Politics


November 6, 2016: 11:41 am: Politics

For the past two US presidential elections I’ve compared the results of the Iowa Electronic Markets two days before election day.

In 2008 and 2012 I posted what the market predicted and waited to see how it would do. In each of those elections the market predicted accurately within a few percentage points of the actual vote.

In fact the IEM has an excellent track record going back to 2000 when it accurately forecast Gore winning the popular vote and Bush winning the election.

The dynamics of this year’s election have been unusual and many polls in the primaries proved to be inaccurate. Can the IEM keep its streak even in 2016?

Let’s review the past numbers and then see what the IEM says today, two days before election day.

Two days before the 2000 election

Who will win
Al Gore – 27.3%
George Bush – 74.9%

Vote Share Prediction
Al Gore – 49.6%
George Bush – 49.4%

Actual result
Al Gore – 48.4%,
George Bush 47.9% – Winner

Two days before the 2004 election

Who will win
George Bush – 55.2%
John Kerry – 45.3%

Vote Share Prediction
George Bush – 51.7%
John Kerry – 48%

Actual result
George Bush – 50.7% – Winner
John Kerry – 48.3%

Two days before the 2008 election

Who will win
John McCain – 11.2%
Barack Obama – 88.3%

Vote Share Prediction
John McCain – 47%
Barack Obama – 53.5%

Actual Result
John McCain – 45.66%
Barack Obama – 52.92% – Winner

2 days before the 2012 election

Who will win
Mit Romney – 29.1%
Barack Obama – 71.8%

Vote Share Prediction
Mit Romney – 48.0%
Barack Obama – 52.8%

Actual Result
Mit Romney – 47.2%
Barack Obama – 51.1% – Winner

2 days before the 2016 election
Who will win
Donald Trump– 29.3%
Hillary Clinton – 70.5%

Vote Share Prediction
Donald Trump– 45.3%
Hillary Clinton – 57.5%

Actual Result
Donald Trump- 46.1% – Winner
Hillary Clinton- 48.2%
[[For the first time only one vote share was correct, and winner not correctly predicted]]

November 4, 2012: 12:08 pm: Politics

On November 5, 2008 I wrote a post calling attention to the predictive markets. Intrade has since caught a lot of public attention, but I was writing then about the Iowa Electronic Markets, and I still prefer them. Three races is far from statistical validity, as good as they have been, so this year’s a chance to add another data point. Can they make it a fourth good prediction? Let’s review.

Two days before the 2000 election

Who will win
Al Gore – 27.3%
George Bush – 74.9%

Vote Share Prediction
Al Gore – 49.6%
George Bush – 49.4%

Actual result
Al Gore – 48.4%,
George Bush 47.9% – Winner

Two days before the 2004 election

Who will win
George Bush – 55.2%
John Kerry – 45.3%

Vote Share Prediction
George Bush – 51.7%
John Kerry – 48%

Actual result
George Bush – 50.7% – Winner
John Kerry – 48.3%

Two days before the 2008 election

Who will win
John McCain – 11.2%
Barack Obama – 88.3%

Vote Share Prediction
John McCain – 47%
Barack Obama – 53.5%

Actual Result
John McCain – 45.66%
Barack Obama – 52.92% – Winner

2 days before the 2012 election

Who will win
Mit Romney – 29.1%
Barack Obama – 71.8%

Vote Share Prediction
Mit Romney – 48.0%
Barack Obama – 52.8%

Actual Result
? – We’ll find out Tuesday.

January 18, 2012: 2:41 pm: internet, Politics

To our representatives in Congress.

Please join your fellow representatives in opposing Representative Smith’s “Stop Online Piracy Act” and Senator Leahy’s “Protect IP Act”.

There is no credible evidence that this act is necessary. None. The Government Accountability Office has stated that it is “difficult, if not impossible, to quantify the net effect of counterfeiting and piracy on the economy as a whole.”

http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-423

Recent studies have shown that the big content industries seem to be weathering the current recession better than other industries.

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/11/piracy-problems-us-copyright-industries-show-terrific-health.ars

Copyright law is meant to encourage creativity. There is no evidence that creative output has declined, in fact with the freedom of the Internet, we see a flowering of creativity and access to publication never before witnessed. A survey study by Felix Oberholzer-Gee of the Harvard Business School found that “data on the supply of new works are consistent with the argument that file sharing did not discourage authors and publishers” from producing more works.

http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/09-132.pdf

In addition SOPA and PIPA may in fact be unconstitutional.

Elrod v. Burns (1973) states: “If the State has open to it a less drastic way of satisfying its legitimate interests, it may not choose a legislative scheme that broadly stifles the exercise of fundamental personal liberties.”

http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=15626322637942632899&hl=en&as_sdt=2&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr

SOPA and PIPA go far beyond being the least drastic way to limit copyright infringement.

I am a media creator. What I need from my Congress is protection against malware. I need a reduction of spam. I need support for better Internet infrastructure. These are important problems that I wish Congress would address. I do not need SOPA or PIPA.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Tom Merritt
Citizen of California
District 6

February 13, 2010: 11:00 pm: economics, Politics

I’ve been reading a bit about Distributism, a ‘third-way’ of thinking about economics. It is different from Socialism or Capitalism in that it discourages large accumulations of property (not capital), but encourages private property in as many hands as possible. G.K. Chesterton summarized it as “Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.”

This strikes a chord with me, especially in the tech space. Bloggers, Podcasters, Startups, etc… are good example of distributed property owners. Certainly they have investors in many cases, but not always. And they own their own means of production. I find the idea of encouraging wide property acquisition, but discouraging oligopoly, quite fascinating.

If you take away the prospect of owning your own property, then you undermine many motivations for industry. However, if you take away the prospect of owning everyone else’s property, or owning large disproportionate amounts of property, you do little to discourage personal industry.

Let’s say I want to be rich. I do not want to be megalomaniacal rich necessarily. If I think I can be rich, but not ridiculously rich, I will continue to work hard.

But what happens if I become rich? Will I still be motivated to industry? Human nature testifies against this. Most who have the motivation to become rich maintain the motivation to keep it. And most who become rich agree that the money no longer matters after a point. It becomes a game they can win. That’s what motivates them. Money is just a convenient scorekeeper.

There are other ways to keep this score than money. And the money number once irrelevant can be lower and still motivate.

This is not a defense of Dsitributism, nor do I think the philosophy is without flaws. But I think we could benefit quite a bit from an injection of this perspective into our current debates, and our ways of doing business.

July 4, 2009: 11:46 am: 20Questions, Politics

Grand Union FlagAs the United States celebrates the declaration of its independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, I have, as I often do, reviewed the Declaration of Independence to see how much of it seems to apply to the federal government today.

Some things such as taxation without representation, quartering of troops in private residence and such is far far gone. Other points, such as the interference with justices, or control of trade, may not be literally true today, but has a parallel. But I still found seven counts I think could be argued to apply.

So to demonstrate, I have altered the declaration to be against the federal government, changing the “Him” that referred to King George, to an “it” referring to the government, all three branches mind you. And the final section declaring independence was altered to reflect an imaginary state where the individual states severed ties with eh federal government. It’s not a call to arms, but merely an exercise in identifying how tyranny can creep back into any system if we are not vigilant.


When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these states; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present US Government is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

It has refused its assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

Here I refer to constant illegal behaviour by representatives and judges. I mean the kind found at trial, not just accusations. Also implied here is the assertion of multiple previous Presidents that laws do not apply to them.

It has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

Not one many people complain about anymore, but the government has pursued policy of limiting even legal emigration. See the H1B visa controversy with the tech companies as an example. When Microsoft talks of moving a plant to Canada to get around immigration laws, it’s this grievance they’re stating.


It has made judges dependent on its will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

A bit of a stretch here, but there has been a disconcerting movement to express the will of executive and legislature in the justice system. These assertion of activist judges, pushes to impeach judges you don’t agree with. And lots of talk about limiting compensation. I suppose much of it is just talk, but it’s a concern. The judiciary is less independent than it used to be and much more politicized. It began with FDR and has just gotten worse.


It has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

Need I explain?


It has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

Mostly only the first half is true. It has kept standing armies now for decades. The national guards are often used only to the irritation of their state governments, rather than entirely without their willing consent.


It has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

All but true. The government has isolated the military from civilian oversight more and more with the justification that it would weaken the military to do otherwise. Exactly the same argument made by the crown in the 1700s.


It has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving its assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:
For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

Two parts here. one is the United Nations movement and foreign treaties that are unpopular in the US could qualify for this grievance. Another is the US citizens being accused and tried in Guantanamo and in the secret European camps. We always think of those as only foreigners but a bare scrap have been Americans, decreed to be treasonous and therefore stripped of their rights.


For abolishing the free system of US laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

Another stretch, though without much stretching, Gunatanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan could all qualify. None are nearly as democratic as the US currently is. The rest is just the paragraphs justifying independence. I’m not sure if the 7 articles above would justify the rhetoric below, but I kept it in for completion.


In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A government, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our Federal brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these states, solemnly publish and declare, that these united states are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the US government, and that all political connection between them and the Federal government, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

November 5, 2008: 2:12 am: Politics

This year was special. I’ll admit that I am a fan of elections. I love to watch the race and see how things play out. And I tried throughout to hold my feelings in check. I tried to keep my perspective and my skepticism. Many previous Presidential candidates have promised much.

But in the end, I think this year was different. We saw the first viable female candidate who almost won the nomination. She was only trumped by another historic first African-American nominee. We saw a man wronged by dirty campaigning and lies in 2000 rise above his party’s pettiness and extremism to seize the nomination. We even saw our second female Vice Presidential candidate.

Our two presidential candidate were both unique. Both sincere men. John McCain is someone who truly has gone his own way, defying his party when he felt they were wrong. He is a man of conscience and integrity as shown many times when his own party tried to get dirty about his opponent, even right up to his concession speech. Barack Obama is a competent, intelligent man who can inspire in a way few since Reagan have been able to.

With President-elect Obama’s victory, my feeling is one of hope. Hope that he can fulfill the expectations of a man who can truly bring the country together and bring it forward. That he can capitalize on the goodwill the world has immediately shown us on his selection. These are huge expectations to meet. I hope and pray they will be met. Our country needs this. Our world needs this.

November 2, 2008: 5:38 pm: Politics

Two days before the election, I call upon the media to dump the polls. Forget the discussions of the Bradley effect or the reverse Bradley effect and go to something that while not infallible, has proven much more reliable than polls. Look at the predictive markets!

Predictive Markets allow people to put real money on the outcome of the election. The two most popular are the Iowa Predictive Markets and Intrade.

I am going to review two markets from the Iowa Predictive Market over the past two Presidential elections. One is called vote share, where market participants attempt to nail what share of the vote the candidates will get. The other is called Winner Take All. this is simplest, where you put your money on who you think will win.

Two days before the 2000 election

Vote Share Prediction
Al Gore – 49.6%
George Bush – 49.4%

Winner Take All
Al Gore – 27.3%
George Bush – 74.9%

This market had it almost dead right. Al Gore got 48.4%, George Bush 47.9% but Bush won.

Two days before the 2004 election

Vote Share Prediction
George Bush – 51.7%
John Kerry – 48%

Winner Take All
George Bush – 55.2%
John Kerry – 45.3%

Again very close on the vote count which ended up with George Bush getting 50.7% and John Kerry pulling down 48.3%

So where does the current election sit in the predictive market two days before the 2008 election? As of this writing here are the figures.

Vote Share Prediction
John McCain – 47%
Barack Obama – 53.5%

Winner Take All
John McCain – 11.2%
Barack Obama – 88.3%

Remember that the markets only predict what is likely to happen if the vote were taken at that moment. So the day of the election is the day to watch. Of course, it’s possible that the predictive market could suffer it’s first major error. If not, it looks right now, as if Barack Obama will be the next President.

September 7, 2008: 2:17 pm: Politics

Every Presidential election year brings out the hypocrisy in everyone. Otherwise we wouldn’t have fantastic sites like Factcheck.org or . All candidates try to put one over on the people in some measure. Some through outright lies, some through innuendo and some through cleverly marshalled facts.

So the common reaction and complaint heard over the past few decades is that the candidates don’t focus on the issues. The fact of the matter is, issues can be found much easier than ever before. All candidates have websites where they state their beliefs and proposals. Plenty of third-party websites exist to collect what the candidates have said and done over the years. So what is it that US citizens wish for?

I think the dilemma comes down to the nature of decision-making. Research indicates that emotions play a large part in our decision-making process. Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio studied people with brain damage that affected their ability to generate emotions and found their ability to make decisions seriously impaired. Research at the University of Iowa found that lesions of the amygdala disrupted emotional conditioning, and lesions to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex caused diffculty with conflict situations. In both cases subjectes had seriously impaired decision-making abilities.

This is why we struggle so much at election time. This is why so much negative campaigning and lying and spreading of fear works in helping candidates win. Happiness seems much harder to inspire than fear, so the negative campaigning intends to prey on our emotions and sway us. Lying is handy in setting up a candidate as a perfect embodiment of the friend or neighbour we trust.

The key then, is not to try to take the emotions out of the equation, but to understand our own emotions. Are they inspired by a substantial grounded reason, or have we been manipulated by clever turns of phrase, lies, music, appearance, etc. Once you recognise that emotion is going to sway your decision no matter what you do, you can prevent yourself from being manipulated, or at least manipulated easily.

The people of the US aren’t dumb. They’re just not taking into account the reality behind what’s swaying their decisions. I think a key to changing how elections are conducted and eliminating some of the things we all agree are counterproductive to a democracy, lie in teaching people to be more critical of how they are being led. If we as a people learn to look through the fog and identify our own feelings, we have a chance at clearing up many, certainly not all, but many of the tactics that ave lead to a deeply divided electorate, that seems subject to shallow almost immature ploys of influence.

On a personal note this is why I join no party and identify myself as nothing politically. For me, politics is not a sports team. I will not give undying allegiance to any group or organisation. I hesitate to even call myself an Independent as many make claims to represent that and turn it into a party of its own. I will do my best to educate myself on what the candidates say they believe, what they have done, and how they attempt to manipulate me. I hope you will too.

July 6, 2008: 11:23 am: Politics

I have decried in this space before the new disrespect for the citizenry displayed by the US government. The need to tap the phones of our own citizens in order to protect them, echoes the arguments of tyrants down the ages. The government knows better how to protect you. Trust the government. If you’re not doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about. Would you rather be safe, or free? I find the casualness in which we ignore the law (a specific 1978 law that says even the president, wartime or not, needs to show that he’s not spying on innocent people, and that the subjects are in fact foreign agents) disheartening. This extends not just from the administration’s position but the corporations tat aided in the wiretappig as well.

However I was given new hope by our presidential candidates. Both John McCain and Barack Obama stood for liberty. Obama was the more vitriolic in his rhetoric, raging against the illegal wiretaps. McCain simply stated the reasonable fact that the President must obey the law. Now they both have changed their minds

Senator Obama has decided to vote for a Senate bill that expands the somewhat dictatorial power of the monarch we still call President. He explained that it is a compromise. That before this bill the President had no oversight and at least this bill delivers some. However, the President was not following the law before, why should we expect future presidents to follow the law either? We have effectively said the President can do as he sees fit, and we’ll patch up the law afterwards to fit the actions.

Senator McCain has also expressed support for the bill. His campaign has feverishly explained that while McCain said the President must always follow the law, that was not meant to imply the current President had broken it. While not as big of an about-face as Obama this still comes off as back-sliding.

Whether Obama or McCain takes office in January either will be able to spy on any foreign transmission he wants for whatever reason he wants with only a yearly bulk judicial review for oversight. Any spurious wiretapping can be easily hidden int hat kind of system. If the President wants to tap the NRAs or the ACLUs calls overseas, he’ll be able to and nobody can stop him.

I would plead with our Congress to change their minds, and I do. But I feel its useless. The same bull-mindedness that led us into Iraq is now leading us into the foothills of tyranny. So instead I beg the citizens to speak out. If you value your liberty, speak out. If you prefer the safety of a dictator to protect you from your enemies, stay quiet. This is a ral choice that is actually happening right now.

January 31, 2008: 11:08 pm: Politics

Lou Dobbs has immigration as his big issue. This disappoints me. Lou claims to be a vigorous independent who gives nobody a free pass. I believe he is an independent. And I love the idea of an aggressive independent who can give the lie to O’Reilly AND Keith Olberman. But immigration as the rallying issue is a disappointment for me. The issue I feel needs most attention from independents is election reform.

In the United States we don’t directly elect our President. And even if we did, the candidates for president are selected by a legally protected primary system that assures that only two parties have a candidate with a real chance of winning the presidency. Granted a Ross Perot or Ralph Nader can have an effect from time to time, but even those stalwarts have little real chance of winning.

We need to eliminate the electoral college and eliminate legal protections for the two-party system. We also need to eliminate the practive of gerrymandering and develop a fair process of redistricting. Granted prejudice will always exist in drawing these borders but we can do so much better than we do now.

Beyond that I believe proportional representation deserves exploration.

You can learn a lot more about real election reform at Fairvote.org.

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