Commenter Archive

AvatarComments by George Turner in reply to Mike Schilling*

On “What If It’s the OTHER Reality?

I've raised that same question. I conservatives really are like what Democrats think they are, they should all be backing Obama as a way to hurt poor, women, and minorities.

Once again, it comes down to white male Republians voting against their own economic interests. :(


Yeah, that's why Dewey crushed Truman, and why Nate Silver botched his 2010 prediction. Their track record is considered good when they get within about 4%.


Guardian UK link

American news outlets aren't allowed to report things like that. The Ministry of Truth would crack their heads, which is why something so damning apparently flew completely under your radar.

(Jefferson Davis and George Orwell in a one-two combination!!! :D )


I'm thinking that in some cases it might cancel out, and in some cases it might not cancel out at all, because it might be as flaky as teens voting for American Idol contestants. Keep in mind that for many of late deciders, they actually are voting in a popularity contest using criteria we can hardly imagine.

Is Obama's nose cuter than Romneys? In the 2004 election Bush had a much cuter nose than John Kerry, whereas the McCain/Obama noses were pretty much a toss up. Romney has a pretty huge snoz, and that might hurt him certain demographics.

One of my housemate's frequent visitors watched all the debates with us, and we're pretty sure he's going to vote exactly the same way as the last person he talked to right before he walked into the polling booth. If it's a cute girl in an Obama shirt he'll vote for Obama. If it's a guy in a Romney hat he'll vote for Romney. He's that flaky when it comes to politics. We talk to him all day. Not only do we not know which way he'll eventually vote, we know that we can't know which way he'll vote because he doesn't have a clue how he'll vote, either, even when he claims he does. It's like asking a 13-year old which cheerleader he's sweet on.


One problem with that is that under Obama, the gap in net worth between whites and blacks doubled. If you convinced them to vote according to their economic interests you'd lose them, too. ^_^

What's rather interesting is that Republicans always go back to Lincoln to judge their candidates, and Democrats seem to have gone back to Jefferson Davis (their forgotten President). Even though Obama's track record is about as abysmal as Davis', Democrats are just as unwilling to either besmirch their President's character or to fire him as they were then. The cultural norm of never questioning a gentleman's honor or holding him responsible for his failures was part of the baggage Southerners brought over from England, whereas the Republican Yankees were pragmatic Roundheads who would fire anyone who underperformed and never gave two cents about their honor or reputation.


As I said upthread, if you actually counted everyone and did a simple sum, you still probably couldn't beat 4% accuracy because there's that many people who honestly have no idea how they're going to vote, and an unknown percentage who aren't honest with pollsters or themselves, either about their choice or their likelihood to vote.

The idea that you can aggregate polls that are 4% accurate compared to other polls and get a 1% accuracy for the actual voting, when an actual enumeration prior to voting wouldn't be that accurate, is highly doubtful. It assumes that the only errors in the polling are sampling errors, and that's not the case.

Put another way, the polls usually predict an election to within a few percent. I'm saying that no matter how much you increase the coverage and sample size, polls probably can't predict a national election closer than a few percent or so, because that's the fundamental noise level, essentially set by dipwads whose voting habits are about as predictable as where a chicken will poop, no matter how many times you've ask them what they'll do beforehand.

Put another way, you can watch the aggregated tracking polls swing up a few percentage points up and down in a random fashion, you can't reliably predict those swings because they're based on unknown future events, weird things like the mood of a crowd or whether election days is sunny or rainy.

What would be interesting is to actually measure the error rate inherent in a polling sample by somehow observing the voting-booth behavior of those who were polled to see how many of them voted in accordance with their recorded answers to the pollster. You could ask them afterwards, but you don't know how many would lie to appear more consistent, or who wouldn't honestly admit how they're voting either before or after.

That might put some bounds on the maximum achievable accuracy of any poll or aggregated polls, and might even provide some insights for further corrections.


It's not denying statistics, it's more fundamental. If you called every single person in the land and asked them how they'd vote, there's no statistics involved at all, just simple counting. You're still not going to get more than 4% accuracy because people aren't that accurate in predicting their own behavior, and they act more like crowds than ideal gases, which is why you can choose any poll you want and watch the graph swing up and down and up and down like an audio waveform, based on spontaneous events like funny tweets or a bizarre news item.

Things like Nate Silver's analysis is amusing because it's like a meteorologist saying there's a 72.935% chance of rain, and yet weather forecasts aren't trying to predict fleeting and transitory opinions, they're trying to predict the outcome of an application of the laws of physics.

On “Why has Conservatism inexplicably become our generation’s Hollywood Squares?

Yes, and do you understand that even the virulent plagues wouldn't have serious affected the long-term population numbers, just as they didn't in Europe, or among the European settlers. On top of that, the worst outbreaks kept occuring in places like Boston, where the popoulation density is high enough to support fast-moving plagues (isolated villages with warring tribes are notoriously difficult targets for plagues that require human transmission). From an epidemiology perspective, it should've been the European settlers who got wiped out, not the Indians. Heck, we lived in cholera factories.

Once the populations intermixed, which they did very quickly, you can't posit a chronic disease that somehow wipes out brown haired people but doesn't affect blond haired people at all, yet has exactly the same fatality rates in blond and brown haired people, and we know the chronic diseases affect us the same because we still have doctors, diseases, and tens of millions of Indians among us.

As to a virulent plague, even if it infected 100% of the population of the Americas, every single person, and had a 99.2% fatality rate, a plague unprecedented in all of human history, the population should've fully recovered before the Mayflower even landed. And there's no evidence of any such plague, so we might as well talk about a hundred million ice-age Britains wiped out by universal phone sanitizers.

The whole plague narrative is based on magical thinking, which is why it wasn't advanced either by doctors or epidemiologists. It's something you can imagine could've happened, but you can't make the numbers work out, and even if you could, there's no evidence that it happened.

What's interesting is that in part people asserted that it must have happened because all the Indians got wiped out in places like Puerto Rico and such, where it was completely accepted that all the current inhabitants are Spanish, black, or Spanish and black, with only 0.5% or less being even of mixed Indian heritage. Then a meddling scientist sampled their DNA and lo and behold, well over 90% of them have Native American maternal DNA. As it turns out, at some point the rule was that if you speak Spanish, you're not an Indian. "Nope, no Indians here! We're all Spaniards!"


Smallpox isn't deadly enough to wipe out a population, with a mortality rate of about 18%. Europeans have had major smallpox epidemics throughout history, including some devastating outbreaks that hit Greek city states. Is epidemiology and math somehow different the two sides of the ocean? Even where smallpox infects everyone, about 82% survive and carry immunity from then on. Indians were no different, and we know they weren't different because we got to meet the countless survivors who carried smallpox scars, just like we did, and here their accounts nd tallies of the disease.

How many Europeans got smallpox? Pretty much all of them, all the time, for centuries. In fact, one medical historian calculated that smallpox killed 60 million Europeans from 1700 to 1800, and given its 18% death rate, not only did every single European catch it, but they all caught it twice! Regardless, instead of decimating their population, European numbers increased by 34%. There is no European immunity to smallpox. Their survival rates aren't better than anyone else's on the planet. So if smallpox can wipe out two continents worth of Indians, how come it couldn't wipe out Europe?

Further, we know Indians had really high population growth rates or they couldn't have sustained all the tribal warfare, much less the constant sacking of cities followed by ritual sacrifice of tens of thousands of captives - which had gone on for centuries. An 18% mortality rate, even if everyone got smallpox, just meant they needed to lay off the ritual sacrificing for six years and then resume it as normal. It's a blip, like a drought and a famine.

The disease narrative is for children who can't do math. Yes, the Indians had diseases, and we did too. Their existence doesn't explain the disappearance of non-existant millions who weren't seriously suggested to have existed until the 1960's.


So demanding an outrageous salary of money, and demanding that the set be perfectly safe (so he doesn't risk his precious butt getting hurt), and limiting working hours so he can sit back and spend his millions in leisure isn't right-wing?


Yes, we do know what the Aztecs saw. The Spanish doctor (who had treated Spanish nobles, including I think the King) made detailed records of what happened, along with detailed autopsy records as good as any in Europe. What he saw looks like ebola. Even more interestingly, the Mexico City plagues kept recurring into the 18th century, and always followed the rains that broke a severe drought, implicating rodents as a vector. It might have been some devastating relative of hantavirus, but we'll never know because it seems to have disappeared. It's possible the plague cycle was broken by better sanitation and domestic cats imported from Europe. Oddly, one of the Mayan gods was named Trash Master, and Trash Master only attacked victims who left food waste lying around their house, leaving them bleeding from both ends (mouth and ass), which likely springs from the same disease.

What you’ve postulated is a contradiction in terms. Africa is not hit with multiple Virgin Soil Epidemics.

The CDC website on measles says they are, and lists the countries affected by the repeated virgin-soil epidemics. Apparently they don't vaccinate. To a plague, every village that hasn't been hit in the previous outbreak is virgin soil. In the case of a plauge with a 100% mortality rate among those who contract it, the virgin-soil aspect never goes away because none of the survivors of an outbreak were infected, leaving them all as virgin soil for the next outbreak.

What Henige is saying is that the idea that tens of millions, or hundreds of millions, of Indians were wiped out by plagues when nobody is looking is totally unsupported by evidence. It's a narrative that didn't even arise until the late 1960's. He's also saying that historical and archeological methods will not ever produce such evidence because they can't.

If you applied similar methods to pre-Roman Europe you could make up endless narratives, such as suggesting that ice-age Britain had a population of about a hundred million, but that they were wiped out by devastating diseases carried by Indo-Europeans or Eskimo ice-travelers. Those diseases had a 99% mortality rate, as evidenced by the drop in Britain's ice-age population, and we know Britain's ice-age population was that high by estimating the number of survivors and dividing by the plagues' survival rate.

That would be laughed at in European archeology circles, but is accepted practice in some New World academic circles.

On “What If It’s the OTHER Reality?

If Romney loses it will just establish what conservatives already knew in their hearts, that half the American population is of below-average intelligence.

There, this thread is much better now. ^_^

Actually I never liked Romney as a candidate, probably for the same reflexive reasons most people don't. The look, the history, gravitas, etc. He comes off like a the world's greatest vacuum cleaner salesman. But Chris Christie wasn't ready to jump in, Jeb Bush stayed out, W can't run again, the Bush daughters are too young, Richard Nixon didn't have a son, John Bolton's mustache wanted to stay out of the fray, Tom Selleck's mustache got shaved off, and Bruce Willis was tied up with "A Good Day to Die Hard", so here we are.

Given the fundamentals of the economy, the unemployment rate, the doubling of the gap between white net worth and black net worth, my orange cat should crush Obama in a one-to-one contest, but I couldn't get her on the ticket. That's unfortunate, because I think she's someone American's could rally behind and her vacations would never go further than the Rose Garden.

So this is an election of missed opportunities.

On “Why has Conservatism inexplicably become our generation’s Hollywood Squares?

Well, as the book points out, there isn't much actual epidemiology being used, nor is there much corraboration of vast plagues other than the ones that hit Mexico City, which a Harvard trained epidemiologist recently deemed more likely to have been a native rodent-born hemorrhagic disease with symptons akin to ebola, and definitely ruled out smallpox, measles, or plague based on the period autopsy records by a Spanish physician who was quite familiar with all such European diseases. And, as it turns out, the Aztecs were quite familiar with the disease (and greatly feared it) while the Spanish were stumped.

Tracing down the literature on other claims that disease wiped out the Indians leads nowhere, because the mortality estimates cite the pre-disease population estimates - and the pre-disease population estimates cite the mortality estimates, round and round in a big circle, and not once is there an actual pre-disease count or an actual count of the mortality rate. Not once anywhere in the period documentation.

In many cases there's not even a period record of any disease. Sometimes a historian made one up to get a paper published, extrapolating a diary comment from some priest along the lines of "many the Indians I saw in the village that day looked sickly" into a vast smallpox epidemic that wiped out tens of millions in someplace like Baja California, with no evidence of either tens of millions of people, or smallpox, in any records anywhere. In other cases, they're so sloppy that they'll take a census drop in one area and blame it on a devastating plague with a 90% mortality rate, accounts of which don't appear anywhere, even though the same census shows the same number of Indians showing up to work at a silver mine a short journey away. Hrm.... What's a historian to make of that?

As for virgin soil epidemics, they happen all the time. Africa is often hit with massive virgin-soil measles outbreaks with 20 and 30% fatality rates, and their population doesn't ever seem to collapse. Europeans were constantly suffering major smallpox outbreaks and it didn't make a dent, either. Somehow the epidemic in Fiji boosted their population from around 120,000 then to 800,000 today, so obviously they didn't just float away or anything. Primitive societies can sustain extremely high growth rates, and even in African war zones or places like Afghanistan the population growth often exceeds 4% annually. At that kind of growth rate the population recovers from a plague that had a 30% fatality in just 9 years. More to the point, Europeans were the ones who had all these plagues, and their population was exploding. And Europeans don't have any more natural immunity to any of them than the Indians did. If we did we wouldn't have to get vaccinated all the time. Your ancestors, even your parents, may have had smallpox, measles, and the black plague all at once, but you get zero immunity from that.

The Orcs reference comes from some of the estimates of population made by early Spanish explorers. One of his key points is that a historian has to be very conscious of how the people he studies used numbers, and in the case of European explorers of that era, they were, by our standards, not only innumerate, but didn't even care. Cortez didn't know how many men he had to probably a factor of two or three, based on his wild guesses at how many people were on his ships. A hundred? Three hundred? What's the difference?

And those were men he had to keep supplied. They cared not a whit about counting anyone else to even that pathetic level of accuracy. You still see this in the Middle East, where an explosion or buiiding collapse kills anywhere from three people to 3,000 people, depending on who's reporting the story. Different BBC stories from the Middle East will authoritatively give death tolls that are an order of magnitude different from other BBC stories about the same event. Years later they'll still have no idea on the actual numbers, because the idea that a count needs to be accurate to the one, with names and ages, hasn't caught on everywhere yet.

This was the situation in Europe in that era and prior, and often accounts of battles and numbers were staggeringly wrong, to the point of a couple of thousand men fighting several billion in hand-to-hand combat, and winning, or having armies numbering in the hundreds of millions embarking from a hundred or so galleys. Part of the job of a historian is filtering out such garbage, not accepting it uncritically and then spinning even more elaborate yarns from it.

And it gets worse, because then the Orc counters extrapolate from an extremely unreliable guestimate, which goes something like this: "I saw a village that had thousands of people." That actually means, perhaps, yes 50,000! "There were surely more further into the jungle." So perhaps 1 village for every 10 square miles, times the size of the entire rainforest - equals hundreds of millions! One recent high-counter's Orc-method estimate of a pre-contact Carribean island population, a tribe of hunter-gatherers with almost no agriculture mind you, works out to a population density that is higher than modern Los Angeles. And this cr*p gets published as academic research.

Needless to say, at some point a historian like Henige gets frustrated enough to publish a book about it. The numbers come from nowhere, as do the mysterious plagues that only strike when nobody is looking, kind of like the light bulb in the refrigerator.


The dude tried to kill his father and kissed his sister on the lips. I don't think he'll sway many votes.


One of Windshuttle's points is that the study of history requires lots of time and dedication to "raw data", sifting through the period letters, court records, documents, and artifacts, to establish what is known, what is not, and what can or can't be known. Without the firm anchor of all that data, history becomes nothing more than storytelling and should move to the fantasy literature department.

An example of that was addressed by the bookNumbers From Nowhere by David Henige, addressing the debate over the pre-contact population of the New World. The first couple of chapters are a tour-de-force of academic argument, showing that the whole narrative of a massive Indian genocide from disease and war was spun from no evidence whatsoever, and that history can never answer the question put to it in that debate because you can't count something that isn't there to be counted, and that left no countable traces when it disappeared. Many of the population estimates use the same methods to count Orcs in Middle Earth, with equal accuracy, too.

Some of the book can be a slog, but refuting so many bad arguments requires addressing them.


One caveat. The McCarthy hearings had nothing to do with Hollywood.

I'd also add Robert Downey Jr. as someone who might or might not be conservative, but he certainly isn't liberal.

Others would be Fred Thompson, Victoria Jackson, Kevin Farley, Ben Stein, and of course Ronald Reagan, Charleton Heston, Clint Eastwood, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Garry Cooper, Frank Sinatra, James Cagney, Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, Shirly Temple, Pat Sajak, Sylvester Stallone, Dennis Hopper, Jerry Doyle, Drew Carey, Dennis Leary, Penn Jillete, Joe Rogan, Kevin Sorbo, David Zucker, James Woods, Dennis Miller, Tony Danza, Sonny Bono, Fred Grandy (Gopher!), Howard Stern, Russell Means, Scott Baio, Robert Duvall, Robert Conrad, the Rock, John Rhys-Davies, Ricky Shroder, Tom Selleck, Chuck Connors, Gene Autry, James Earl Jones (you knew Vader was evil), Dixie Carter, Bo Derek, Dean Cain, and many others.


One of my conservative friends look's like a punk rocker and has bedded half the city's roller derby team, sometimes in groups. He's a study in unusual, so shy and polite that sk8r girls have talked him into holding a 9mm on someone during drug deals on more than one occassion.

I've had lots of strange housemates like that, liberal and conservative. Their stories are often bizarre.


Yeah, if you're not trangressing people think you're either weird or losing it. Hollywood people can ruin their careers by not trangressing often enough and publically enough, and often they fake it so the establishment won't reject them.


I have serious doubts about Professor Grumpy's project

You might enjoy The Killing of History by Keith Windshuttle.


Good point, Tom. I forgot that much of liberal thought is devoted to the avoidance of thinking. It's so much easier not to.

Regarding the NEA, part of her point was that conservatives were huge supporters (and funders) of the arts until liberals decided the only valid, narrow purpose of true art was to mock conservatives. I doubt the former Soviet block thinks their state-sponsored anti-capitalist "art" was good and the suppressed edgy, anti-communist, rebellious art was bad, but they are of course be mistaken, because only left-wing art can be true art.

One of Paglia's complaints is that liberals politicized everything, poisoning the well, when great art transcends politics.


Camille Paglia had a good response to that (I could probably dig up the link), arguing that liberals have largely killed the arts in this country, producing little worth noting since sometime in the Andy Warhol period.

I surmise the problem she sees is that good art that poked at the status quo, questioning it, pushing the boundaries, became a status quo that can't be questioned, poked at, or pushed, and people raised in it aren't doing any of those things, they're merely repeating the same cliched formulas over and over and calling it art, in most cases hardly even putting any thought into it.

She has some interesting viewpoints.

On “Four More Years, With Head Held High

They can't seem to find that out, either, because what led to American civilians dying was the failure to respond to a string of warnings and requests for more security, and a complete failure to respond with any of a vast array of resources on hand, including counter-terrorist rescue forces staged but an hour or so away.

And we still don't know why, who, where or how these decisions were made, even though all the people who made those decisions certainly know the answers.

Contrast that with what we know about 9/11, Pearl Harbor, or any other attack, where within days we knew where the President had been, who he'd talked to, what he ordered, what was recommended, etc. We [i]think[/i] Obama was in the White House, we don't think he met with the National Security Council (but nothing certain is known). We know he didn't convene the Counter Terrorism Task Group. We don't even know who was making the decisions. Basically, it's as close to an information black-out as you can get.

My suspicion, which is shared by many, is that they watched a terrorist attack unfold and among their first thoughts was that American soil had not only been attacked, but occupied, on the anniversary of 9/11, two months before a Presidential election, and that any strong military response would make it an even bigger story than it would otherwise be. If it was just a protest that got out of hand and overran a minor US compound, it all might blow over. If they turn it into a ground-battle with air support, it will stay at the top of the news cycle for months.

Then they started lying, and once that started it was out of their control. We've still got people claiming that the drone didn't arrive till the last hour of the attack, so Washington couldn't have known what was going on. That was a lie. The first drone arrived at 11:11 PM local time and immediately began a live video feed to Washington. It continued to provide video until it was relieved by a second drone which stayed until the events were over. 24 days later, 24 days, we sent in an FBI team.

On “Trade Sequence Part 1 – Introductions and Definitions

Romney hasn't had any connection to Bain in many years. That's like the idea that Cheney was trying to boost Haliburton, as if people work like a dog to make their former employer rich.

From the book "Management Stories that Don't Exist": "All the people who don't work for us anymore keep showing back up and giving us bags of cash. Why do they keep doing that?"

On “Four More Years, With Head Held High

Yeah. Fortunately Obama's conducting a long and thorough investigation to find out what Obama said - in a room wired for audio. In fact, none of the people involved seem to be able to figure out what they did, or even where they were, what they saw, and who they were talking to.

I suspect what's really being investigated is how Agent K and Agent J managed to get into the White House and zap the President and the entire National Security Council with one of those red blinky things.


How many calories should a kid be getting? It answers itself. As many as they need. The government banned that solution, with severe penalties for violating their North Korean style dietary dictates. From now on, the workers' daily ration will be cut in half - because the Emperor's consort thinks her thighs are too fat.

If American school kids have an obesity problem stemming from the dietary habits - how about teaching them about diet and nutrition? They're sitting in a school building all day, so it seems like a reasonable idea. How about focusing on the kids with obvious weight problems, trying to find a balance between hurting their self-esteem (which is why the school systems probably abandoned the comon sense solution for fadish nonsense) and correcting a growing problem?

I'll also mention that one of the body's natural responses to prolonged hunger is the activation of signals saying that food has become scarce and should be stored as fat, which is why so many people on fad diets have their weight yo-yo all over the place. We've thrown "Do No Harm" out the window in an experiment to see if every kid can end up on the roller-coaster.

Another way to look at this policy is that it's making the kids very, very hungry - until 3:15 when school lets out and we turn them loose in the mall food-court, somehow expecting them not to eat like pigs.

*Comment archive for non-registered commenters assembled by email address as provided.