Hillary, Donald, you owe me a good night’s sleep

October 10, 2016

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I did, I listened to the second debate between you both. It was not worth the loss of sleep

Why did I do it?  It was, possibly, a politically important event [October 10, 2016].

The latest of the seemingly effortless dramatic revelations coming up about you, Donald, last weekend, that video about your sexual urges, was a zinger.  A game-ender.

I admit, I wanted to hear how you would deal with it in the so-called town-hall style debate.  How would you, Hillary, deal with the Donald defence, probably a counter-attack, to use a chess term, perhaps risky involving a sacrifice of some material?

The more responsible side of me wanted to learn how either of you could demonstrate you were the more suited to be President. How Hillary was not a crook, lucky to have stayed out of jail, married to someone with enthusiasm for extra-curricular hobbies which landed him in creative linguistics (not a euphemism). How you Donald had a grasp of the mechanics of political workings required of a President of the United States.

So there I was, hanging on your every word.  Both of you sadly disappointed me.  Have you both been trained in that public speaking school of ‘answer the question you wanted to be asked, not the one you were actually asked‘? I seem to remember the trick is to reply and move on  reasonably quickly, perhaps with a link to that carefully chosen point you had been coached to get in.

Donald, you did pull out another strategy, to talk at length in a highly confusing way. I understand Nigel Farage was in with your other advisors.  I’m sure he would have warned you not to confuse your audience in such a way.

And what was all that grumpiness at the moderators? Donald, you did seem more spontaneous in your combustion.  Hillary, you sort of sounded as if you had to show you could be as ornery as Donald.

I missed a lot of the real show-biz stuff, the parade of women Donald arranged just before the debate, who, he claimed were seduced or worse by Bill, and pursued in very nasty ways by Hillary.

You both spoke your minds, so I will too.  For whatever reasons, you had a chance to say something interesting and therefore something which could impress a hundred million listeners. Don’t know what the others thought, but I felt I had been cheated out of a good night’s sleep.

Sleepless in Stockport


As Olympics starts, Mitt’s blitz irks Brits

July 27, 2012

Mitt Romney arrived in Europe at the start of the 2012 Olympics to visit leading politicians. It was part of his Presidential campaign designed to raise his profile as an internationally-significant figure. He may have passed through London unnoticed, if he had not made a mildly critical remark to a US journalist

London, Thursday July 26th. One topic has distanced everything else from the nation’s attention. The Olympic Games.

Mr Romney might have arrived and announced plans single-handedly to rescue the Euro and bring peace to the Middle East and been largely ignored. Instead he chose to mention a few concerns based on news he had learned of glitches in the administration of the Games. Mr Romney is quite keen to remind American voters of leadership skills he showed in rescuing the Winter Olympics in the US in Salt Lake City in 2002.

Keep your nose out, they are our glitches

The British media had enjoyed its own frenzy of anger towards various glitzes. The head of G4S, a services contractor, had been hauled before parliament to agree that his organisation’s performance had been a shambles. Tweets by athletes complaining about bus delays were also reported and discussed. On the day Mr Romney arrived, the Olympics committee was forced to apologise to North Korea for mixing up its flag in its football game with that of, [oops] South Korea.

Ironic sympathy

Mr Romney might have won favourable attention by offering a few remarks in the tone of ironic sympathy that Bill Clinton was famous for producing. But Mitt does not do ironic sympathy. “Keep your nose out”, yelled the press. “These are our glitches”.

Enter Boris to fan the [Olympic] flame

The day ended with a concert in Hyde Park where the assembled party-goers were treated to a wide-screen presentation. Boris Johnson, the charismatic mayor of London, added his wit to the story, hugely enjoying the opportunity.

“There’s this guy called Mitt Romney” he began, to roars from the crowd. “He wants to know if we are ready. Are we ready?. The crowd roars back.

A retraction

The late news bulletins presented the mayor’s remarks, followed by an uncomfortable Mr Romney making what sounded like a retraction to his original line. He now takes the politically-correct (but factually incorrect) position offered by the Prime Minister and just about everyone else, that this was a glitz-free Olympics – until Mitt blew into town.


Obama McCain: Stripping the Noise out of the Polls

October 29, 2008

myspace-polls.com

myspace-polls.com


Poll-watching has been part of the fun of the Presidential campaign. When the noise is stripped out, the statistical reality is not in accord with the stories being spun

Polls are fun. Swings, even those within the ‘corridor of (statistical) uncertainty’ of 2%-3% for a specific poll, have regularly been used to present a news stories.

There have been plenty of stories built on statistical blips. But when the entire set of results are presented together, the dominant undulations are mostly noise. The polls are rather like regular visits to a fortune teller, who tells a story derived from yarrow sticks, tea leaves or Tarot cards.

The BBC has been providing an excellent comparative summary of four polls. These come from four different organizations, each with variations in methodology. I will rely on visual inspection only (which is enough for spotting the broad level of noise and the most significant real effects statistically).

The four polls

The four polls presented in the BBC summaries have been from Gallop, Rasmussen, Washington Post and Ipsos. These were selected from a more extensive compilation of results from the pollster organisation.

The trends revealed from the four BBC polls lead to several conclusions. Across the period of polling any one poll is mostly showing a lot of noise (swings within the corridor of uncertainty of say 2% for one trend line). The blips just even out over periods of several months. You may wish to interpret it as day on day shifts in voting intentions. But the results are also consistent with repeated confirmation of a ‘null hypothesis’ of no significant difference found. This is further confirmed if any claimed swing is not detected uniformly across the polls.

This sort of inspection shows that the polls are prone to ‘false positives’ – results that show a significant swing over some time period, for one poll, but not for the others. It also suggests that among the false positives were blips associated with Hillary Clinton pulling out of the race, Obama declaring himself Democratic candidate, and arguably the recent conventions. THis way you can just about detect a slight and temporary ‘Palin Bounce’ for the McCain campaign followed by the subsequent drift downwards.

Inspection along the time-scale of the polls revealed almost identical poll percentages for Obama and McCain towards the start (Feb 2008) and recently (Sept 2008). The base-line shows round 50% for Obama, 44% for McCain.

There have been two ‘stand-out’ periods in which McCain has been shedding a few percentage points. One has been over the period of the financial crisis of the last month (Sept-Oct 2008). That, unfortunately for McCain, is significant for several reasons. First, the most recent data are always treated as the most newsworthy and important (the well-known immediacy effect in decision theory). Secondly, the election is advancing rapidly, so that the effect is taken even more seriously.

The polls now all say Obama. The averages for the popular vote have stabilized, and are interpreted as a narrow win for Obama.

Looking State by State

Attention has turned to evaluations are based on probabilities of the candidates winning each State. This is a far more sensible way of using statistics, as the victory does not go to the winner of the popular vote, but to the winner of delegates of the Electoral college. The State by State assessment has more sensitivity towards the range of probabilities of each State staying the same as last time, or switching the affiliation of the nominated members of the electoral college.

On these assessments, Obama is more clearly in the lead, and explains why the commentators are writing as if the result is more clear-cut.

One week to go

With less than a week to go, some of the theories have come and gone. McCain’s run-in seems to have been in military terms a courageous scramble. Obama’s a dignified avoidance of appearing too much of a winner, but still appearing a winner.

One day to go

Commentators are talking as if the polls suggest Obama is a near certainty. McCain claims a last-gasp gain in support enough to give his supporters continued hope. There is even more of a narrowing of concentration by reporters around the one issue ‘how will the voters vote’ and a decoupling of opinion from contextual factors. By that I mean that the economic back drop, for example, has hardly had a mention in comparison with the vivid impact of the latest Joe the Pumber encounter. Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered.

All the polls, all the ‘objective’ analysis point to only one winner. So why are so few commentators (including me) refusing to say there is no hope left for John McCain? Maybe Obama’s recent rallying cry to his supporters offers hope for Senator McCain as well:

Obama the university lecturer embarks on a little treatise on what hope actually means – “that thing deep down inside of us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, there are better times ahead of us”. It is a line he has been polishing now for days, if not weeks. And his audiences always get it, and love it.

Acknowledgement

To myspace-polls for the image and their encouragement to turn us all into pollitical pollsters.


Obama: Change comes to Washington

August 29, 2008

Barack Obama adds a creative twist to his message of change. In his acceptance speech for the Presidential nomination he insists that America will change. But change will not come from Washington, he insists, it will come to Washington

It was a speech deliberately echoing the “I have a dream” speech of Martin Luther King. King’s dream was of the community of races within America.

Obama also echoed John F. Kennedy, who insisted that Americans ask not what their country can do for them, but what they can do for their country.

But these echoes from the past reinforced Obama’s message for the future. In a creative leap, he turned the more simplistic change message on its head. Yes, America would change. But not because a new leader and administration in Washington would change America, but because America would change Washington. ‘Change comes to Washington’ he insisted.

This was the Obama combining policy with personality. The Obama avoiding what he has demonstrated in the past, avoiding burning bright intensifying the charisma of the leader. If anything, he seemed to be deliberately holding back for much of the speech lest the message was lost in the dazzle of full-wattage Obama.

There was plenty of yes and about the speech. Senator McCain? We are all patriots. That should not be an issue. [I remembered briefly the call by David Cameron, the newly appointed leader of the Conservatives to avoid Punch and Judy politics. Would the fine words last longer on this campaign than they did in the UK?].

But the dream was an old dream fulfilled rather than one freshly imagined

It is that promise that has always set this country apart – that through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams as well.

The context of change was spelled out

Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship our jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.
I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.
I will cut taxes – cut taxes – for 95% of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

[On Foreign Policy] As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm’s way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home. I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taleban in Afghanistan. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons

Did it work?

I don’t know. As an outsider, recently I have struggled to understand the impact of the politics of Scotland’s governing party as it seeks independence from England. What chance do I have of assessing the impact of Obama’s performance on his prospects of election as President?

One thing is clear. Barack Obama is an exceptionally creative leader. He is offering a clear choice for change, by invitation rather than exhortation. His message is that change comes from the people: encouraged but not dictated by its leaders. It is still a message requiring the audacity of hope for its full-hearted acceptance. And it is an invitation that captures the principle that we create the leaders we deserve.

Postscript

This post deliberately avoided replicating views of other observers. As I listened in cosy darkness, I did not pick up the context and visual impact of the speech. As Google listed around 1000 news reports on Obama this morning, there are plenty of reports available to chose from.