Saturday, October 6, 2012

Deciphering Public Opinion Polls

For the next month, the press will bombard the American public with a flurry of election polling: some good, some bad, many unintelligible, and almost all of them meaningless. Most of the polls will be presented to support one agenda/candidate/party or another. Usually the substance, if any, will be buried in a steaming pile of irrelevant facts and unsupported assertions.

With this in mind, allow me to suggest some basic rules for understanding and evaluating public opinion polls.

Rule #1: Polls are fundamentally easy to understand.

The first rule is to accept the basic principle that polls are easy to understand--so easy that a news reporter could do it . . . if the reporter actually tries. Regrettably, too many reporters consistently fail to even make the attempt.

Anyone who can add, subtract, multiply, and divide simple numbers can understand the results of a poll. Beyond the basic math, it's just a matter of knowing and applying a few principles and understanding a few key terms.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Barricades of Washington

A Photo Essay of the Capital's Response to Terrorism

I had intended to write this post more that a year ago, but life beyond the blog intervened.

In the eleven years since 9/11, the landscape of Washington, DC, has undergone dramatic changes. Yet while these changes are dramatic from the perspective of a decade, they have occurred so gradually that they quickly fade into the background. These changes were foreshadowed by temporary responses to previous wars and bombings, but they have since been incorporated into the very structure of the city--a city and a federal government that is much less accessible than it was in the 20th century.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Update: Stating the Obvious

To my few, occasional readersamazingly, there still are a fewallow me to state the obvious:

Because of life beyond the blog, particularly my pursuit of a master's degree in military history at Norwich University, new blog posts will likely be extraordinarily rare until I graduate in mid 2012. As time permits and my the need to vent demands, I will post new rants blog posts.

Incidentally, almost two months into my degree program, my experience has been consistently good. Norwich knows how to do online learning right. I've also been pleasantly surprised at the emphasis my program places on good writing, something that is desperately lacking in academia and elsewhere.

For now, I will continue to twit (I refuse to "tweet") on most weekdays, pointing to various interesting items I find surfing the Web. These are available (usually) in the Twitter feed in the left column.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Goal of the Week: Buddle Goal Against Seattle

An unbelievable strike by Edson Buddle (LA Galaxy) against the Seattle Sounders in the first leg of the playoffs. Kasey Keller, one of the best goalies in MLS, didn't have a chance. It was the only goal of the match, but what a goal.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Laffer Cliff

The idea for this post has been bouncing around in my head for months, delayed by life beyond the blog. Hopefully, the idea aged well.

Who'd have thunk it? At least one practitioner of the dismal "science" can be both entertaining and informative.

Allow me to introduce Dr. Arthur Laffer of Laffer Curve fame, an economic theory that Ben Stein used as material in his classic portrayal of a deadly boring economics teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

[The movie clip may not appear until after the jump.]


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