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  • November 2006
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2006 Election Analysis

Nihilist provides us an election redux which appears to show being a RINO (Republican In Name Only) was a death sentence in this election. Nihilist gives up plenty of numbers and this conclusion:

Governor Pawlenty has brought the Republicans considerably to the left, fiscally, over the last two years with poor electoral results. Although several strong fiscal conservatives like Representative Phil Krinkie and Senator Brian LeClair were defeated, on the whole, fiscal conservatives were better off than their RINO colleagues. After all, why vote for a RINO when there is a real Democrat just down the ballot.

I don’t think Nihilist came to the right conclusion based on his numbers which I’ll address in a bit. What I found more fascinating were the comment trolls which popped up screaming “correlation doesn’t prove causality.” It is a valid criticism, but that doesn’t mean Nihilist’s numbers are meaningless, nor does it mean all correlations are meaningless. To prove causality you typically need random assignment. Sometimes you can’t do this. Think smoking, it would be cruel to randomly assign smoking to some people (force it upon them) and not others. For the longest time the only smoking/lung cancer data we had was correlative. Even without random assignment we know smoking causes lung cancer thanks to an endless stream of correlative studies. The same goes for physics. We know the equations for relativity match up with and predict the movements of celestial bodies. They correlate perfectly, but we can’t randomly assign planets to prove relativity. Does this make the Theory of Relativity wrong? Do we not know smoking causes lung cancer?

Correlative data can be very useful. Sure, it doesn’t prove causality but if the data can be used to predict events and there’s a lot of data points we can assume safely (or it can imply) causality. One can’t simply criticize numbers soley because they are correlative. Empirical data is often only available in correlations; try genetic inheritance. We know human intelligence and a bunch of other factors are inherited and thus genetic based solely on correlations.

The trolls that immediately popped up and started screaming “cum hoc ergo propter hoc” are always present when a conservative posits an idea based on real world data but they’re never available for discussions about Global Warming (only based on very slim correlative data) or second hand smoke (very slim empirical data). Knowledge of logical fallacies is a good thing to have but they are philosophical in nature. Knowledge of statistics will serve people better but is much harder. Give me enough data points of correlative data from real world events and I predict and express a truth about the world; give me a study with random assignment about human behaviour in a lab and you give me almost nothing useful unless humans happen to live in a lab.

Screaming about logical fallacies and avoiding the subject completely is a way of avoiding a valuable discussion. The trolls over at Nihilist should be ashamed.

As for Nihilist’s conclusion, I think he’s overstepped. Here is how I read his data:

1)In the state of Minnesota in 2006 a legislative move to the center did not correlate with electoral success and in fact had a negative correlation. Moving to the center did not provide a viable electoral defense to incumbants who practiced it in Minnesota in 2006. More data is needed to come to further conclusions, especially recommended comparing only swing districts to each other. This could also be expanded to include national races.

2) Being liberal in liberal districts and conservative in conservative districts resulted in the best electoral results for incumbants. Democrats in the bottom half of the Taxpayer’s League ratings and Republicans in the top half had the best electoral results.

Matter of fact, I think I’m a little overreaching in my conclusions since I make some assumptions about “swing” and “non-swing” districts. A good and careful look at the data might provide an answer to the question “do you appeal to the base or to the middle” but there isn’t enough here to give a solid answer. It is completely possible that going to the middle provided a slim defense to defeat but that effect was drowned out by a giant blue wave. The reverse is also possibly true, that people voted in a real Democrat to replace their RINOs. We just don’t know. I think one thing I would say is that there are probably external factors more likely to lead to electoral defeat (say a rising anti-war tide) and that they have a bigger effect than factors like legislative records. Basically, sometimes you’re gonna lose and there’s nothing you can do about it. In those years, you might as well stick to your principles than try to sell out and whore yourselves to moderate voters.

It’s just really hard to predict when to stay pat and when to whore yourself. I say err on principles. In Minnesota in 2006 that would have been the best option. I think a large study of swing districts over the last 30 years or so (using available American Conservative Union data) would add insight into whether appealing to the base or going to the middle would help. No, I’m not doing the study. At least, not until I’m a paid something or other.


Random Link o’ the Day:



Global Warming is the accidental subject, I was originally going to talk about Minnesota politics but I had Global Warming stuff in front of me and I rolled with it. It’s available here.


Frogs disappearing
Mass. v. EPA
My “fake” trial
Coastal Town
Positives of Global Warming
Gaia guy says it’s too late
Polar Bears population numbers (Note how the Polar Bear population is stable, in two regions it is increasing and in two regions it is decreasing for no net effect; global warming isn’t even killing off polar bears yet)
Kyoto will give us 6 more years at most
10 Ways to Slow Global Warming (Originally appeared in the UK Gurdian)

2005 Christmas Gift Guide

2005 Christmas Gift Guide I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI.

You scored as VIII – Strength. Strength is not just physical strength, it also means emotional and spiritual strength. It is the Strength to do what you know is right in the face of opposition. Strength to defy convention and authority. Stength does not have to be used directly. It can be inner strength that supports one in the face of attacks on what they hold dear. The person of Strength remains true to their beliefs. In a Tarot reading, this card can indicate overcoming of obstacles and refusal to be beaten down. If badly aspected this card can indicate loss of faith, failure of Will.

XVI: The Tower


VIII – Strength


XI: Justice


XIII: Death


IV – The Emperor


II – The High Priestess


I – Magician


XV: The Devil


0 – The Fool


XIX: The Sun


III – The Empress


VI: The Lovers


X – Wheel of Fortune


Which Major Arcana Tarot Card Are You?
created with QuizFarm.com

Christmas Gift Guide

Volume III

Some of the most enduring characters in literature and media are mad scientists. Doc Brown, Merlin, Tim the Enchanter, Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth, Rotwang, Victor Frankenstein, Dr Forrester, Dr. Who and the Ghostbusters are all memorable in a special way. So to is it with the MOB. King Banaian, Leo Pusateri, Douglass Bass and even Mitch Berg stand out as possible comically eccentric wonder workers. I’m not sure Mitch is there yet, but he could be. Buying gifts for your mad scientists or future mad scientists can be a little crazy, but there is plenty on the market (as last year’s gift guide showed).

How does a mad scientist get up in the morning? With a frightening piece of technology of course:

The “alarm” on this unique clock is the sight and sounds of static electricity dancing inside the hand-blown glass arch. Use the demo mode to impress your friends with an electrical light show every 15 minutes.

What kind of watch does he wear? One nobody else can grasp:

What is this? Well, it’s a watch with a small rotating Earth that makes a full rotation once every 24 hours. Designed in Japan and made by Seiko Instruments, this is an interesting and unique timepiece. There is a small time zone indicator for the hour and a small orange dot to indicate the minutes. The movement is Quartz with a custom set of 3 reducing gears in the drive train and is powered by a 10 year Lithium battery. The bezel is 45 mm in diameter and the entire case is made of light weight Titanium. The crystal is super tough Hardlex and is of optical quality to create the effect of the Earth floating inside the frame.

Mad scientist Coffee table has what on it? Plasma Globe

Desktop plasma ball is fascinating to watch and even more fun to play with — just place your fingers on the glass surface and watch when colored “bolts” of glowing light follow your every move as electricity seeks a ground. Includes AC power adapter and black base that complements any decor.

How does he tell the temperature? Goofy pieces of obsolete hardware

Galileo developed a thermometer based on the law of physics. When the temperature rises, the liquid in the glass tube becomes less dense, causing the floating glass spheres to sink one by one. Each sphere has a temperature indicating medallion; the temperature is read by the lowest floating sphere.

How does he predict the weather? Dave Dahl? I don’t think so:

This is the stormglass, a mysterious device used to predict weather since 1750, and employed by Admiral FitzRoy, captain of the H.M.S. Beagle, when he and his lieutenant, Charles Darwin, voyaged to the coast of South America and the Galapagos Islands in 1831 to conduct a hydrographic survey for commerce and naval expeditions by the British Royal Navy. Although how it functions remains a mystery, the stormglass’s ability to predict atmospheric change is well documented. One theory states that the stormglass responds to electromagnetic fluctuations caused by weather and solar storms. The contained liquida mixture of distilled water, potassium nitrate, ammonium chloride, alcohol, and camphorappears cloudy when precipitation is approaching; w hen crystals are visible in the liquid, humid or foggy weather can be expected; a cloudy glass with small stars indicates thunderstorms.

A mad scientist produces snow from a can:

This hi-tech powdered polymer absorbs water and expands nearly 100 times into a flaky white non-toxic substance closely resembling real snow. It’s science! Hooray, science!

Pour a few ounces into your favorite container, add water, and watch as snow erupts, spilling over the container lid. Leave your snow alone for a few days and let it dry out, turning back into a compact powder. It can be reused again and again so it’s also hippie friendly!

Each 8oz jar makes 2 full gallons of the fluffy stuff, while the ultra-portable test-tube size cranks out two cups! While Instant Snow is non-toxic, we don’t recommend eating any. Flush thoroughly with water if it is accidentally ingested. Be safe, and have fun!

And he lights his cigars with a laser

The Spyder Series™ 473nm Blue Portable Lasers are the most powerful blue lasers in the known universe. Utilizing nLight’s leading edge BrightLife™ technology all Spyder Series™ models. Experience blue like never before with the world’s coolest portable blue laser device.

There are plenty of toys for the mad scientist, the enchanter or wizard and even the wannabes out there. In fact, I could devote an entire book to “becoming a modern mad scientist.” What a capital idea! Now I just need someone to write it for me.

Link Dumpage

Women are different (talk 3 times more)

More women have abortions as it loses its stigma

Personal Update

Charter decided to shutdown the Internet for a spell today, so The Podcast will hopefully be posted sometime Tuesday.

Random Link o’ the Day:

Dave Barry 2006 Gift Guide (yes, I did steal the idea from him 5 years ago when I started mine)

In Case You Missed “Cyber Monday”

I still think there’s time to do some online gift shopping, and I have just the sites that will make you the king of gift giving: