Friday, December 16, 2016

Drinking A Big Glass Of Fool-Ada

Over at Down With Tyranny, Howie Klein argues that Clinton campaign director Robby Mook depended way too much on a data-driven model algorithm called Ada, named for the mother of computer science, Countess Ada Lovelace.

It was a shock to the Clinton Machine when Bernie beat her in the March 16 Michigan's primary. Bernie took 595,222 votes (49.8%) to Hillary's 576,795 (48.3%). He won 73 of Michigan's 83 counties but she won big in the rich suburbs and the in Detroit. He beat her in all the little working class counties no one outside of Michigan ever heard of-- Cheboygan, Muskegon, Ingham, Eaton, Monroe, Kent, Benzie, Marquette, Jackson, St. Clair, Barry, Livingston, Allegan, Washtenaw, Charlevoix, Kalamazoo... He even beat her in Clinton County (55.8-42.1%). 
The Clinton Machine blames everyone and everything for Hillary's loss-- FBI Director Comey, Vladimir Putin, sexism, media bias-- except themselves... and ADA. (Bill Clinton is smart enough to blame ADA and he did all along but no one listened to him. We'll get to ADA in a minute.)

Imagine if Nate Silver was running your national campaign with his poll modeling software, and you made the bulk of your strategic and tactical decisions based on his models. You'd get something like Ada.

Yes, that was Ada. Let's go back to John Wagner's Washington Post little-noticed story of November 9 about Ada, when he wrote that Ada was like Hillary-- "she had a penchant for secrecy and a private server." So what's Ada? Wagner describes her as "a complex computer algorithm that the campaign was prepared to publicly unveil after the election as its invisible guiding hand. Named for a female 19th-century mathematician-- Ada, Countess of Lovelace-- the algorithm was said to play a role in virtually every strategic decision Clinton aides made, including where and when to deploy the candidate and her battalion of surrogates and where to air television ads-- as well as when it was safe to stay dark."

So let's go one step further.  We know at this point the Russians compromised the Democrats and the Clinton campaign.  What if the strategic advice Ada gave was also compromised?

What if Ada was deliberately giving Clinton terrible advice?

While the Clinton campaign's reliance on analytics became well known, the particulars of Ada's work were kept under tight wraps, according to aides. The algorithm operated on a separate computer server than the rest of the Clinton operation as a security precaution, and only a few senior aides were able to access it. 
According to aides, a raft of polling numbers, public and private, were fed into the algorithm, as well as ground-level voter data meticulously collected by the campaign. Once early voting began, those numbers were factored in, too. 
What Ada did, based on all that data, aides said, was run 400,000 simulations a day of what the race against Trump might look like. A report that was spit out would give campaign manager Robby Mook and others a detailed picture of which battleground states were most likely to tip the race in one direction or another — and guide decisions about where to spend time and deploy resources. 
The use of analytics by campaigns was hardly unprecedented. But Clinton aides were convinced their work, which was far more sophisticated than anything employed by President Obama or GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012, gave them a big strategic advantage over Trump.

So what if Ada was fed bad info, and Robby Mook was going off that?  It would be like you were using a GPS with a bad, outdated map.  You would follow the directions but end up in a much different place than what you expected.

So what if the Russians got into the server and fed Ada garbage?

Maybe I'm nuts.  Maybe Ada was just badly coded.  Maybe it overlooked obvious stuff that Clinton should have caught.and nobody was willing to challenge the assumptions.  Maybe the garbage was fed to Ada by Clinton's own team, based on wildly awful assumptions bordering on incompetence, which is most likely the reality at least in part.

But what if the Russians made things worse?  It would explain a lot of things, especially in the last week or two in the campaign.

Something to consider.

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