Sunday, September 30, 2012


christy moe got married! we celebrated!!

christy is in the center.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

jobs update

alright, so since my last jobs update, i've applied to more jobs! hoping to be professoring in one of these places, soon...

McMinnville, OR

yes, please! 

San Antonio, Tejas

Yee hAw.

DeKalb, IL


Amherst, MA


New York City

i could live here.

Claremont, CA

and i wouldn't hate staying in SoCal...

Elon, NC

Picture perfect

Norfolk, VA


Monday, September 24, 2012

political haaaaay (is for horses)

it's been a busy couple of weeks in American politics.

I wont blog too much about the Romney 47% comments because i feel like thats just beating a dead horse--is there any aspect of his comments that haven't been dissected and analyzed over the last week?

yes, he failed to apologize to those he offended.
yes, the very 47% he was talking about include senior citizens, military personnel who have served in combat zones, as well as the very poor, all of whom make up many of the Republican states that he needs to win the election.
yes, he is in trouble.

i think he had the opportunity to quiet everyone down by giving a sincere apology. he failed to do that, and so the pile on continues.

politics is a funny game. sometimes an apology or "flip-flop" will destroy your campaign, and other times it can save it. but having a hardline "no apology" motto (coincidentally, the title of a book by Mitt) is not the way to go. i think a successful politician recognizes that some situations warrant an apology, while others might not. For example, Bill Clinton, in the aftermath of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, issued an apology for lying to the American people. what i am not sure many people know, is that his poll numbers went UP after this fact. in sum, his popularity amongst Americans increased, after the exposé on his lie, and subsequent VERY public apology.

but being a good "politician" is not the same as being a "leader;" in many respects, it is the very opposite. it's a shame, because the political processing in the US can eliminate potentially awesome leaders, on account of their failure as "politicians."

i think some of Romney's supporters might argue this describes Mitt; while his opponents would argue he's actually quite a slick opportunist. I actually tend to disagree with the naivete Mitt defense...

i've written about Romney, before, because I thought he was a good man and a true representative of the people, when while governor of Massachusetts he bucked the party line, and was a genuine trustee type of representative, doing the biddings of his constituents. his actions as governor were something he then had to run against to get the more conservative GOP presidential nomination. i defended him again as a representative of his constituents--now running for the GOP nomination, he would be representing a much more conservative group of people. this ideological swing won him the dreaded "flip-flop" label. i argued that was unfair.

but now i see each of his moves and positions (or lack their of) as too cautious, and his campaign is losing any ground it once had, as a result. we can blame the media for shining undue light on his gaffes, but his responses are equally as damning, in my opinion.

and i havent even commented on his wacky 2011 tax returns.!

anyways, the election is far from over, and it doesnt look like Mitt or Republicans are going to throw in the towel, so a lot can still happen.

(p.s. i'd like you to notice what i did here in this post, with the horse theme: buck, hay, etc. i am really quite fun.)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

presidential forecasting

one of the questions i am asked most often, once people find out i am a political scientist, is "so who is going to win the election?"

i'd love to get asked this question if i knew the person asking had a good 30 minutes to talk about it; but we are usually at a party or public gathering, so i just say a name, and if they disagree, ITS THEN that they want to hear why.. .but certainly only in 1 sentence, maybe 2.

but the fact is, political scientists are in the business of explaining, and some might say predicting, so its a fair question to ask me. and the particular political scientists who take on elections are "forecasters."

when i became hip to the term "presidential forecasting" in grad school i thought id definitely want to be able to call myself that. but beyond the gender variable i've blogged about, briefly, i never got into developing models to forecast elections. its already a thick subfield, and at least 10 forecasting models currently exist (in that they have been peer reviewed and published in academic journals), if that tells you anything about the certainty of each one [read: not very certain].

forecasting models are statistical models that take into account a number of variables to predict the outcome of elections. each model differs slightly, but most always consider economic performance variables, like unemployment numbers and the GDP. this speaks to that well known quote from Clinton's campaign manager, James Carville, in 1992, "its the economy, stupid." but its not actually ALWAYS the economy, and many of the models that rely solely on economic variables don't fair too well, and predict with accuracy maybe 50% of the time. especially this year, when unemployment has been pretty high for a while, and is in fact lower than it was (while still being high), i can see the public acclimating to high unemployment numbers, for instance. also, my generation has come accustomed to an uncertainty in employment, and thus salary, and so changes in salary may be seen as a sign of the times, instead of a consequence of an Obama presidency. i dunno, yo. im just spit-balling as to why i think these variables may not carry the weight they once have. i know many of you readers (like, 3 out of the 10 of you) may disagree.

but even beyond models that consider too few variables, or only economic ones, there are other problems with forecasting.

for instance, the best criticism of forecasting models that i have heard recently comes from Nate Silver, a baseball turned political statistician with the NYT. he said:
Some political scientists have obfuscated the problem (intentionally or not) by treating the data the models used to fit their equations as tantamount to actual predictions – in essence, claiming credit for “predicting” the past. (Here’s a tip: I have a model that says you should bet a lot on George Mason to make the Final Four in 2006. You’ll make a fortune. Now you’ll just have to get your hands on a time machine.)
in essence, with a knowledge of the past, it can be easy to design a model that predicts an outcome we've already witnessed. but a model's real strength comes from predicting the future, you guys.

that comment from Silver came in light of a published paper by 2 political science forecasters at CU-Boulder whose model "predicts" the last BILLION (or whatever) years of elections, and also predicts a Romney win this fall. with that sort of claim, i can see why these political scientists received national attention.

SO, their model uses unemployment numbers and changes in personal income, to predict the last 8 number of elections, and also that Romcom will win the 2012 election. what is more, according to their model, which uses their variables on a state by state basis, he will take 10 of the 13 swing states (but not New Mexico, Nevada or Michigan). For me, as someone who studies public opinion, it seems absurd that Romney wouldn't win his home state of Michigan, or Nevada, which is chock full of Mormons. so at first glance, with no empirical analysis of my own, i already call bull. The Boulder guys have said they would update their model this month... but if unemployment hasnt changed, their model won't either. for the reasons i mentioned, regarding NV and MI, i see flaws with relying solely on economic measures. can't you foresee a situation where someone votes against their economic interests, because of race, or religion? if you cant, i suggest you read Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas. in fact, i will let you borrow my copy.

on the other side of the coin, forecasters like Silver have been criticized for relying too heavily on public opinion polls, which can fluctuate quite substantially, in the wake of scandals or storms, for instance. but i tend to gravitate toward these measures, when it comes to presidential election prediction, because while "its the economy stupid" is valid, i think the "can you have a (root)beer with the guy" also factors in to people's voting decisions (like it or not), and so polls are also important variables to consider.

(of course whether or not you want to have a beer with an incumbent might have a lot to do with whether you're employed, so now we have a problem of endogineity, and IM NOT GOING TO GO THERE IN THIS BLOG, OKAY?)

OKAY, so to get back to the question i so often get asked "who is going to win the election?"... i would like to wait and see how the media talk about the candidates, once both of the conventions have finished. i believe the media is a very powerful apparatus, and have a big impact on whether or not unemployment, or likability, will be on the minds of voters, when they go to vote. in my world of research, media are king (media are plural, grammatically, so doth that suggest an Oligarchy??)... so i think they will play a big role in who comes out on top in november.