Monday, June 11, 2012

Last Call

The number one golden rule of statistical analysis:  Correlation does not always equal causation.  Having said that, there's pretty strong correlation in this NY Times analysis of areas with high incidences of racially charged Google searches and areas where President Obama underperformed in 2008 by Seth Stevens-Davidowitz:

Consider two media markets, Denver and Wheeling (which is a market evenly split between Ohio and West Virginia). Mr. Kerry received roughly 50 percent of the votes in both markets. Based on the large gains for Democrats in 2008, Mr. Obama should have received about 57 percent of votes in both Denver and Wheeling. Denver and Wheeling, though, exhibit different racial attitudes. Denver had the fourth lowest racially charged search rate in the country. Mr. Obama won 57 percent of the vote there, just as predicted. Wheeling had the seventh highest racially charged search rate in the country. Mr. Obama won less than 48 percent of the Wheeling vote.

Add up the totals throughout the country, and racial animus cost Mr. Obama three to five percentage points of the popular vote. In other words, racial prejudice gave John McCain the equivalent of a home-state advantage nationally.

Yes, Mr. Obama also gained some votes because of his race. But in the general election this effect was comparatively minor. The vast majority of voters for whom Mr. Obama’s race was a positive were liberal, habitual voters who would have voted for any Democratic presidential candidate. Increased support and turnout from African-Americans added only about one percentage point to Mr. Obama’s totals.

If my findings are correct, race could very well prove decisive against Mr. Obama in 2012. Most modern presidential elections are close. Losing even two percentage points lowers the probability of a candidate’s winning the popular vote by a third. And prejudice could cost Mr. Obama crucial states like Ohio, Florida and even Pennsylvania.

The argument here in my eyes is whether or not this has already been factored into the votes.  My theory is that in these areas where President Obama underperformed, race was a factor, but people were honest about not wanting to vote for President Obama, they just lied about the reason why.  If that's correct, the polls actually are already taking this into effect, and why crosstabs don't always appear to make sense.

You can say you're planning to vote for Romney because of the economy.  You can really just not like Barack Obama because he's black.  The point is people aren't going to lie and say they're going to vote for Obama when they lie about race as a factor, so the numbers are still where they would be if the reasons were honestly reported.

Second, in the areas where this is the most prevalent, President Obama lost by more than that margin in those markets.  West Virginia without the seven point thumb on the scale would have been at best a tie as Obama lost there by 15 points, and that's again assuming the votes were factored in.  If the average was 3-5 points, Kentucky's 16 point McCain win would have been always out of reach.  The electoral college blunted the effect here and will do so again in 2012.

I'm not surprised by this and in fact it's pretty damn impressive (and depressive) to see just how many American voters are lying to pollsters and kudos to the approach used here, but after 5 years of this in primaries and the 2008 and 2010 elections, by now the folks who aren't going to vote for Obama based solely on race are either living in areas where the state will stay red anyway, or they've found other reasons to oppose him to tell pollsters instead.  I have my doubts that these preferences aren't already being factored in to current fact I can almost guarantee you they are.

Which is good news, in one sense.  Yes, we should be very concerned with several million Americans out there with their bigotry in full bloom.  But they're already counted in the polls is my guess.  No need to double-count them and borrow even more trouble.  If anything, at least Team Obama knows what markets now they need to be paying special attention to...and which are lost causes.  That's valuable knowledge in and of itself.

Depressingly awful and maddeningly terrible knowledge, but useful nonetheless.

The Spanx Made Me Do It

CNN wrote a trendy little piece denouncing Spanx as the worst thing for the feminist movement since Michele Bachmann.  The author goes on for quite a while about how women put down restrictive undergarments at a time when they picked up jobs and took a new role in the workforce and society in general.

(CNN) -- Adele, who won big at the 2012 Grammys, once told Karl Lagerfeld off when he said that she was talented and pretty but a little too fat. Maybe his words got to her.
The British pop star made news this week when she admitted to wearing four pairs of Spanx under a dress that wowed the audiences at the Grammys. Apparently, this was an improvement over her original dress that featured a built-in corset and in which she passed out when she tried it on.
Spanx is a line of undergarments that offers solutions for women of all sizes and shapes. You can target bulging stomachs, jiggling upper arms, aging breasts and any other body part that may need some enhancement. No longer an item of fantasy play or a secret amongst plus-sized women, Spanx products have become prized accessories flaunted by the Kardashians, Oprah and suburban moms.
So why blame Spanx for women's failings, and not lay it at the feet of women like Adele, who take a good idea and blows it the hell out of proportion?

Not everyone who wears Spanx is craving attention, or giving in to The Man.  There are plenty of Adeles out there, for sure.  There are also women who on certain days or with a certain outfit, need a little extra support.  When you aren't risking your ability to breathe, it's not this big dramatic failure.  It's an ego boost, and when kept in check that's not always a bad thing.

I've lost over ninety pounds.  I exercise, eat well and take far better care of myself than I ever have before.  However, until my arms respond fully to the toning exercises, a little extra helps my power suit fit better and reduce my self-awareness whenever I have to point or raise my arm.  You know, like when I'm giving a presentation in my power suit.  I'm sorry, I don't feel that I'm selling out women's ideals or sending us back to the kitchen by doing so.  In fact, the last time I wore that suit was to get a job.

There are real dangers to women in our society.  Unhealthy or ridiculous use of tools like Spanx is a symptom of a larger problem.  Women are still (wrongly) judged largely on their appearance, and I'm not going to pretend I don't see the author's point. However, women like to feel attractive, and that is the other side of this coin.  This isn't like foot binding in China.  When not pressured or forced, some women will just want that extra bit of confidence and there's nothing wrong with that either.

Maybe they should just change their slogan.  I suppose powerful women don't need powerful panties.  But if we want them, I don't feel like I should have to answer for my choice or defend that I'm not being suckered or forced into wanting gut control.

Well, Duh

Did anyone question Cissy Houston's motives when she announced she was writing a book about Whitney?  I didn't, I knew right then it was all about the money.  But especially when the press release never mentioned the reason the book was being written.  Normally, you hear catch phrases such as "tell her whole story" or "how the legend came to be."

Cricket.  Cricket.

TMZ outright compares her to Joe Jackson, the worst celebrity parent ever.  Houston wasn't dead twelve hours before relatives and friends came out of the woodwork, trying to whittle a piece.  Cissy kept it classy right up until she heard that everything went to Bobbi Kristina.  Now she's selling a book, and cashing in on her daughter's memory.

Whitney Houston battled some mighty demons. We watched her go from a fresh-faced brilliant voice to a hollowed out drug addict who couldn't kick the habit.  We cheered for her no matter how silly or rude she was, and every single time she tried to turn around, we hoped that this time was the one.  She's gone now, and even for a celebrity of her status, an unusually large outpouring of sadness came from the public.

I won't buy the book.  I cannot imagine finding more spin or self-serving information compressed into one source.

Eye See Stroke Risk

Researchers from the University of Zurich have found a way to detect carotid artery stenosis -- a stroke risk factor -- in the eyes by using a test called ocular pulse amplitude, or OPA. Carotid artery stenosis occurs when arteries that go to the front region of the brain are blocked.
The study, published in the journal Ophthalmology, included 67 people who all had carotid artery stenosis. They found that the test to measure study participants' OPA scores -- calculated by measuring systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels -- accurately predicted artery blockage, with low OPA scores indicating artery blockage.
This makes stroke prediction more reliable and more accessible.  Early warning may give people the incentive to change their lifestyle, or give doctors advanced warning so they can use medicine to intervene.  Strokes are still a silent killer.  Risk factors give some warning, but this is an actual chance to give hard information.

Signs Of The Times

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- A server that runs Jefferson County's financial software system has crashed and halted financial activity in a number of county departments, officials said Thursday.

Since Tuesday, the hardware problem has slowed or stopped transactions in the finance, treasurer and purchasing departments, preventing vendor payments and deposits and delaying preparation of the fiscal 2011 audit, according to county officials.
The server runs SAP, the accounting software system the county uses to track financial activity.
"The SAP functionality is so diminished that it does not allow us to do the day-to-day financial operations of our county," Commissioner Jimmie Stephens said. "It's the financial backbone of the county. It's the language that we use to communicate with all of our vendors and all of our financial contacts throughout the county. And to have it go mute to where we can't communicate is a tremendous problem."
County Manager Tony Petelos said all of the servers that run the SAP program have outlived their useful life, and of the 16 servers in the Information Technology Department, only one has any life left.
 This is inevitable when budgets and resources are stretched without relief.  The servers won't run forever, and budget cuts have made replacements impossible.  Right now, they are shut down and the best scenario is sketchy at best.  A patch buys time but still leaves them open to a repeat at any time.  I expect we will hear stories like this more frequently.  What we will do about it is another matter entirely.  There is no good answer, and so much need for help that there's no obvious place to begin.

A Real Headscratcher? Not So Much

Jon Cohn is wondering out loud why Republicans are disavowing their own programs from a few years ago, namely anything having anything to do with Mitt Romney's MassCare program and specifically the loud and painful opposition to the inclusion of former Bush-era EPA man Michael Leavitt on the Romney team.  Faithful readers already know the answer to why that is, but Cohn explores it in more depth.

Leavitt has been an outspoken proponent of creating insurance exchanges: Marketplaces where small businesses could shop for insurance plans. If you follow health policy, then you can guess why conservatives upset: The Affordable Care Act also calls for the creation of exchanges, as part of its scheme to make insurance available to all. Leavitt happens to have a financial stake in the creation of exchanges and he was an advocate for cap-and-trade while serving as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, also during the Bush Administration. The combination has drawn the ire of such prominent conservatives and libertarians as Ben Domenech, Philip Klein, and Michael Tanner. The editorial page of the conservative Washington Examiner called Leavitt's place in the Romney heirarchy a "red flag."

But why should exchanges arouse concern from conservatives? The point of creating an exchange is simply to create a buyer's club, so that individuals and small businesses can get the same kinds of group pricing that large businesses get. Utah happens to be one of two states that have functioning exchanges and, as Politico's Jason Millman notes, Leavitt has frequently referred to Utah's exchange as a good model. But it's far more minimalist than the one Romney's law created in Massachusetts or that the Affordable Care Act calls for other states to develop. The Utah exchange doesn't have all the regulations on insurers and it doesn't have the huge subsidies for people and businesses that can't pay for insurance on their own. It doesn't deliver universal coverage or anything close to it. It just lets small businesses pool their resources.

It doesn't matter precisely because the Republicans are now locked into and dedicated solely to the destruction of laws that have been passed, particularly (but not limited to by any means) President Obama's legacy.  Replacing those laws are somebody else's problem, because that would be "governing".  Republicans don't do that, they focus on "winning".  It's worked rather well for them as of late, too.  Not so well for the country, but hey.

The consensus was already eroding by the 1990s, when Newt Gingrich famously called for letting Medicare "wither on the vine." But the consensus still had power as recently as the last decade, when the Bush Administration created Medicare Part D. That program gave seniors prescription drug coverage, as liberals had long advocated, but it offered less generous benefits than liberals wanted and channeled coverage through private insurers rather than government. (It also didn't pay for itself, but that has frustrated liberals as much as, if not more than, it has conservatives.)

It's hard to imagine today's Republicans endorsing anything like Part D. And that's a significant shift. Conservatives never liked left-wing, government-run solutions to problems like unaffordable health care and climate change. These days they don't seem to like right-wing, market solutions, either.

It's an intellectually honest point of view, to which they are certainly entitled. But it does make you wonder. Do they like any solutions at all? Do they even think the problems are worth solving?

No, Jon, they do not.  A government-based solution would prove that government works.  Today's Republicans don't see a problem unless it's affecting corporate profits or power, then it's about "freedom".  Then we get a solution where government helps them and it's called a "free-market" solution.  That's it.  The GOP cares about taking what they can from the treasury and leaving the rest of us to rot.

End of story.

Fear Factory, Direct From The Floor To You

If there was ever a story designed to turn terrified Southern whites towards an all out war on Latinos in an election year, it's this CNN one involving the intersection of the War on Brown People and the War On Drugs.

The numbers could rise in coming years. The Justice Department's National Drug Intelligence Center estimates Mexican cartels control distribution of most of the methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana coming into the country, and they're increasingly producing the drugs themselves.

In 2009 and 2010, the center reported, cartels operated in 1,286 U.S. cities, more than five times the number reported in 2008. The center named only 50 cities in 2006.

Target communities often have an existing Hispanic population and a nearby interstate for ferrying drugs and money to and fro, said author Charles Bowden, whose books on the Mexican drug war include "Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields."

"I'm not saying Mexicans come here to do crime, but Mexicans who move drugs choose to do it through areas where there are already Mexicans," he said.

Evidence of the cartels' presence in small-town America isn't hard to find. Take the 66 kilos of cocaine found in a warehouse in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, in February 2011. Or the Wyoming, Michigan, man denied bail on drug charges last year because he had alleged cartel connections. Or consider that a surge of Mexican black tar heroin into Ohio pushed the price per kilogram down from $50,000 in 2008 to $33,000 in 2009.

Latino communities are "cover for Mexican drug cartels" in small-town America.  If you're wondering how the GOP is going to easily justify their latest raft of anti-Latino proposals, this is it.

"Maybe that guy is working for them" becomes "Well not in my town, dammit" turns into "Somebody ought to do something about all them" becomes "Well if lawmakers won't do anything about it..." and the worst of America's history rears its ugly head once again.  The border states are deep into this paranoia, but it's new to the rural Midwest and South outside of Texas and Florida.

It will get worse before it gets better.


Related Posts with Thumbnails