Thursday, July 15, 2010

So It's Come to This

A links post.  Actual content will be returning in August, but for now, here are a few things I've been paying attention to lately.

Back in June, Nate Silver released a remarkably comprehensive and thoroughly transparent set of pollster accuracy ratings. The ratings are interesting enough on their own, but the reactions—especially from polling organizations on the wrong end of the list—have been fascinating. Silver has been accused of using faulty and/or concealed methods, threatened with a lawsuit, sharply criticized by John Zogby, and confronted by another disgruntled pollster armed only with embarassingly flawed logic.

Around the time of my last article, another Language Log post further analyzed the pressing question of whether Obama disproportionately favors the passive voice, and, if so, what sort of unfounded inferences can be drawn. A few days later, a similar load of nonsense appeared. This time, the question is whether Obama disproportionately favors the first-person pronoun (i.e. "I"), and, if so, whether that proves he's a narcissist.

And to return briefly to our regularly-scheduled unfair and unprovoked attack on conservatives, I'm amazed by this Fox News online poll, titled "Is the New Black Panther Party Racist?" Aside from a short summary of the voter intimidation fiasco, the question pretty much stands alone, free of annoying hyperlinks promising cumbersome information. The current results, after more than 19,000 votes:
  • 0.6%  No, this case has been blown out of proportion.
  • 2.1%  Some members clearly are, but the group doesn't condone racism.
  • 96.8%  Yes, there's no doubting the racism after cases like this.
  • 0.6%  I don't know.
I suppose I'm most upset because there's so little support for "I don't know," which is really the closest any of the choices come to being undeniably true.

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