Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Taking Your Polls With a Grain of Salt

One of the harsher criticisms delivered by a New Testament author is found in the Letter to the Hebrews. (If you aren't a "believer," I hope you'll tolerate this brief observation because it leads somewhere important.)
The writer criticizes Hebrew believers that aught, based on the passage of time and experiences of life, to be eating a diet suitable to adults. The writer uses the phrase "strong meat" to describe the diet that the writer expected those Hebrew believers to be of sufficient maturity to consume. (For the vegan reader, that's going to take you sideways if you get locked up on it … maybe think of the writer as having endorsed Brussel sprouts.) The writer's point is that, as adults, from the time our milk teeth drop out and our permanent teeth drop in, we are capable of eating more than breast milk from our mothers.
The writer's criticism focused on those Hebrews that should be, spiritually speaking, on an adult diet of spiritual understanding, but who were, instead, still feasting at the teat, surviving on the barest spiritual nutrition.
“Time to grow up,” I think, was the author's point.
Elections seem to bring out the teat sucker in folks.
I have in mind the consumption of news about presidential polls.
So, in the span of a few short days, we have been invited, courtesy of traditional news sources, to believe that we have swung from a Trump bump to an electoral Armageddon in which the Democratic Beast rises to the throne of America. Is that so obviously the case? If you take the Pablum of predigested summations, you may think it is so.
I think not. And, if you are a thinking person, you may think not too.
If you are a person that isn't content to avoid macerating facts, if you don’t simply accept the spoon fed agenda of the lap dance media, you will have looked through their filters and studied and understood the implications of what is, and what is not, being reported, about polling.
It's time to grow up.
If you have read this far, then I know you are capable of reading and understanding basic written English; to my thinking, that also means that you are capable of getting beyond the Pablum of media reports about presidential polling, that you can, you should actually take up the source information and screen it for its meaning.
Because it seems to be the place where folks shop for polling data, let's use RealClearPolitics and its polling summary page as an example. I've reorganized and reproduced their summary here:

 As shown, the largest sample polling was that of the Los Angeles Times poll. That poll, of over 2000 participants, showed the narrowest margin between Clinton and Trump, a single point of preference separating the two.
Moreover, that poll, based on its sample size had a self-reported negligible margin of error. Finally, among the polls summarized, that poll sought the views of LIKELY VOTERS, and was one of only TWO polls in the RealClearPolitics summary that sough the views of so-called LIKELY VOTERS.
The other poll of LIKELY VOTERS was completed a week prior to the LA Times Poll. It included a smaller polling sample, produced a reportable margin of error, and, while it showed Clinton ahead of Trump, the spread between them was nearly completely covered by that margin of error.
The remaining EIGHT POLLS were all of small sample sizes compared to the Los Angeles Times poll.
The remaining EIGHT POLLS were of a different demographic group. Where the LA Times and Reuters/IPSOS polls sought the views of LIKELY VOTERS, the remaining polls all sought the views of REGISTERED VOTERS.
Give some thought to what this could be telling you.
As a nation, a substantial minority of us, in many cases nearly 50% of those who are not only old enough to vote but are also eligible to vote do not vote. The most recent presidential election in which both the number of registered voters and the number of actual voters is certain, 2004, showed a turnout of about 60% of registered voters. You can check my math here and here.
Of course, there are many uncertainties in every election that can cause variations in the turnout and the outcome. Yet, if the search is for the most likely accurate forecast of how the election actually would turn out, you have to ask yourself, would the more accurate picture be gained by polling those who are registered to vote? Or, would the more accurate picture be gained by polling those who are, based on prior behavior and declared intentions, actually LIKELY TO VOTE?
The wildly ranging numbers in the REGISTERED VOTER POLLS, it seems to me, are exactly what to expect in a large scale group amongst whom nearly 50% are unlikely to actually vote in an election, even though they have bothered to register to vote.
Here’s another curiosity for a “meat-eating” poll reader:
If a poll of REGISTERED VOTERS showed one kind of trend or condition, but a contemporaneous poll of LIKELY VOTERS produced a contrary trend or condition, what meaning, if any, might/could/should we draw from a preference for polls of REGISTERED VOTERS or of LIKELY VOTERS?
Suppose that polling REGISTERED VOTERS produced reliably more accurate results, results that actually matched election outcomes. Or suppose, to the contrary, that polling LIKELY VOTERS did so. In either event, for what possible reason would a news agency or its polling partners choose to gauge the less reliable group?
Think about it.
Suppose you had to make your living betting on the outcomes of NFL games.
If you did so, which of the following would be more important to you: knowing what would be the actual starting line-up for Sunday's game, or simply knowing the undifferentiated list of all 53 eligible players on the team's roster?
To be sure, when injuries require that they do so, coaches will go into the bench; and you will want to know, in turn, about the depth of the bench for various positions, but in the first instance, how likely are you to pick one team over another, or even more so, pick a game based on point spread, if you are told only that there will be 11 unidentified players on one team playing against 11 unidentified players on the other team. The risk of losing on your bets would be enough to make you seek legitimate employment!
If the coach puts a passing quarterback on the field, that is some indication of the game to be played.
Here, the generic "registered voter" is placed in comparison with the more certainly known "likely voter."
If you think it odd for me to focus on the differences to be found in REGISTERED VOTER polls and LIKELY VOTER polls, I’d recommend reading some coverage of the differences. You can read about this topic, in the context of previous elections, here, here, here, here, and here.
And if a media organization likes the odds spread when polling REGISTERED rather than LIKELY voters, and then actually produces only polling of REGISTERED voters, that should give you that one more insight:
Yes, the media does have a preferred candidate, and they don't like the trends among likely voters, so they disguise them by polling a fairly irrelevant group instead.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Hillary's View of the Military: Loathsome, Contemptible, But Make Great Butlers At Parties!

Some of you weren't alive during the Clinton White House era, or you were not tracking events at the time. Please bear that in mind for a minute. I'm not BLAMING you, I am just asking your patience about a certain fact. A retired (old) professor from UNC says that Trump doesn't understand the military he would head if elected president. Now, he didn't counterclaim that Hillary does, but obviously that will be her claim. So what does Hillary's "understanding of the military" look like? Can we possibly know something tucked inside a person's brain? Not entirely, to be sure, but those who speak, write, and act provide us powerful clues to their "understanding" of things.
In Bill Clinton's White House, at an evening reception, Hillary and her staff asked Marines attending in their dress blues to pass around the hors d'oeuvres trays.


They really did. Ignore that the badges and ribbons on their chest manifested love of country, devotion to service, mastery of fear in the face of the enemy. The woman who would be Commander in Chief wants Marines who are guests to become waiters. Pardon another pause here, because I refuse to categorized as demeaning service. I've done a lot of serving in my life. Not like Marines or other service members. But 25 years of nonprofit legal representation, at least 15 years of which would be HIGHLY UNDERCOMPENSATED by any reasonable legal pay scale. I never begrudged it because I loved what I did. At home, we not only raised our children but we hosted dozens of our children's friends for an hour, the day, overnights, week-ends. We opened our home to a recently graduated son of a former colleague for over six months. We hosted our neighborhoods "safe enough to trust the commoners with them" fireworks for over a decade. At church, over a decade serving with K-2nd grade kids for AWANA. Nearly a decade serving the youth ministry in our church. There is blessing and grace and power from God in acts of service. So, please don't think I object to a Marine carrying an hors 'd'oeuvres tray. I object to a service member in uniform who is a guest at a function being transformed into a waiter due to ignorance and contempt by the First Lady. Yes. You're right. It could have just been ignorance, and a moment of poor judgment by a hostess. That can happen. But then, there was the White House policy under Bill Clinton: military personnel attached to the White House were discouraged from wearing their uniforms at work. Well, well, you might say, that's not so bad, is it. After all, the military is under CIVILIAN control. Yes it is.
Still, when you deprive a service member of the privilege of wearing a uniform they view with the pride of accomplishment, you attack an aspect of their identity. On a more practical level, when you order someone to acquire a different wardrobe, you impose an expense on them. Our military is not paid Hollywood scale in order to afford the peccadillos of a Vietnam era brat, or to serve as subservient set pieces to their world view. And how was this preference for civilian attire enforced by White House staffers? "We don't talk with people in uniforms." Imagine that. Good enough to be sent to blow up aspirin factories and intervene in Bosnia, but we'll be darned before we tolerate the sight of your uniform in our enclave of power. So, get yourself ready for the lying onslaught from a woman that loathes the military and has demonstrated that loathing consistently throughout her public career, and remember, if you want your fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters to be transformed from one of the most effective fighting forces in the world, to the world's largest corps of waiters and waitresses, #votehillary.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Comparing Apples and ... Classified Information: Justice Joseph Story 'Splains It All for You

In a press release and briefing today, FBI Director James Comey announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, while referring the Bureau’s investigation into the Hillary Clinton Email Server Affair “to the Department of Justice for a prosecutive decision,” announced that the FBI would be “expressing to [the Department of] Justice our view that no charges are appropriate in this case.” In the release and in his remarks today, FBI Director Comey asserted that there is evidence showing that Clinton and her staff were EXTREMELY CARELESS in their treatment of the emails that included sensitive and top secret materials. Comey's remarks evidence a stunning omission. In his release, Comey discusses the referral of the Clinton matter to the Department of Justice and announces that the FBI will not recommend prosecution. What could be missing from a major announcement of this sort? What glaring omission is explained only by its inexplicable irrelevance to Comey's remarks? What Comey leaves entirely unstated in his remarks is that a federal criminal statute makes it a felony to act with GROSS NEGLIGENCE in the handing of such materials. Still, there is the question a reasonable person must ask: Does Hillary Clinton's "EXTREME CARELESSNESS" equate with the federal criminal law's requirement of "GROSS NEGLIGENCE?"
That's a great question, Jim!
How often have we been told that we are a Nation under the "Rule of Law," one in which one’s status and station in life SHOULD NOT AND DOES NOT determine whether one is bound to obey the law? How often has the Patriotic Chorus elevated this distinguishing feature of America over third world tyrannies and tinpot dictatorships? THE Rule of Law. The RULE of Law. The Rule of LAW. THE RULE OF LAW. In fact, under the Rule of Law, only a jury can decide whether Hillary Clinton is more of a Bozo the Clown in the handling of sensitive government information, or more of an Insane Clown and her Posse. Indeed, in a case of such serious political consequence, the wise approach would be for the Department of Justice to present the case to a grand jury. True enough, a grand jury, as is sometimes said, could be convinced to indict a ham sandwich, if a prosecutor were inclined to prosecute comestibles. The risk of damage to the reputations of the FBI and the Department of Justice – in a case already described as presenting evidence of EXTREME CARELESSNESS – the only wise move of astute prosecutors would be to ask a grand jury to decide whether there was probable cause to believe that Clinton's EXTREME CARELESSNESS equated with GROSS NEGLIGENCE. Then, even if a grand jury concluded that Clinton's EXTREME CARELESSNESS satisfied the statutory prohibition of GROSS NEGLIGENCE, it would remain for a trial jury to decide the exact same question to the certainty commonly called "beyond reasonable doubt." Frankly, it seems suspect for FBI Director Comey to be in such a rush to proclaim the EXTREME CARELESSNESS of Clinton and her staff and just as suddenly to doubt that a prosecutable offense had been discovered.

Still, Comey did use the phrase “EXTREME CARELESSNESS” and the federal statute punishes “GROSS NEGLIGENCE.” While courts and judges may define the meaning of “GROSS NEGLIGENCE,” it is the peculiar function of juries – grand juries and trial juries – to apply law to facts. Here, both juries would be called on to decide whether Clinton’s EXTREME CARELESSNESS is the federal statute’s GROSS NEGLIGENCE. Unsurprisingly, courts have been called on in many cases over many years to explain the legal term “GROSS NEGLIGENCE.” One of America's early Supreme Court Justices, and one of its most highly regarded jurists, gave this view of how to distinguish ordinary and gross negligence:
"If a bag of apples were left in a street for a short time without a person to guard it, it would most certainly not be more than ordinary neglect. But if the bag were of jewels or of gold, such conduct would be gross negligence. In short care and diligence are to be proportioned to the value of the goods, and the temptation and facility of stealing them and the danger of losing them."
Tracy v. Wood, 24 F. Cas. 117 (Story, Circuit Justice, C.C.D.R.I. 1822).
So, in two nearly identical circumstances, the exact same conduct might just be good old regular negligence – the kind of negligence evidenced when a driver briefly looks down and, as a result of his brief inattention, rear ends the vehicle in front of him – or it might, based on the value of what is at stake and the risk of harm – be the sort of negligence that is evidenced when a parent leaves an infant in a closed car on hot sunny afternoon. Still not clear?

Suppose we substitute different "goods" for the apples and jewels Justice Story employed in his illustration:
"If a bag of old newspapers were left in a street for a short time without a person to guard it, it would most certainly not be more than ordinary neglect. But if the bag were of top secret documents and classified information, such conduct would be gross negligence. In short care and diligence are to be proportioned to the value of the goods, and the temptation and facility of stealing them and the danger of losing them."
I think that helps to clarify what is GROSS NEGLIGENCE in the Clinton Email Server Affair, leaving me with just one question:
How is it that FBI Director Comey doesn’t get it?

Monday, July 4, 2016

Planned Parenthood: Champions of the Modern High Tech Lynching

"Let's kill the retards."
"Let's kill the girls."
"Let's kill the blacks."

There are three sentiments that would, in many States of the Union, and under certain federal criminal laws, result in enhancement of criminal sentences (increased jail time) if they explained the motivation for acts of violence and murders.

You can see an extensive list of State laws defining and punishing hate crimes here.

For certain criminal acts covered by federal law (crimes affecting interstate or international commerce, or targeting specially protected persons), federal law imposes significant punishment for hate motivated violence.

Yes, you've heard of so-called "hate crimes."

For some of you the notion expresses a redundancy, because you understand that at their root, almost all true crimes (not administrative crap like drug possession and use, speed limits, and litter laws) are rooted in some level of disdain or hatred for the integrity of others.

For others, who complexify criminality unnecessarily, that basic broken condition of the human heart has other explanations, explanations that somehow bear less opprobrium than do acts of violence that target others because of some immutable and distinguishing characteristic, such as race, gender, or condition of disability.

But let's face it.

We all know there is a gut level wrongness about murder that stretches across societies, cultures, eras, and eons. That wrongness is embedded so deeply that it appears in the formative folklore and literature of cultures (for example, Cain killing Abel (Hebrew mythology), Medea killing Apsyrtus (Greek mythology), Hoor killing Baldur (Norse mythology), Romulus killing Remus (Roman mythology), Set killing Osiris (Egyptian mythology), and
The Pandavas killing Karna (Hindu mythology)).

Yet, in a culture that has adopted the notion that a man should be separated from responsibility for his acts, there are these strange and paralyzing notions that circumstances can and do mitigate personal responsibility. At the same time, in our culture, perhaps for the sole reason that we continue to live under the shadow of the Peculiar Institution of African Slavery more than 150 years after its end, we have thought it a necessary and appropriate instructional tool directed against invidiously discriminatory prejudice to make certain crimes MORE SO by taking note of the particular motive of hate directed toward another because of their race (and then, by extensions, to other categories reflecting ugly periods of American brutality).

We are in that place where the murder of a man because he's black or a woman because she is a woman is, in terms of punishment, seemingly more wrong than a murder for convenience, for seeming economic necessity, out of passion, etc.

Then along comes the State of Indiana.

In Indiana, the legislature banned abortions performed because of the race, gender, or genetic disability of the unborn child. In doing so, seemingly, Indiana did nothing more than to adopt the same principles that warrant taking special notice of hate motivated crimes in other cases.

I've mentioned before my love of Stephen King's book, Dreamcatchers. It's a great summer read, and the movie is a great flick too. Aliens, mass destruction and extinction, shit weasels, the story has all the elements of a page turner.

For me, though, Dreamcatchers is a wonderful story because it takes us inside the everyday possibility of heroism in folks. The backstory of Dreamcatchers is, in my thinking, one of the most beautiful, heroic moments in literature. The heroes of Dreamcatchers, then junior high students, stumble across a group of high schoolers who have stripped and shamed a boy, Douglas. Douglas is, seemingly, mentally disabled. Stripping, hitting, and taunting a disabled child with animal feces is a particularly pernicious form of bullying. These junior high boys know wrong when they see it. And these junior high boys rise above the natural fear of taking on those bigger than themselves. They rescue a kid who calls himself "Duddits" because he can't pronounce "Douglas."

"I, Duddits!" the youngster proclaims. And their lives are changed forever.

Times have changed mightily in the years since King published "Dreamcatchers." One of this summer's early hits, "Me Before You," a story about assisting in a suicide, celebrates the decision to allow the triumph of despair over hope, of surrender over struggle.

On June 30, 2016, a federal trial judge (an Obama judicial appointee) has ordered Indiana NOT TO ENFORCE its restriction on what I will now call hate-based abortions (hate retards, hate offspring of color, hate girls/boys). For a muckety muck federal thug, er, judge to bar a State from protecting the targets of hate-based abortions, what could possibly be the reasoning? You can read Judge Walton's opinion here.

Judge Tanya Walton Pratt gave two reasons for suspecting that the Indiana abortion ban would violate women's rights. First, in Judge Pratt's view, these hate-based abortion restrictions would be “inconsistent with the notion of a right rooted in privacy concerns." Second, stopping a woman for targeting her child for death by abortion because of its disability, gender, or race, would, in Judge Pratt's view, interfere with "a liberty right to make independent decisions.”

In a certain sense, Judge Pratt is on to something.

There is a "privacy concern" that is at play when folks go to committing murder. William Faulkner, in his book, Intruders in the Dust, explained that, along with defecation and copulation, murder is an act for which most perpetrators desperately seek privacy. So, just as one would take steps not to leave a forensic trail and would typically murder in secret, so too a woman desires as little notice as possible in the act of killing her hated offspring.

Judge Pratt's alternate theory, that Indiana's law banning hate-based abortions that target offspring due to disability, gender, or race, because doing so interferes with a woman's "liberty right to make independent decisions" would, writ large on society, be the mother of a million mayhems. So, with Indiana barred from enforcing its law, women will be free to make "independent decisions." Those "independent decisions" will include "deciding" to kill them because their babies have genetic disabilities, or are the wrong gender, or are the wrong race.

Odd, right?

The hate crimes statutes I pointed out above demand that we inquire into a man's biases against blacks or asians or latinos and, when such bias confirmed, those statutes demand increased punishment for the crimes prompted by the bias.

Yet, when an identical form of disdain is directed toward an unborn child -- because of a condition of disability, or its race, or its gender, Judge Pratt tells us that a woman must be allowed to act on such motivations. To prevent her from doing so, in Judge Pratt's view, would savage a Constitution that she understand to prize "rights rooted in privacy concerns" and a "liberty to make independent decisions."

Fact is, it is wrong and stupid and often self-defeating to hate those with disabilities, those who are of other races, and the like. But how, please explain to me, is it less wrong when that hatred, that bias, is born in a mother's heart and given full vent on an abortionist's table?