Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2012: A 1916 Rerun

Now that the election is over it's time to focus on politics.  Much has been made of Nate Silver's having been shown to be right about the results while the pundits, especially at Fox News, were not.  Many still do not understand what he was forecasting.  They assume that because his model gave Obama a 90% chance of winning with 51% of the popular vote and over 330 electoral votes that Obama had won by a landslide.  Even though he had won most of the battleground states such as Ohio, most of them were by a small margin.   

The county map on the left shows the subtleties across the nation better and how close the popular vote really was.  The over 3,100 counties are coded on a range of red for Romney to blue for Obama.  In the next two to four years there could still be a shift in the political winds.  

1916 was a close election after between Woodrow Wilson and Charles Evans Hughes.   Hughes was just as confident as Mitt Romney that he was going to win but lost by just over 3% of the popular vote.  Hughes went to bed election night thinking he had won.  A reporter telephoned to interview Hughes.  He was told (as Doris Kearns-Goodwin tells it) "the President-Elect is sleeping" the reporter responded "when he wakes up you should inform the President-Elect that he is not the President-Elect anymore."  That election was followed by the landslide of 1920 by Warren G Harding who promised a "return to normalcy" under prohibition with the US not participating in the League of Nations.

Could this happen today as two states, Washington and Colorado, actually voted to legalize marijuana this year?  The battle now turns to the states and the humdrum of budgets and foreign policy.  In my home state of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is under pressure from the right not to implement the Affordable Care Act (aka. Obamacare) and may be forcing the faculty of the state's 14 publicly owned universities into a strike affecting over 120,000 students.    Nationally a high stakes debate on the budget has begun between Obama and Congress (the 'Fiscal Cliff') and wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan which strangely resembles the political chess game in the new Spielberg movie on Lincoln which covers a similar topic.  What happens next depends on what happens now.  

Some are predicting an apocalyptic event on Dec 21 of this year.  This qualifies as a scientifically testable theory as it can be proven true or false, just as Nate Silver's forecast on the outcome of the election was.  Though with a much lower probability of success.

**Related Posts**

The Supreme Pennsylvania Medicaid Decision

States as Laboratories and Lavatories of Democracy

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

PodCamp Session Feedback Part 1

I'm taking a break from this year's election to write about my experience as a presenter at PodCamp 7.  This year I presented on the same topic "Presenting Statistics in Social Media" with modified slides which can be seen above.  I had a larger crowd this year with 14 surveys completed compared to 12 last year.  I did not count how many did not complete surveys this year but there were a few.  Just about everyone completed surveys last year.  Mike Sorg, one of the organizers of the event, told me that "if everyone stays for a session that means you are doing well".  While I was glad people stayed for my session, the survey, which could be filled out anonymously, did give me some enlightening comments that I might not have received face to face which I will summarize below.  

The slides I presented are represented above.  Plus I presented a video that I was unable to show last year.  Which you can see here.  I also demonstrated how Facebook and Google Analytics presents statistics.  I will post the full video of my presentation when it is available.

First I will compare last years responses to the closed ended questions to this years.  The questions were exactly the same.  The first five questions were coded from 'strongly disagree' to 'strongly agree'.  For question one no one said they strongly disagreed that the slides were easy to follow for either year.  Though two disagreed with the statement this year, the overall distribution of responses was statistically the same (p=0.667).

Question 2 was a referendum on my clarity as a speaker.  Though there seems to be more agreement on my clarity this year there was no statistical difference between last years ratings and this years (p=0.176). 

Question 3 relates to how the graphics were presented. I was able to present a video from a BBC documentary called the joy of stats.  There were no large overall differences from this year to last (p=0.667).

For question 4, on whether they learned any new information, the responses seemed most identical across years with a few more disagreeing this year (8.3% in 2011 and 21.4% in 2012, p=0.347).

Question 5 is an overall assessment of the presentation.  Last year someone strongly disagreed that it was helpful.  This year I'm glad no one did but there was still no difference in the overall distribution of responses (p=0.820).

The sixth question relates to how comfortable participants were with statistics. This is the only question where respondents expressed a statistical difference between this year and last (p=0.036) with this year expressing less comfort with the subject.

The last closed ended question was just about whether they had taken a statistics class before.  Last year nine respondents had, two hadn't and one didn't answer the question.  This year they were split 50-50.

This year I received nine comments on 14 surveys compared to three last year.  Those who took stats classes seem just as likely to comment as those who did not.  For those who wanted more information on Google Analytics I'll direct you (if you see this post) to Katie Vojtko's presentation on "10 Reports Your Boss Will Love" with the slides and video of it given below.

With the election coming up social scientists will go over exit polls in a similar manner as I went over this small feedback survey.  Now that I have a paper trail it does make it easier to double check the numbers.  This is the first step in the process that Nate Silver uses to forecast the election today.  When the video of my presentation is posted on the PodCamp YouTube channel I will post part 2 when I'll respond to other comments. Tori Mistick in her presentation said that facebook pages get the most views if you post between 1 and 4 pm between Monday and Thursday so that is what I'll try.

**Related Posts**

The Need for Exactness


PodCamp Pittsburgh 6 Recap


Crowdsourcing at Red Blue Voice.com


Income and Life Expectancy. What does it Tell Us About US?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy Strikes

It was a good weekend at PodCamp which I shall summarize later.  As I work on other projects today I'm hearing plenty about Hurricane Sandy today. Above is it's projected path for the next 5 days based on probability models.  I posted about this twice during the Republican and Democratic Conventions on how it seemed ironic that nature was flexing it's muscles as the political parties are again making their stretch run for the White House.  After there was no mention of climate change in any of the presidential debates, yet again the news media makes little mention of climate change which fuels massive storms like Sandy.  The response more resembles Jersey Boy John Travolta's performance in the movie Grease in 1978 when he sings to his lost love played by Olivia Newton-John.  Watching that clip is more entertaining than reiterating what was in my previous posts which are linked below.


Sandy has wreaked terrible losses on the mid-Atlantic states.  The news media has done a good job covering the losses from the storm but mostly has stayed away from what might have caused the maelstrom. Cenk Uygur from The Young Turks on Current TV (Al Gore's network) gives a good summary of the media coverage which summarizes the Sandy video aboveFor example Paul Ryan's workout received three times the coverage of arctic ice melt.

**Related Posts**

Issac, Leslie, and Katrina: Still Lessons of Hubris


Global Warming, Wikileaks, and Statistics: What Barry Sanders Can Teach Us

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Podcamp Sessions are Being Announced

The Sessions for this year's PodCamp are being announced for Oct. 27 & 28 at Point Park University.  So far on Saturday the 27th there are 19 sessions to choose from (including one by me on statistics and social media) and 12 on Sunday.  Of particular interest to PUSH/Healthcare4All PA members includes one on Social Media and the Media by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Kim Lyons, a panel discussion of Old Media and New Media by 2 Political Junkies Blogger David DeAngelo and KDKA political reporter Jon Delano, Josh Lucas has one on How Crowdsourcing Can Drive Nonprofit Engagement, and Zack Tanner has one on Social Media for Non-Profits.  New ones are being added as of this writing and they are still taking submissions for new sessions here. The theme for this year is Build Your Digital Toolbox.  The keynote speakers are still being determined.  Below is the PodCamp 4 Keynote Address with PodCamp Pittsburgh founder Justin Kownacki and Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto.


**Related Posts**

PodCamp 7 is Coming 

New People Article on Vermont's Single Payer Plan and PodCamp Update

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Polling Pulsification: Telling People What They Want to Hear

I have stayed away from the election horse race to talk about the election's deeper issues.  Polls and surveys can be used as tools of propaganda as well as a valuable means of informing us on how the rest of the public thinks as the clips from Stewart (above) and Colbert (below) show.  The unemployment data which came out last week contradicted what Romney supporters wanted to hear so they came out and aggressively claimed that the report was fraudulent with no supporting evidence.

This final clip discusses a blog which seems to be taking the poll spinning to the extreme.  The blogger Dean Chambers at Unskewedpolls.com  claims to have recomputed the estimated percentages of each recent poll according to what he believes are the percentages of the political parties and ideologies in the US population.  He doesn't state his source for these percentages which are probably themselves estimates subject to some imprecision.  Colbert and others in the media have done the public a disservice by giving this blog a national forum without adequately skewering him.  Undoubtedly, if Romney wins, Fox News will hire Chambers as the conservative antidote to Nate Silver.  That is my election prediction.

**Related Posts**


Health Care Law - New Rasmussen Poll Down the Memory Hole


Santorum's "Bounce"


The Audacious Epigone


Healthcare Poll Insanity


Deep South Primaries

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New Article in The New People on Vermont & PodCamp Update

I have an article published on Vermont's Single Payer health care law passed last year in this month's issue of The Thomas Merton Center's newspaper, The New People.  It was adapted from a post on the PUSH blog which you can read here.  The New People article can be seen on page 3 in the viewer below at the bottom plus all of the other articles.

Also coming up On Oct. 27 & 28 will be PodCamp, a social media unconference at Point Park University.  Last week, they had a round table discussion on social media and the news which can be seen below.

**Related Posts**

PodCamp 7 is Coming 


PodCamp Pittsburgh 6 Recap

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Psychopathology and Incidence of Bullying

Here is the second guest post from guest post U for CSI Without Dead Bodies.
Bullying is any form of aggressive behavior that seeks to force or coerce others, usually by force. Typically bullying presents itself in the context of an imbalance of power and as a habitual behavior by the aggressor. Bullies, especially young ones, may target the religion, sexuality, ability, or race of the recipient of their bullying aggression. There are many types and formats of bullying, and just as many ways to combat bullying from persisting or arising in the first place.

Types of Bullying
Social scientists have identified three main forms of bullying - emotional bullying, verbal bullying, and physical bullying. Emotional and verbal bullying usually come saddled with attempts at coercion and intimidation. Coercion almost explains intimidation in that coercion is defined as forcing another party to behave in an involuntary way via use of bellicose threats and intimidation. Intimidation is defined as an aggressor party presenting injury or harm to another person for some type of benefit, usually social or financial.

Emotional bullying, also known as psychological abuse, may involve coercion and intimidation as well as subjecting another party to any event or treatment that will result in the other party experiencing psychology trauma, such as anxiety or depression. Emotionally bullying is predictably associated with an exploitation of a power imbalance. For this reason, emotional bullying and psychological abuse is prevalent on the schoolyard, the home, and in the workplace.

One form of emotional bullying is verbal aggression. Verbal aggression is colloquially defined as something that intentionally upsets, annoys, or disturbs another person. There are other forms of emotional bullying like dominant and jealous behaviors but those forms of emotionally bullying are unimportant for this conversation. At any rate, the US Department of Justice recently concluded that emotionally abusive characteristics are those which cause fear by intimidation or threaten the physical harm of one's family members, classmates, or fellow employers. Another interesting finding coming out of Health Canada found that emotional abuse is motivated by power and facilitated within social arenas in which power was imbalanced and exploited by the aggressor.

Conventional Yet Harmful
Perhaps the most well-known form of bullying is physical bullying. Physical bullying is defined as an aggressor party deliberately seeking to instill bodily harm or injury onto another party. Popular forms of physical abuse or physical bullying are: striking, kicking, kneeing, drowning, cutting, slapping, and burning. Partly because physical bullying is so openly and inclusively defined, physical bullying is also prevalent in the home, schools, and workplaces all around the United States. Physical abuse is even popular on college campuses in the form of sorority hazing. In the home, physical abuse presents itself as child abuse, sometimes negligence, or domestic violence.

Standup and Fight! 
There has been an increasingly large swell of celebrities and activities seeking to combat bullying. Considering some of the dire outcomes of bullying, like suicide, bullying in the classroom is no laughing matter. Canada actually conceived the National Bullying Prevention Week in 2000. In the United States, the It Gets Better campaign was created in 2010 to tell young, gay teens that bullying doesn't usually persist into later life and that they are apt to feel better in the future. Lady Gaga, in fact, started the Born This Way campaign soon after the unveiling of the It Gets Better campaign, which both directly combat homosexual bullying and indirectly fight teen suicides.

Needs to Stop
After understanding more about the three main types of bullying and the severity of its outcomes, bullying is clearly a problem endemic to many social institutions and peoples that needs to sputter to a stop soon.

Becki Alvarez writes about parenting, education & family finance at www.grouphealthinsurance.org.
Guest Post U
The University of Great Content