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Statistician: After Researching Gun Violence, I No Longer Believe in Gun Control 

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‘The case for the policies I’d lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence.’

Allahpundit writes: Her name is Leah Libresco, formerly of Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site, where she crunched the numbers in a study of all 33,000 gun homicides in the United States annually. She went in thinking that the usual liberal menu of anti-gun policies would reduce that number dramatically. She came out concluding that “the only selling point [of those policies] is that gun owners hate them.” That’s an interesting way to phrase leftist conventional wisdom in an era when the right’s tribalism draws so much scrutiny. Often in the age of Trump it really does feel as though conservatism is defined as “whatever makes liberals cry.” Libresco’s takeaway on the efficacy of mainstream gun-control policies is that they’re appealing to the people who support them mainly to the extent they make gun aficionados cry.

Her advice? Instead of focusing on feelgood policies that won’t do much of anything to reduce gun violence or on massively heavy-handed policies like confiscation, which have zero chance of passing, instead consider policies that will address the social pathologies that drive the three most common forms of gun homicides — suicide, gang violence, and domestic violence.

Many of Libresco’s arguments will be familiar to right-wingers, but it’s one thing to endorse them as a matter of ideology and another to endorse them as a matter of hard data.

I researched the strictly tightened gun laws in Britain and Australia and concluded that they didn’t prove much about what America’s policy should be. Neither nation experienced drops in mass shootings or other gun related-crime that could be attributed to their buybacks and bans. Mass shootings were too rare in Australia for their absence after the buyback program to be clear evidence of progress. And in both Australia and Britain, the gun restrictions had an ambiguous effect on other gun-related crimes or deaths.

[Read the full story here, at Hot Air]

When I looked at the other oft-praised policies, I found out that no gun owner walks into the store to buy an “assault weapon.” It’s an invented classification that includes any semi-automatic that has two or more features, such as a bayonet mount, a rocket-propelled grenade-launcher mount, a folding stock or a pistol grip. But guns are modular, and any hobbyist can easily add these features at home, just as if they were snapping together Legos…

As my co-workers and I kept looking at the data, it seemed less and less clear that one broad gun-control restriction could make a big difference. Two-thirds of gun deaths in the United States every year are suicides. Almost no proposed restriction would make it meaningfully harder for people with guns on hand to use them. I couldn’t even answer my most desperate question: If I had a friend who had guns in his home and a history of suicide attempts, was there anything I could do that would help?

The last point is especially important. As horrendous as mass shootings are, by far the most terrible threat posed by guns is that they’re suicide machines. Read the rest of this entry »

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Plan Your Wednesday Morning Hangover

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…Trump leads in Florida by a minuscule 0.2 percent as I write this; in New Hampshire, it’s Clinton by 0.6 percent, and that’s helped along by the dubious 11-point lead she had in the WMUR poll of the state that was released this morning. The long and short of this is that if literally one more poll of NH were to drop showing Trump ahead by a few points, the average would shift and that state would probably also favor him very narrowly. And in that case, he’d be at … 270 electoral votes. He’s that close to being a perilously slight favorite to win the election per RCP’s polling averages. And note that RCP’s miss on Florida in 2012 involved a larger margin than either FL or NH are experiencing now. That year, Romney finished 1.5 points ahead in the Florida average and lost the state on Election Day by less than a point. Trump would be president with a more modest miss than that in New Hampshire this year.

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That said, there’s a question mark on this map. Observers of Nevada’s early voting like Jon Ralston swear that Dems have piled up enough ballots there to put the state all but out of reach for Trump, notwithstanding his lead in the polls. If that’s true then flipping NH on the map above doesn’t win it for him after all.

[Read the full story here, at Hot Air]

We end up with Clinton winning 274/264. And it’s not obvious which remaining blue state Trump could flip to tilt the election back to him. He’s already won Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and New Hampshire in this scenario. He’s close-ish in Michigan and Colorado, but they’re not as much of a coin flip as FL and NC are. Unless Ralston’s wrong about Nevada, even one of the rosiest maps for Trump still requires him to pull off one more major upset somewhere.

And this assumes, naturally, that you take RCP’s polling average as definitive rather than another site’s. Each election modeler chooses to include and exclude certain polls for their own reasons. Some, like FiveThirtyEight, choose to weight polls according to how accurate the pollster’s been in the past so that some polls count more than others. FiveThirtyEight currently has Clinton ahead by more than three points in New Hampshire’s polling average, making that state more durable for her; that being so, Trump is stuck at 266 even with Florida and Nevada in his column. The Upshot also has Clinton by three in New Hampshire and gives Clinton a better than 80 percent chance of winning the election. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Silver Discusses Clinton’s Polling Vulnerabilities Heading into Election Day

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Nate Silver Blinded By Gods For Seeking Forbidden Knowledge Of Future

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NEW YORK—Enraged by his public pronouncements regarding that which is yet to be, the almighty gods on high are said to have blinded political statistician Nate Silver this week as punishment for seeking forbidden knowledge of the future. “Any mere mortal who dares trespass into the realm of the Fates by making grand prophecies or electoral projections shall suffer swift and holy wrath,” said Sophioxis, a representative for the all-knowing deities, who added that Silver’s blinding should serve as a warning to all who might venture to aggregate various polling data, weight it by historical accuracy and methodological rigor, and seek visions into the veiled worlds beyond the present over which the gods hold sole dominion…(read more)

Source


Prediction: Nate Silver, 2:00 PM ET


Reality Check: Is an Ebola Flight Ban a Good Idea? Nate Silver Doesn’t Think So

editor-commen-deskIt’s exceedingly rare that I agree with an Obama administration decision (though the decision is infirm, and could be weaseled any way the wind blows over the next several weeks) but the increasing calls to impose an Africa travel ban strike me as reflexive, not founded on proven disease strategy. Unlike a lot of bellyaching conservatives, and a handful of election-panicked Democrats, I’m not convinced that declining to respond to pressure to impose a travel ban is a bad thing. And I don’t think it’s motivated purely by narrow political or economic interests. That said, I don’t claim to be informed enough to have a clear opinion either way. So this morning I saw this, and thought it might be useful reading.

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Nate Silver writes:

On Sept. 19, Thomas Eric Duncan boarded a flight in Monrovia, Liberia, possibly after having lied on a screening questionnaire about his contact with persons carrying the Ebola virus. The next day, Duncan arrived in Dallas to visit his fiancée and son. Initially complaining of a fever, Duncan would soon become the first person in the United States diagnosed with Ebola. Before dying of the disease on Oct. 8, Duncan would transmit it to two nurses, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, who treated him at Dallas Presbyterian Hospital.

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Duncan’s case has sparked calls to ban flights to the United States from the countries hardest hit by the recent Ebola outbreak — Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — possibly along with others in West Africa. While some of these APPROVED-non-stop-panicarguments have been measured, others seem to convey the impression there are thousands of passengers arriving in cities like Dallas each day from flights originating in these countries.

There aren’t. We searched on Kayak.comExpertFlyer.com and airline websites for direct flights from West African nations (as the United Nations defines the region) to destinations outside the African continent. Specifically, we looked for flights available for the week from Jan. 2 to Jan. 8, 2015, a time period far enough in advance that such flights are unlikely to have sold out.

There are no regularly scheduled direct flights to the U.S. from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone — and very few from other countries in West Africa. There are far more flights from West Africa to Western Europe instead. Duncan’s case was typical. Before arriving in the United States, he connected through Brussels.

Here are all the routes we identified:

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Our search may be missing a few flights here and there, but it ought to be reasonably comprehensive, especially for travel to and from the United States. Read the rest of this entry »


Is Hillary Clinton’s Messaging Strategy Straight from the 1988 Dukakis Campaign Playbook?

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Hillary Clinton: Dukakis in a Pantsuit? 

editor-commen-deskYes, I confess, this is mainly an excuse to use this really scary photo of Hillary. We already know what Mrs. Clinton looks like in a pantsuit. But how many of us know what it’s like to be that close to one of her eyeballs? Highlights from Jonah Goldberg’s weekly G-File. It includes a bonus excerpt from Jonah’s review of Piketty’s Marxist book (there’s no other thing to call it) and since it’s a book that even dedicated neo-Marxists only pretend they read all of, I imagine even some of them are taking Jonah’s word for it. See that full review, in Commentary, here.

For the article excerpted below, see the full text here.  (I suggest you read all of it, otherwise you’ll miss the joke about spoon-banging on a high chair). Anything else? Yes! Order Jonah’s book here.

…I have no doubt that Clinton likes data. When she was working on Hillarycare in the early 1990s she assembled hundreds of wonks collecting literally millions of pieces of data, filling filing cabinets like the warehouse in Indiana Jones. When a journalist asked her if she needed anything else, Clinton replied something like “just a little more data.” As if her entire Rube Goldberg machine would click into place and hum with perfection if she just got a few more columns of numbers on heart-bypass rates in Missoula.

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But just because Clinton likes data doesn’t mean this isn’t a crock. Oh, it’s savvy. But if her husband taught us anything, it’s that bullsh*tters can be savvy. First, all of this data talk is a brilliant way to exploit the “Big Data” fad in elite circles these days and subtly play lip-service to the liberal conceit that “facts have a liberal bias.” If she were running in the late 19th century she’d be talking about canals on Mars.tyranny-of-cliches

[Jonah’s book, The Tyranny of Cliches, is available at Amazon]

If she were running in the 1920s, she’d be saying “Engineering, Engineering, Engineering.” In the 1960s, she’d be saying “Plastics, Plastics, Plastics.” If she were running in 50,000 B.C. she’d be going around saying “Fire, Fire, Fire.” I talked about this a bit in my review of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century:

Marx tapped into the language and concepts of Darwinian evolution and the Industrial Revolution to give his idea of dialectical materialism a plausibility it didn’t deserve. Marx-TVSimilarly, Croly drew from the turn-of-the-century vogue for (heavily German-influenced) social science and the cult of the expert (in Croly’s day “social engineer” wasn’t a pejorative term, but an exciting career). In much the same way, Piketty’s argument taps into the current cultural and intellectual fad for “big data.” The idea that all the answers to all our problems can be solved with enough data is deeply seductive and wildly popular among journalists and intellectuals. (Just consider the popularity of the Freakonomics franchise or the cult-like popularity of the self-taught statistician Nate Silver.) Indeed, Piketty himself insists that what sets his work apart from that of Marx, Ricardo, Keynes, and others is that he has the data to settle questions previous generations of economists could only guess at. Data is the Way and the Light to the eternal verities long entombed in cant ideology and darkness. (This reminds me of the philosopher Eric Voegelin’s quip that, under Marxism, “Christ the Redeemer is replaced by the steam engine as the promise of the realm to come.”)

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But the more important point is that Clinton’s messaging gambit is an entirely obvious indictment of Barack Obama. The need for “evidence-based optimism” isn’t a shot at Republicans. It’s a shot at the guy who beat her out for the nomination in 2008 by running as the Pope of Hope. Read the rest of this entry »


Is There a Wonk Bubble?

Journalist, columnist, and blogger Ezra Klein speaks about President Barack Obama's signature health care law at the Families USA’s 19th Annual Health Action Conference in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Journalist, columnist, and blogger Ezra Klein speaks about President Barack Obama’s signature health care law at the Families USA’s 19th Annual Health Action Conference in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

No, but there’s a Pundit Bubble…

Felix Salmon writes: Call it the Wonk Bubble. If you’re in the market for serious, empirical, quantitative analysis of national policy—or of just about anything else in the news these days—the East Coast Media Elite has you covered like never before.

The Washington Post has Wonkblog, and its Facebook-optimized cousin Know More, and will shortly unveil a “storytelling and policy” project to be run by economics policy correspondent Jim Tankersley. Meanwhile, a large number of Wonkblog and Know More alumni, led by former Wonkblogger-in-chief Ezra Klein, just launched Vox.com, a much more ambitious (if not yet fully formed) website seeking to explain the world in a truly web-native manner.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Rise of the Libertarians

Republican Presidential Candidate Ron Paul Attends Townhall Meeting At U. Of Maryland

Duke Cheston writes: Much of the recent growth in libertarian activism emerged after Ron Paul’s 2008 failed presidential bid, when Jeff Frazee, Paul’s national youth coordinator, founded Young Americans for Liberty (YAL). Aided in part by the right-of-center activist training group the Leadership Institute and its team of field representatives, YAL now boasts chapters on over 380 campuses and a membership of some 125,000 students. Another libertarian group, Students for Liberty, has since seen exponential growth since its founding in 2008. At the end of 2008, there were 42 campus groups in the SFL network. By 2013, SFL claimed an affiliation with 930 groups worldwide: 767 in the U.S., over 100 in Europe, and a few dozen in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

David Deerson, who was the president of UNC-Chapel Hill‘s YAL chapter until he graduated in May, says that his personal story is a “microcosm” of the growth of the liberty movement on campus. When he arrived at UNC as a freshman, he sought out the student libertarian group. There were only about four people regularly attending the weekly meetings, and they didn’t do much in terms of activism. But by the time Deerson graduated, roughly 25 people attended weekly meetings, and the group–now a chapter of YAL–was winning awards for its activism.

Deerson credited the growth of the club to the training he received from Students for Liberty and to changing attitudes among students. A handful of studies lend credence to this view. A 2011 study by UCLA scientists found incoming students to have more liberal views, but only on social issues, meaning that there are more students who identify as fiscally conservative and socially liberal–in effect, libertarian. A 2012 survey by the Panetta Institute found that 30 percent of college students have libertarian beliefs. Indeed, the present time seems to be a “libertarian moment” for the entire country, as statistician Nate Silver has suggested.

Read the rest of this entry »


Panic is Delicious

…In the 2012 election, as long as Obama was inevitable, he was inevitable. Beyond the pundits, there was the emerging belief that the macro polling models of guys like Nate Silver could not be wrong. The basic message was, “Obamas certainty of reelection is so large entirely new domains of mathematics are required to state it properly.”

The arguments for Romneys election were always framed as, “Well, IF he wins Florida and IF he wins Virginia and IF Hillary is an Al Qaida sleeper agent and IF Biden is caught in a Delaware hotel room with a Guatemalan pan flute band and a non-consenting farm animal…then maybe theres a fraction of a chance.”

The political media declared Mitt Romney dead for thirty long days between the end of the convention and the debate. But somewhere in those thirty days, Mitt Romney was born again.  Hard.

You can see the fear in the Obama campaign now, as they careen from message to message, flailing, desperate for something – anything – to stick.

You can see their gyros tumbling as they slew from Big Bird to abortion to “Mitt Romney is a lying liar liarpants McLiar” to the walking disaster that is Stephanie Cutter every time she opens her mouth to the remarkable, bizarre interview the Three Divas Axelrod, Plouffe and Messina, obviously gave Mark Halperin this week. Their campaign is out of control, and they know it…

More (via Ricochet.com)