timey-whimey technobabble to try to explain it, but that didn’t prevent enjoyment of the show. After all, as the Doctor explained, “Come on Rory, it’s hardly rocket science, it’s just quantam physics.”

This setup provided for an interesting look at the character dynamics, and gave Karen Gillan the opportunity to play an older version of herself.

It was not surprising to see Amy Pond become bitter about her raggedy man after being left behind for thirty-six years. It was logical for her to prevent the Doctor and Rory from saving the younger version of herself, making her disappear, but in the end there were stronger arguments to the contrary. There was never any doubt that Rory would choose the younger version of Amy over the older, but Rory did realize the cost as he told the Doctor, “You’re trying to turn me into you.” We also saw again that the Doctor lies. I bet that will be important when we see how the Doctor avoids his impending death.

The episode appeared to be totally stand-alone (with it continuing to be strange that Amy and Rory so easily gave up on the idea of rescuing Melody as an infant). I wonder if a show which dealt so strongly with the relationship between Amy, Rory, and the Doctor might wind up having ramifications to be seen later this season.

The Blood Line, the finale of Torchwood: Miracle Day, was a pretty good episode, but still it didn’t have enough payback for a ten-episode story. Considering that there is no real explanation, they did a fair job of explaining how the Miracle came about, using Jack’s immortal blood. I wasn’t clear on why this would make Jack (and cancer cells) mortal, or why they brought Oswald Danes along. The episode did leave a couple of plot threads open, including the tree families moving on to their next plan, with Jilly Kitzinger helping with public relations. A transfusion of Jack’s blood allowed Rex to recuperate as quickly as Jack. I hope that this is a temporary effect of the transfusion, possibly aided by occurring at the same time as the Blessing was reset. Otherwise it wouldn’t be realistic to have Torchwood continue with some many people close to Jack getting killed.

It was a good idea to take a  high concept and attempt to make a single-season arc. Children of Earth worked as a third-season story over five days, but ten episodes was too long this year. The writers tried to get around this problem by having a number of subplots. This did not work as the show was set up around solving a single problem, and the subplots often felt like needless distractions.

Sooner or later I also hope to see Torchwood reestablished as a real organization with additional characters. Torchwood might work better modeled somewhat after how Dexter or Fringe have been handled. I would like to see a fifth season in which Torchwood is reestablished. Episodes could deal with building a new team and solving some individual mysteries, while also having a “big-bad” to contend with all season. That way it is not necessary to come up with a monster of the week every week, but individual stories could be mixed with the season-long arc.


We know that Doctor Who will have another thirteen-episode season, but it won’t start until next fall. The future of Torchwood is unknown, despite a tag at the end of the final episode in Australia saying Jack will be back in four months. There is, however, hope of seeing another Tom Baker episode of Doctor Who.  Shada, the 1980 Tom Baker episode of Doctor Who written by Douglas Adams, has finally been completed, with a couple of twists:

Given that it has been three decades since the cameras last rolled on the story, the actors involved would never have been able to convincingly play the same age, so Shada has been completed via animation, using only their voices.

The other twist is that this hasn’t been paid for by the BBC, nor even their commercial arm 2|entertain (responsible for the Doctor Who DVD releases). The animation has been privately funded by record producer and fan Ian Levine, and as things stand, the wider public might never get to see it.

Which isn’t Levine’s intention, of course; now that Shada has been finished, he’s hopeful an agreement can be reached with 2|entertain and the story released into the public domain.

Wait a minute. The Doctor and Romana are Time Lords and would hot have aged. The real problem is that they have regenerated into different forms.

Ohio State Joins Michigan In Removing Football Coach

Ohio State shows that a top program won’t go down with the coach, now having forced out two of their greatest coaches (Woodie Hayes and Jim Tressel). Jim Tressel shows he was right when he wrote in The Winners Manual for the Game of Life that “non-religious people can be moral and religious people can be immoral.” I’m sure he didn’t intend to be evidence of the second part himself.

There has been a tremendous link between Ohio State and Michigan historically, especially with the rivalry between Woody and his former assistant Bo Schembechler. It is ironic that both schools removed their head coach this year with rules violations and NCAA sanctions playing a role in both. In the case of Ohio State, rules violations were the only problem, while at Michigan Rich Rodriguez’s rules violations were just one more count against a coach who turned out to be a terrible fit from the start.

The coaching changes might should help restore a rivalry which has been far too one-sided since Tressel arrived. Tressel’s predecessor John Cooper had a record of 2-10-1 against Michigan, leading to his removal. I doubt a program such as Ohio States’s will fall this far again, unless brought about by severe sanctions from the NCAA. I’m sure that Ohio State’s motivation in pushing Tressel out was to transfer the blame to him and not the school, hoping to minimize sanctions. Their chances might have been better if they took action when they learned of Tressel’s deception back in January.

Despite the problems in Columbus, Michigan will have to improve tremendously from last year to beat Ohio State, along with Nebraska who is now the 12the team in the Big Ten (leaving the Big Twelve with only ten teams). There is considerable optimism that this will occur under new coach Brady Hoke, who at very least has avoided the mistakes Rodriguez made in his first few months at Michigan, including showing ignorance of the importance of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. It appears that Hoke might strengthen the offense by not relying solely on Denard Robinson, and hopefully improve the kicking game with the kicker starting in September. The biggest question is how quickly he can recover the defense, especially when using players recruited under Rodriguez.

It will be interesting to see how Jim Tressel and Rich Rodriguez do when looking for new jobs. Presumably Tressel will have the better chance, with many teams being willing to look beyond the fact that he lied during the NCAA investigation in light of his successful record. Rodriguez’s rules violations were less severe, but his record is now mixed with success at West Virginia followed by failure at Michigan.

In the case of Rich Rodriguez, it comes down to finding the right fit. He has shown he can win, at least at West Virginia, with the spread offense, but has no ability to alter his offense to fit the players on a team. His handling of other aspects of the game is questionable.  I can see three scenarios for Rodriguez. He would be best off if a major team already using the spread should develop an opening at head coach. He would make an even better choice for a team utilizing the spread with an opening at offensive coordinator, but I don’t know if he would want to move downwards in this manner.  A third possibility is that he might work out at a school which is not a major football power and is willing to take time to build a team under Rodriguez’s ideas. It would also help if this was in a weaker conference, such as the Big East, as opposed to the Big Ten.

Update: NCAA Launches Independent Probe of Terelle Pryor

This has got to be the worst day in the history of Buckeye football since Bo Schembechler upset them in 1969

Michigan-Illinois Game Breaks Scoring Records

Today Michigan beat Illinois 67-65 . That’s in football, not basketball. The win gives Michigan a record of 6-3 and makes Michigan bowl-eligible for the first time under coach Rich Rodriguez.

The two teams were frequently alternating scores with Illinois tying the game.  Denard Robinson went out and backup quarterback Tate Forcier fumbled the ball on his first snap, allowing Illinois to take the lead. Robinson had already set a career and Michigan high with 305 passing yards. Forcier made up for his initial fumble with an additional 114 yards, including the tying touchdown before the game ultimately went into triple overtime.

ESPN provided information on the records set in this game:

This was the highest scoring game for Michigan. The previous high score was when Michigan beat West Virginia 130-0 in 1904.

This is also the highest scoring game of all time between two Big Ten teams.

The last FBS game with more points was when Navy beat North Texas 74-62 on November 10, 2007.

Right Wing Claiming Kagan Is A Socialist

A few days ago I half jokingly said that we would soon be seeing “various arguments coming from the right wing noise machine as to why Kagan is the most liberal person to have ever been nominated to the Supreme Court.” I underestimated the stupidity of the right wing here. They are actually claiming that she is a socialist based upon her college thesis. As Little Green Footballs summarizes:

Kagan’s undergraduate thesis is titled, “To the Final Conflict: Socialism in New York City, 1900-1933,” and it’s a historical study of the failure of socialism in New York in the early part of the 20th century. To Erickson and his dim followers, this is all the proof they need.

Red State, which first made these claims, was forced to take down the thesis for copyright violations. When I glanced through it earlier in the day I noted items which, if taken out of context, could have been used to argue both that Kagan is a socialist and that she opposes socialism. Considering that the claim she is a socialist comes from the same people who claim that Barack Obama is a socialist makes it hard to take their claims seriously. Whatever her feelings were about socialism when in school, her public record shows that she has been a moderate, not a socialist.

POTUS In The Big House: Barack Obama Commencement Speaker at The University of Michigan

Hope and change were two big themes at the University of Michigan 2010 commencement in Ann Arbor Saturday morning as President Barack Obama gave the commencement speech. Several of those speaking prior to Obama discussed hope and change, relating it to both national policy and the changes in the University of Michigan football program in recent years.

Governor Jennifer Granholm thanked Obama for supporting the auto industry and other measures to help the economy recover. She also thanked Obama for delivering on many promises such as health care, along with thanking him for coming to Michigan rather than that school to the south.

Prior to speaking, President Obama was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree. Obama began by saying “Go Blue” as he admitted he was going for the “cheap applause line to start things off.” He discussed letters he reads to remain in touch with the world outside of Washington, including ones from children:

But it was the last question in the letter that gave me pause. The student asked, “Are people being nice?”

Well, if you turn on the news today – particularly one of the cable channels – you can see why even a kindergartener would ask this question. We’ve got politicians calling each other all sorts of unflattering names. Pundits and talking heads shout at each other. The media tends to play up every hint of conflict, because it makes for a sexier story – which means anyone interested in getting coverage feels compelled to make the most outrageous comments.

He noted that this is nothing new with political conflict being common through our history. Obama cited accomplishments of previous presidents of both parties, and those who opposed them, along with the proper role of government:

Of course, there have always been those who’ve opposed such efforts. They argue that government intervention is usually inefficient; that it restricts individual freedom and dampens individual initiative. And in certain instances, that’s been true. For many years, we had a welfare system that too often discouraged people from taking responsibility for their own upward mobility. At times, we’ve neglected the role that parents, rather than government, can play in cultivating a child’s education. Sometimes regulation fails, and sometimes its benefits do not justify its costs.

But what troubles me is when I hear people say that all of government is inherently bad. One of my favorite signs from the health care debate was one that read “Keep Government Out Of My Medicare,” which is essentially like saying “Keep Government Out Of My Government-Run Health Care.” For when our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it conveniently ignores the fact in our democracy, government is us. We, the people, hold in our hands the power to choose our leaders, change our laws, and shape our own destiny.

Government is the police officers who are here protecting us and the service men and women who are defending us abroad. Government is the roads you drove in on and the speed limits that kept you safe. Government is what ensures that mines adhere to safety standards and that oil spills are cleaned up by the companies that caused them. Government is this extraordinary public university – a place that is doing life-saving research, catalyzing economic growth, and graduating students who will change the world around them in ways big and small.

The truth is, the debate we’ve had for decades between more government and less government doesn’t really fit the times in which we live. We know that too much government can stifle competition, deprive us of choice, and burden us with debt. But we’ve also seen clearly the dangers of too little government – like when a lack of accountability on Wall Street nearly led to the collapse of our entire economy.

So what we should be asking is not whether we need a “big government” or a “small government,” but how we can create a smarter, better government. In an era of iPods and Tivo, where we have more choices than ever before, government shouldn’t try to dictate your lives. But it should give you the tools you need to succeed. Our government shouldn’t try to guarantee results, but it should guarantee a shot at opportunity for every American who’s willing to work hard.

Obama discussed the lack of civility and some of the more extreme and absurd attacks:

But we cannot expect to solve our problems if all we do is tear each other down. You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it. You can question someone’s views and their judgment without questioning their motives or their patriotism. Throwing around phrases like “socialist” and “Soviet-style takeover;” “fascist” and “right-wing nut” may grab headlines, but it also has the effect of comparing our government, or our political opponents, to authoritarian, and even murderous regimes.

Again, we have seen this kind of politics in the past. It’s been practiced by both fringes of the ideological spectrum, by the left and the right, since our nation’s birth.

The problem with it is not the hurt feelings or the bruised egos of the public officials who are criticized.

The problem is that this kind of vilification and over-the-top rhetoric closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation. It prevents learning – since after all, why should we listen to a “fascist” or “socialist” or “right wing nut?” It makes it nearly impossible for people who have legitimate but bridgeable differences to sit down at the same table and hash things out. It robs us of a rational and serious debate that we need to have about the very real and very big challenges facing this nation. It coarsens our culture, and at its worst, it can send signals to the most extreme elements of our society that perhaps violence is a justifiable response.

Obama talked about how the echo chamber can lead to greater polarization, advising people to pay attention to sources with other views. For example, he advised fans of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh to read The Huffington Post, and those who read The New York Times to read The Wall Street Journal, even if it makes their blood boil.

Today’s twenty-four seven echo chamber amplifies the most inflammatory soundbites louder and faster than ever before. It has also, however, given us unprecedented choice. Whereas most of America used to get their news from the same three networks over dinner or a few influential papers on Sunday morning, we now have the option to get our information from any number of blogs or websites or cable news shows.

This development can be both good and bad for democracy. For if we choose only to expose ourselves to opinions and viewpoints that are in line with our own, studies suggest that we will become more polarized and set in our ways. And that will only reinforce and even deepen the political divides in this country. But if we choose to actively seek out information that challenges our assumptions and our beliefs, perhaps we can begin to understand where the people who disagree with us are coming from.

This of course requires that we all agree on a certain set of facts to debate from, and that is why we need a vibrant and thriving news business that is separate from opinion makers and talking heads. As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Still, if you’re someone who only reads the editorial page of The New York Times, try glancing at the page of The Wall Street Journal once in awhile. If you’re a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not often be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship.

Obama encouraged the graduating students to be involved in public life. He cited John F. Kennedy speaking in Ann Arbor fifty years ago describing “the ideals behind what would become the Peace Corps.”

Before the conclusion of the commencement ceremony, Barack Obama was called upon again. In his role of Commander in Chief, President Obama swore in the members of the ROTC.

Videos of the speech are available here and here.  The full text is available here.

Go Blue!

The Right Wing Noise Machine’s Awesome Ability To Create Its Own Reality

On issues such as health care and the stimulus the Democrats were right on the issues but the Republicans are winning the spin war. Paul Krugman compared the Democrats to Lucy and the Football, fearing they are not anticipating the Republican response to financial reform:

I have a theory about the problem here. My understanding is that Obama officials have looked at the polls, which show that the public overwhelmingly favors cracking down on Wall Street; so they assumed that the GOP wouldn’t dare stand in the way. But they seem not to have learned, even now, that the right has an awesome ability to create its own reality: that Mitch McConnell et al would stand in the way of reform while claiming to be taking a stand against Wall Street.

Nor can you count on the truth to sink in with the public. The conventions of he-said-she-said reporting, among other things, make it surprisingly easy to get away with even the most obvious hypocrisy.

And let’s be clear: there’s a sort of tribal thing going on (and I don’t necessarily mean race, although that’s part of it). The hard right has managed to convince a large number of Americans that it consists of people like them, whereas progressives are alien and untrustworthy; in the face of that, rational arguments don’t make much of a dent.

To break through that, you need hard-hitting campaigns and simple slogans. And I have a sinking feeling that once again, the Obama team is going straight for the capillaries. Let’s hope they prove me wrong.

I think the problem is not that the Obama administration fails to recognize that Republicans have an “awesome ability to create its own reality,” but that they have not been able to overcome this. I provided an example in the previous post which demonstrates that the Obama administration is aware of the problem. White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee showed such awareness in his characterization of the Republican response to financial reform:

Everybody knows a consultant just handed them that line and they’re just reading it. It doesn’t matter what’s in the bill. It could be a bill about breakfast cereal and they’re going to say this is a bailout bill.

The Superbowl Is Not The Biggest Football Game This Week

The Super Bowl’s ok but I’m far more interested in whether the East Dillon Lions can upset the West Dillon Panthers in the big game on Friday Night Lights. GO EAST DILLON!!

I won’t give any more details about the season for the benefit of those waiting until NBC shows the series this spring, but I figure everyone realized that this showdown was inevitable after last season ended with Coach Eric Taylor being fired at what was then Dillon High School and getting a job at the reopened East Dillon High.

The season does get into an issue which readers of this blog should find interesting but I’ll let people see this as it develops.

One other minor (and predictable) mini-spoiler: Tim Riggins gets in trouble.