Election Audit: What Can Be Concluded?

recountHeadline in the Guardian: “US recounts find no evidence of hacking in Trump win but reveal vulnerabilities” Click Here

The article points to conclusions given by J Alex Halderman and Matt Bernhard, both of the University of Michigan.  “After the talk, Bernhard clarified that no evidence of hacking is not the same as evidence of no hacking. “We didn’t conclude that hacking didn’t happen,” he told the Guardian, but “based on the little evidence we have, it is less likely that hacking influenced the outcome of the election.”

Got that? Continue reading »

Electoral College: How Equal Is It?

Once again, we have an election where the candidate with the most vovotetes did not win the Presidency. As things stand now on December 1, 2016, according to CNN, Trump has 306 Electoral Votes and Clinton has 232. Put another way, Trump is projected to have 57% of the Electoral College votes. But in the popular vote, Clinton has almost 65 million votes compared to Trump’s almost 63 million votes. By CNN’s calculations, Clinton won 48 percent of the popular vote to Trump’s 46 percent. See CNN Click Here

This mismatch has provoked questions about the Electoral College.

The Constitution says Electors from each state will be equivalent to its Congressional delegation: the number of Senators and Representatives. Every state has two Senators, regardless of population size. The House of Representatives is proportional, with number of Representatives reflecting the population of each state.

The Constitution further stipulated: “The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative.” That requirement was deleted when Congress capped the number of Representatives at 433 in the Apportionment Act of 1911 and finalized in 1929 at 435. Given our current population of over 300 million, the House of Representatives would have over 10,000 members to maintain that 1/30,000 ratio.  The current ratio is around 1 representative for every 720,000 people.

The problem for the Electoral College is that it includes the two senators from each state: Alaska, with 735,000 people gets 2 Senators, and California, with 38 million gets 2 Senators. At the time of the Constitution was being written, compromises were made. The Senate was one of those compromises; small states did not want to be swallowed up by the large states so each state was guaranteed equal representation. The People’s House was reflected the states’ population.

However, when translated into Electoral College votes, there is a bias towards the small states. Alaska has a small population and gets 3 Electors. CNN reported that 246,591 ballots were counted in the Presidential race in Alaska. This means that there are 82,197 voters for every 1 Electoral College voter. California, being a large state, gets 55 electors. Almost 12 million ballots were counted in California, resulting in 217,351 voters for every 1 Elector. An Alaska voter has a louder voice than a voter in California. Continue reading »

Hate Crimes In America

In the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando, the NY Times pulled together data about hate crimes in America. Click Here.

The articles leads: “Even before the shooting rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were already the most likely targets of hate crimes in America, according to an analysis of data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” Continue reading »

Body Mass Index: How Good a Measure

bmi-comparisonMother Jones posted an article questioning whether the body mass index is “a big fat scam.” It raises questions about the measure itself, the extent to which it is a predictor of health, and the politics.
See article: Click Here
In brief, the authors write:

“Doctors typically use BMI to advise their patients: If you’re below 18.5, you’re underweight; 18.5-24.9 is normal; 25-29.9 is overweight; and 30-plus is obese.

There’s just one problem: A higher BMI doesn’t necessarily mean you’re less healthy. In fact, patients with heart disease and metabolic disorders whose BMIs classify them as overweight or mildly obese survive longer than their normal and underweight peers. A 2013 meta-analysis by the National Center for Health Statistics looked at 97 studies covering nearly 3 million people and concluded that those with overweight BMIs were 6 percent less likely to die in a given year than those in the normal range. These results were even more pronounced for middle-aged and elderly people. This is known as the obesity paradox. “The World Health Organization calls BMIs of 25 to 29.9 overweight,” says Paul McAuley, an exercise researcher at Winston-Salem State University. “That is actually what is healthiest for middle-aged Americans.”

“And get this: While epidemiologists use BMI to calculate national obesity rates (nearly 35 percent for adults and 18 percent for kids), the distinctions can be arbitrary. In 1998, the National Institutes of Health lowered the overweight threshold from 27.8 to 25—branding roughly 29 million Americans as fat overnight—to match international guidelines. But critics noted that those guidelines were drafted in part by the International Obesity Task Force, whose two principal funders were companies making weight loss drugs. In his recent book Fat Politics: The Real Story Behind America’s Obesity Epidemic, political scientist Eric Oliver reports that the chairman of the NIH committee that made the decision, Columbia University professor of medicine Xavier Pi-Sunyer, was consulting for several diet drug manufacturers and Weight Watchers International.”

The measure itself is problematical. People with muscle will likely have higher BMI, but the BMI does not account for that differential.
Sometimes simple measures are not as accurate as we would like, making prediction about causality problematical. This is a great topic for those looking to explore the nexus of science, the media, public policy, and politics.

links: Washington Post article: change to BMI standard: Click here

Link to obesity meta analysis study:Click here

Critical Thinking about Political Polling

In the NY times today: When Polling is More Like Guessing, by Nate Cohen.
Click Here
He leads with this opinion:
“Election analysts and forecastersdepend on accurate polling. Unfortunately, there’s not much of it so far this cycle.

Many of the surveys to date have been conducted by firms that use automated phone surveys and combine deficient sampling with baffling weighting practices.”

He goes on to provide evidence of some of the disconnects between polling results in terms of projected demographics versus likely demographics about who will vote. Differences in demographics will alter predictions.

To the extent that polling predictions affect actual votes–which is an interesting research question–it is perhaps more than just an argument about demographics.

Climate Change: New Report

What We Know:

“The overwhelming evidence of human-caused climate change documents both current impacts with significant costs and extraordinary future risks to society and natural systems. The scientific community has convened conferences, published reports, spoken out at forums and proclaimed, through statements by virtually every national scientific academy and relevant major scientific organization — including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)—that climate change puts the well-being of people of all nations at risk.”

Read Report:Click Here

The New York Times had a story on March 18, 2014: Scientists Sound Alarm on Climate Change”, which talks about both the report and one of the authors. Check it out: Click Here
Polls show some public concern:gallup poll climate change



PEW: Millenials In Adulthood

PEW just published a study on the Millenials–PEW Millenial compariosn

They found:

“The Millennial generation is forging a distinctive path into adulthood. Now ranging in age from 18 to 33, they are relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry— and optimistic about the future.

They are also America’s most racially diverse generation. In all of these dimensions, they are different from today’s older generations. And in many, they are also different from older adults back when they were the age Millennials are now.

Pew Research Center surveys show that half of Millennials (50%) now describe themselves as political independents and about three-in-ten (29%) say they are not affiliated with any religion. These are at or near the highest levels of political and religious disaffiliation recorded for any generation in the quarter-century that the Pew Research Center has been polling on these topics.

At the same time, however, Millennials stand out for voting heavily Democratic and for liberal views on many political and social issues, ranging from a belief in an activist government to support for same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization.”

PEw voting by Age Over Time
















See Report:Click Here


Politics: Lies and Deception

The Congressional Budget Office released its economic outlook report that included two appendices that dealt specifically with the Affordable Health Care Act.click here

Because a number of people work full-time solely to maintain insurance coverage (either because the cost of obtaining individual insurance would be prohibitive or because they would be unable to obtain any insurance because of pre-existing conditions), the Affordable Care Act will give people some options. CBO estimates that a number of people will opt to stop working or reduce their hours because they will have access to health insurance that no longer requires them to work full-time. For some, they might opt to retire at age 62, three years before they are eligible for Medicare. For others, they might decide to leave the workplace and start their own business or go back to school  to launch a new career. For some, they will be able to drop down to a 32-hour workweek, to better meet the needs of their family.  No doubt there are many other reasons.

Krugman says this was always known and CBO puts the estimate at around 2 million in this report. He then reports the tweet by Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader:  “Under Obamacare, millions of hardworking Americans will lose their jobs and those who keep them will see their hours and wages reduced.”  See: Twitter account

From my perspective, outright lies do not serve the public interest. It is one thing to disagree about a public policy, but deception, distortion, spinning–whatever it is called–is still a lie.  And if a lie is the only thing you can say, then maybe it is time accept that you have no valid point and should just be quiet.

Continue reading »

PEW Poll on Income Inequality

PEW released a report on its polling data about income inequality. To see their report: Click Here
They state:
pew income inequality poll 2014“There is broad public agreement that economic inequality has grown over the past decade. But as President Obama prepares for Tuesday’s State of the Union, where he is expected to unveil proposals for dealing with inequality and poverty, there are wide partisan differences over how much the government should – and can – do to address these issues.”

“Partisans Agree Inequality Has Grown, But Differ Sharply over Gov’t Action: The new national survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY, conducted Jan. 15-19 among 1,504 adults, finds that 65% believe the gap between the rich and everyone else has increased in the last 10 years. This view is shared by majorities across nearly all groups in the public, including 68% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans.” Continue reading »

Changing the Minimum Wage

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities posted a story on movement in the Senate to change the minimum wage. When the minimum wage is standardized to 2013 dollars, it is clear that the minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation. The dollar is worth less.Minimum Wage over time
They write:
“The Senate is soon expected to consider a proposal to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 in three annual increments and then index it to inflation. The proposal — the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 (FMWA), introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) — also would raise the subminimum wage paid to those who also receive tips, which has been frozen at $2.13 for over two decades. The FMWA would provide low-wage workers with a much-needed boost to their paychecks: today’s minimum wage is 22 percent below its late 1960s peak, after adjusting for inflation. It also would help offset some of the unfavorable trends facing low-wage workers, including stagnant or falling real wages, too little upward mobility, and a deep deficit of bargaining power that leaves them solidly on the “have-not” side of the inequality divide.”

Read the article: Click Here