Friday, November 02, 2012

How dare Nate Silver suggest that someone put his money where his mouth is

The public editor at the NY Times is aghast that Nate Silver proposed a $1000 bet for charity against Joe Scarborough over the election outcome.  Silver thinks the math and data shows a high likelihood of Obama victory, while Scarborough doesn't like math and think people that use it should be told to shut up.  Perhaps sensing that her pearl-clutching isn't too convincing, the editor suggests people think he's a journalist when he's clearly a columnist discussing his own view of things, and gets a news editor to suggest discomfort with a journalistic slippery slope.

I honestly don't get why people have problems with other people proposing bets.  My guess is they don't like betting themselves and therefore think nobody else should be allowed to bet, so they make statements like it's "classless" to bet with money going to charity.  I kind of like incentives, myself, but maybe I'm classless.

As for that scary slippery slope, I would gladly give a push and would love to see other columnists put their money where their mouths are, because it might rein them in a little bit, or their critics.  Kind of harder to do that on the straight news side where it's an institution that's reporting out, not just the names on the byline, but if the institution can figure out a way to do that, then more power to them.  What a wonderful world it would be.

A better critique, also noted by people in Silver's Twitter feed, is that if Scarborough believes the odds are 50-50, and all Silver is offering is an even odds bet, then there's no advantage to Scarborough in taking the bet.  No disadvantage either, but there's no incentive from Scarborough's perspective.  Silver should put up $1250 against $1000 to fix that.  Also the money shouldn't go to the same charity but ideally to different ones that the two sides rank differently in preference.  Part of betting is to make people think carefully about their claims, and if the same charity gets the money then you lose some of that incentive.

And while I'm on the subject - there are many many reasons why Mitt Romney would be terrible for the country, especially on climate change, but I don't think his $10,000 bet offer was one of them.  As a gotcha line in the debate it might have been kind of lame, the outcome might have been deceptive, and the cavalier attitude towards that kind of money is unfortunate, but the simple concept of betting someone over a false statement isn't wrong.  Bloomberg has much better reasons for voting for Obama instead of Romney.


John said...

Obama being proclaimed "a leader on climate change" ONLY after the devastation wrought by Sandy is like GW Bush being proclaimed "a leader on anti-terrorism" ... on Sept 11, 2001.

Below is a link to an electoral vote counting site nicely presented based on all polls available. Note that it has a "Rasmussen poll-free" version.

Also available is senate race projections.

Consideration of effects of vote suppression and myriad election fraud techniques are left to the bettor.

John Puma

J Bowers said...

H/T Peter Sinclair:

To remind Mitt Romney that climate change is not a joke, help us run this ad in Ohio, Virginia, and additional swing states.

Jasso said...

Let me get this straight, people are complaining about someone offering to give money to charity and asking others to do the same?

Magnus said...

Gator said...

Intrade has Romney winning at $3.25 at the moment. Anyone who thinks Romney is going to win, or even thinks it's a 50/50 bet, could be making some good bets right now.

Gator said...

Lefty tinfoil hat territory... but maybe the right-wing pundits know the game is rigged?

Marion Delgado said...

At least at the New York Times and the Washington Post, the public editor position (called the ombudsman, also) which allegedly traditionally was an advocate FOR the reader has become the first line of defense AGAINST the reader. One of them went so far as to publish the personal information of an angry reader (who was entirely in the right) for daring to critique the NYT's manifestly inaccurate, and entirely deadly, stories many of which were leading contributors to the Iraq War and attacks in other parts of the third world. Thus inviting the readership to do their worst to the hapless reader. His crime was telling one of the NYT's warmongering journalistitutes that he wished they had had the experience so many Americans had of not having their child come back from one of their "splendid little wars" so they'd not advocate for them in their alleged news stories, using the most warmongering, imperialist, loaded language and egregious cherrypicking possible.

If you see WaPo or NYT public editor or ombudsman associated with a story, you know you're going to be dealing with the worst sort of unscrupulous whore possible. At the WaPo that job has entailed giving cover to the editor's boosting of climate denialism, for instance.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

That is hardly tinfoil hat territory. Stealing elections is a conservative specialty going back at least to the 1870s. The Dixiecrats had Jim Crow. The Republicans got into the election-stealing biz with the Pres. election of 1876.

The latest tack is to try to suppress voter turnout of Democratic voting groups--through both legal and illegal means. That is documented. More speculative is what happens to the votes once cast.

Ultimately, this is the only strategy by which Republicans can win, because after all, their primary focus is preserving wealth for the wealthy, and that is a pretty small core group. The rest of their platform is geared to finding single-issue voters willing to vote against their interests in return for attention to their prejudices. The more Democratic votes they can suppress, the fewer complete nutjobs they have to court.

BCC said... is simpler than 538, and you can dowload & run the (Matlab, I think) code.

538 is sizzle, Sam Wang is steak.

The site looks like hell now due to a (Sandy-related?) server crash or something, but the data's there.

Anonymous said...


No one tops the Democrats on voter fraud and manipulation, no one.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...


Oh, that is rich. You see the greatest threat to democracy being vanpools taking mentally handicapped people to the polls.

And your story is oh so typical--no evidence presented, merely assertions that someone must have "helped" these people, because of course they'd put an eye out if you gave them a pencil.

You want real fraud--how about miners in Nevada being forced to vote absentee by giving blank, signed ballots to their employer? How about voters being called and told the election has been moved a week later? How about black voters being called and told to stay home on election because their vote is not needed? How about workers' jobs being threatened if Obama is re-elected? All documented incidents.

And yet, you think the greatest threat to the Republic is a vanpool for the mentally handicapped. Wow!

Anon, has anyone told you lately what a reprehensible little turd you are?

Anonymous said...


Don't get mad, get angry.

You're a duplicitous ass.

Shall I continue to use Google on your behalf?

What a joke.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous Coward

From your link in the Huff Post

"A party spokeswoman said the Democrats were unaware of any complaints that they had registered someone who was ineligible. Spokesman Brannon Jordan said party volunteers go through extensive training."

"The Florida Department of Law Enforcement earlier this week launched an investigation into alleged fraud involving a company hired by the state's Republican Party."


Anonymous said...

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: "I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics."

Me too.

Unfortunately, as Jim Hansen notes

"Neither party wants to offend the fossil fuel industry.They want to win the election. And they know the power of the fossil fuel industry. You can’t turn on your television without seeing these advertisements about clean coal, tar sands, and the claim that there’s more jobs associated with fossil fuels than with other energies. That’s of course not true, but they’re hammering that into the voters heads. And so if anyone challenges the fossil fuel industry, they know they’re going to lose the money that they get from the fossil fuel industry. And secondly, they’re going to have the fossil fuel industry against them in the election...The politicians are not willing to say that we cannot burn all the fossil fuels without guaranteeing a different planet — and cheating our planet."


a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Anonymous asshat@4:40

Google all you want, as you have yet to come up with a link that supports your contention.

Is there someone there who could actually read and explain the articles to you? Maybe someone who has experience helping the mentally challenged?

J Bowers said...

Greg Palast's bestseller 'Billionaires & Ballot Bandits' now officially available to download for free.

cynthia said...

Silver correctly predicted the outcome of the 2008 election months ahead of time and was correct in his electoral college predictions for 49 of the 50 states.

You can smell the desperation from the right. Nate Silver is good with numbers, and what hurts even more is, he's honest. More than anything else, right wingers fear honesty.

Anonymous said...


I stand corrected a_ray you are not a duplicitous ass.

You are jsut an ass.

Wait you are a dumbass.

J Bowers said...


Hmmm, a book by Hans von Spakovsky, champion of the stricter voter-ID laws.

The Voter-Fraud Myth: The man who has stoked fear about impostors at the polls.

Von Spakovsky cites Robert Pastor, director of the Center for Democracy and Election Management, as a victim of election fraud. Robert pastor says, “I think they just mistakenly checked my name when my son voted—it was just a mistake.... I don’t think that voter-impersonation fraud is a serious problem.”

An interesting 6 page read.

Nick Dearth said...

thanks anon, i figured out how my googles work!

J Bowers said...

" percent of all voters who were investigated for voter impersonation was two ten-thousandths of one percent (0.0002%). There was not one single conviction of voter impersonation."

H/T Nick Dearth.

J Bowers said...

OT, sorry, but I think regulars here will find this interesting and a bit of uplifting relief.

"What happens if you give a thousand Motorola Zoom tablet PCs to Ethiopian kids who have never even seen a printed word? Within five months, they'll start teaching themselves English while circumventing the security on your OS to customize settings and activate disabled hardware. Whoa."

Anonymous said...

J Bowers,

Thanks for proving a_ray's hysteria about voter fraud wrong.

Appreciate the assist.

J Bowers said...

Anonymous, stop chuckling, my little chucky egg, the clue to your cognitive dissonance is in the words 'voter impersonation'.

J Bowers said...

Salon: Florida's disgraced former GOP chairman says the party had meetings about "keeping blacks from voting"

"I was upset because the political consultants and staff were talking about voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting."