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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Exit Poll Analysis

There have been many claims of voting fraud and that Bush stole the election. The primary indicator of potential fraud was A study by Steven Freeman at the University of Pennsylvania looking at differences in exit polling results and counted votes. It states that:
"As much as we can say in social science that something is impossible, it is impossible that the discrepancies between predicted and actual vote counts in the three critical battleground states [Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania] of the 2004 election could have been due to chance or random error."
Note that because the study only identified a discrepancy, Freeman concluded with the following:
"Systematic fraud or mistabulation is a premature conclusion ..."
With the release of a study analyzing exit polling for the last election, I'm now pretty convinced that fraudulent activities regarding voting and vote counting, if any, played an insignificant role and that the election was not stolen. The study is an internal report performed by the organizations that did the exit polling for the news services. The report identifies "some factors that appear to have contributed" to the discrepancy between exit polling and actual vote counts:
  • Distance restrictions imposed upon our interviewers by election officials at the state and local level
  • Weather conditions which lowered completion rates at certain polling locations
  • Multiple precincts voting at the same location as the precinct in our sample
  • Polling locations with a large number of total voters where a smaller portion of voters was selected to be asked to fill out questionnaires
  • Interviewer characteristics such as age, which were more often related to precinct error this year than in past elections
The last point seems the most significant, and fortunately, the most easily corrected for future elections. Elaborating on the last point, the report states:
Older interviewers had lower WPE [Within Precinct Errors] than the youngest interviewers. They also had better completion rates. This does not necessarily mean that the younger interviewers did poorly at their task. It does indicate that in this election voters were less likely to complete questionnaires from younger interviewers.
And the younger interviewers seemed to have more trouble with the voters as well. Interviewers who were 18-24 years old found that only 27% of the voters were "very cooperative" while interviewers who were 55 or older found 69% of the voters "very cooperative".

The early exit poll numbers that were leaked to Drudge and other alternative media outlets during the afternoon of November 2nd that showed Kerry ahead by a wide margin were due to a "programming error":
Early in the afternoon on November 2nd, preliminary weightings for the national exit poll overstated the proportion of women in the electorate. This problem was caused by a programming error involving the gender composition that was being used for the absentee/early voter portion of the national exit poll. This error was discovered after the first two sets of weighting; subsequent weightings were corrected. This adjustment was made before NEP members and subscribers used exit poll results on-air or in print.
Another line of evidence for fraud is also addressed:
Some have suggested that the exit poll data could be used as evidence of voter fraud in the 2004 Election by showing error rates were higher in precincts with touch screen and optical scan voting equipment. Our evaluation does not support this hypothesis. In our exit poll sample overall, precincts with touch screens and optical scan voting have essentially the same error rates as those using punch card systems. In the larger urban areas these systems had lower WPEs than punch card precincts.
Of course, that's not to say that we shouldn't make our voting systems better.

The report lists some changes that will hopefully improve future exit polls but gives the following cautionary note:
Even with these improvements, differences in response rates between Democratic and Republican voters may still occur in future elections.
This is why we have people actually vote instead of just doing exit polling. If exit polling were perfect, we could save a lot of money by not bothering with the polls, except in exceptionally close races. I feel the discrepancies between predicted and actual vote counts, cited by the Freeman study, are now adequately explained.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Never Ending Good Economic News

Well, it's gotta end someday, but not yet:

Falling energy costs pulled down U.S. consumer prices last month, but core inflation inched up and housing starts surged, according to data on Wednesday that bolstered expectations for a steady diet of interest-rate rises.

In addition, initial claims for jobless aid plummeted by 48,000 last week, the biggest drop in more than three years.

Analysts said the plunge in claims likely overstated the strength of the job market, but said the reports taken as a whole suggested the economy was on solid ground.

"The economy continues in a recovery mode ...

"Recovery mode"? It's been in "recovery mode" for years. When will they consider it to be in "chugging right along mode"?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Religion is Like the Pox

I don't mean this in an insulting sense, just a metaphorical virus of the mind sort of sense. There are mild strains, like cowpox, and virulent, deadly strains, like smallpox. Exposure to cowpox gives immunity from smallpox. There's also a vaccine which gives immunity to all pox.

In my opinion, the variants of Christianity in the United States today are similar to cowpox as far as virulence goes, radical Islam similar to smallpox, and Reason (with a capital 'R') sort of like a vaccine.

I would personally just as soon everyone who's not naturally immune be infected with cowpox (Christianity) so that they develop an immunity to smallpox (radical Islam). Indeed, before the smallpox vaccine, people intentionally exposed themselves to cowpox in order to achieve smallpox immunity.

I prefer this approach to the vaccine (Reason) for two reasons. First, the vaccine doesn't seem to work very well. It seems impossible to innoculate some people and many of those that are innoculated still seem to become infected anyway.

Second, the vaccine of Reason has, in my opinion, at least one serious side effect. Those who do develop immunity seem to become relatively infertile. I realize that many on the Left think that having fewer children is a good thing, but I don't for a variety of reasons that I'm not going to go into here.

I say this as someone who has natural immunity (I'm not particularly religious and not Christian), but consider the disease of cowpox a small price to pay for immunity to things that are worse.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Shrinking Deficit

More from Larry Kudlow:
This week’s Treasury report on the nation’s finances for December shows a year-to-date fiscal 2005 deficit that is already $11 billion less than last year’s. In the first three months of the fiscal year that began last October, cash outlays by the federal government increased by 6.1 percent while tax collections grew by 10.5 percent. When more money comes in than goes out, the deficit shrinks.

At this pace, the 2005 deficit is on track to drop to $355 billion from $413 billion in fiscal year 2004. As a fraction of projected gross domestic product, the new-year deficit will descend to 2.9 percent compared with last year’s deficit share of 3.6 percent. [...]

By the way, Treasury Secretary John Snow just completed a Wall Street tour where leading bond traders told him not to sweat the transitional costs for personal accounts. The traders said that an additional $100 billion a year over the next decade for transitional financing will be easily manageable. “A rounding error,” one senior trader told Snow.

A supply-side tax-reform movement, a shrinking budget deficit, newfound spending discipline, and a determination to confound conventional wisdom by reforming Social Security has George W. Bush’s second term off to a roaring start -- even before he is officially sworn in.

Sounds good to me.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Goldilocks Economy

Larry Kudlow points out:
Using James Surowiecki’s theme of the wisdom of crowds, yesterday’s WSJ survey of 55 leading economists is to be taken seriously as a 2005 forecast. The average inflation-adjusted growth projection came to 3.6%. The mid-year CPI was pegged to 2.5%. Mid-year interest rates were 3.04% for the 91 day Treasury bill and 4.79% for the 10 Year Treasury bond. The dollar was expected to be stable. Mid-year unemployment down slightly to 5.3%. All in all, a very promising outlook.
No kidding. Sign me up!

Monday, January 03, 2005

The 6th Annual GMT New Millennium Party

First some background for those who have no idea what a GMT New Millennium Party is. A millennium is simply a period of one thousand years. So each year on December 31st, instead of simply celebrating a new year, we celebrate the beginning of a new millennium. This year, that new millennium is the period from January 1, 2005 till December 31, 3004. In addition, instead of arbitrarily choosing midnight San Diego time, we choose midnight Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) as the transition point. Conveniently, that happens to be the middle of the afternoon in San Diego - usually a fine time to go to the beach.

This year we had a bit of a light turnout due to some very slightly uncooperative weather. Here's the brave and hardy souls.

Here they are again, still only slightly wet and bedraggled (with a different photographer).

It was pretty windy when we started, but thinking quickly, I invoked Murphy's Law (anything that can go wrong will) in our favor. As soon as I got out my kite, the wind quit, and the weather was much more enjoyable (or maybe just tolerable).

The kids loved being able to play with their rain gear and umbrellas. They don't often get the chance in San Diego.

In fact, everybody seemed pretty happy.

Affectionate too!

When the sun came out, it sure was bright! I didn't think to bring sunglasses.

And then we got a spectacular double rainbow. It was far better in person (they usually are), with both ends ending at the horizon (cliffs) and the main bow was so bright that it reflected in the mist surrounding the rainbows giving the impression of continuous color. It was worth putting up with the rain to get the rainbows.

And for those who waited, not a bad sunset.

Looks almost tropical, doesn't it?

The last rays of 2004.

And the clouds light up for the final colors.

So those that persevered were amply rewarded by nature's colors. Thanks to those sixteen brave and adventurous souls who made the party.

The rest of you? Especially the ones in town? Can you spell 'wimpy'? That's W-I-M-P-Y, wimpy! Just kidding. We hope to see you next year!

The Poor Get Richer

I almost fell over when I read the title of a recent San Francisco Chronicle online ( article: Ignorance shrouds capitalism's profound impact on reducing poverty. Here are some excerpts:
It should come as heartening news that 2004 was one of the most prosperous years in history. Not because the U.S. economy grew by a solid 4.3 percent, but because developing countries experienced an explosive 6.1 percent economic growth.

According to a recent study by the World Bank, 2004's growth reflected "an expansion without precedent over the past 30 years." Equally encouraging, the report notes that "the rapid growth of developing economies ... has produced a spectacular, if not historic, fall in poverty."

Amazingly, the World Bank report did not get much coverage in our mainstream media. It seems the press was more interested in covering the evils of globalization than in taking notice of how world trade -- which grew by an astounding 10.2 percent this year -- is driving economic growth.

When Americans do hear about the World Bank, it's usually because an unruly mob is protesting against it. The protesters are long on rhetoric but short on facts.

But it's not just protesters who are misguided. Many of our nation's teachers also don't realize why poverty in developing countries is declining at such a rapid rate. Far too often, teachers are uneasy when they realize that free markets are the best way to help those in poverty.

For example, most Americans would be surprised to learn that millions of poor people who live on less than $1 per day would be better off if they could go into debt. [...]

It is undeniable that 2004 was a great year for the poor. The World Bank's prediction that global poverty will continue plummeting is particularly encouraging. But if we are ever to wipe poverty from the face of the Earth, our next generation of leaders must first understand what makes the global economy tick -- the fundamental relationship between free trade and economic growth.
I wouldn't have been surprised to see this in the Wall Street Journal, but in the San Francisco Chronicle? A paper published in one of the last holdouts of Leftist Socialism? Maybe there's hope yet.