2011: “Are Talking Heads Blowing Hot Air”:
Students at Hamilton College sampled the predictions of 26 individuals who wrote columns in major newspapers and/or appeared on the three major Sunday television news shows (Face the Nation, Meet the Press, and This Week) over a 16 month period from September 2007 to December 2008. They used a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being “will not happen,” 5 being “will absolutely happen”) to rate each prediction the pundits made, and then they evaluated each prediction for whether or not it came true.
What did they find? Basically, if you want to be almost as accurate as the pundits they studied, all you have to do is a) root through the cushions of your couch, b) find a coin, and c) start flipping it. Boom! You are now pretty close to being a political genius. Only nine of the 26 pundits surveyed proved more reliable than a coin flip.
Using the students’ statistical methodology, the 26 pundits were broken down into three categories: “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” Here’s how they break down:
THE GOOD: Paul Krugman, New York Times (highest scorer); Maureen Dowd, New York Times; Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania Governor; Chuck Schumer, New York Senator; Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader; Kathleen Parker, Washington Post and TownHall.com; David Brooks, New York Times; Eugene Robinson, Washington Post; Hank Paulson, former Secretary of the Treasury
THE BAD: Howard Wolfson, counselor to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor/Fox News host; Newt Gingrich, eternal Presidential candidate; John Kerry, Massachusetts Senator; Bob Herbert, New York Times; Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC; Thomas Friedman, New York Times, David Broder, Washington Post (deceased); Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune; Nicholas Kristof, New York Times; Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State
THE UGLY: George Will, Washington Post/This Week; Sam Donaldson, ABC News; Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Senator; Carl Levin, Michigan Senator; Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Senator; Cal Thomas, Chicago Tribune (lowest scorer)
In their executive summary, the students note:
“We discovered that a few factors impacted a prediction’s accuracy. The first is whether or not the prediction is a conditional; conditional predictions were more likely to not come true. The second was partisanship; liberals were more likely than conservatives to predict correctly. The final significant factor in a prediction’s outcome was having a law degree; lawyers predicted incorrectly more often.”
As for the factor of partisanship, it certainly didn’t help pundits if their predictions were primarily based on who they happened to be carrying a torch for in the 2008 election — Lieberman and Graham, obviously, did poorly in this regard. The students noted that, “[p]artisanship had an impact on predictions even when removing political predictions about the Presidential, Vice Presidential, House, and Senate elections,” but I still imagine that this particular script may have flipped if the period of study was the sixteen month period between September 2009 and December 2010.
TODAY’S NEWS FROM (THAILAND) AMERICA:
Hooray for us! We win.
POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN (
After leaving Bill and Naida’s ranch, I spent two days with Stevie and Norbert Dall. Norbert is busy trying to write the definitive history or California’s coastal protection legislation. The amount of research he has done amazed me as did his memory of people, places and events during those times( over 30 years ago). I believe that Norbert and Stevie are probably along with Peter Douglass and perhaps Bill Geyer and Ruth Galanter the people with the longest continuous involvement with the coastal protection movement in California. In Ruth and Bill’s cases, however, for the past decade or so they have become much less involved.
As for Peter Douglass, but for the last 20 years or so controversial years as Executive Director of the California Coastal Commission, his impact on the course of things coastal has been mostly in his own mind. Peter was, by far, the earliest of all of those who have spent at least a portion of their careers in coastal protection. He worked as an aid to Senator Siroty during the failed attempts in the late 60’s and early 70’s to push coastal protection legislation through the legislature. He later attempted to take un-justified credit for drafting the initiative, known as Proposition 20 that was successfully passed by the California voters in 1972 and set up an agency to plan the future land use of the coast and regulate development so as not to impede implementation of the plan. During the period of Proposition 20, while I served as Chief Counsel for the Commission, as far as I could tell Peter’s involvement in either the planning or the ongoing regulation was almost nonexistent.
Following completion of the Coastal Plan in 1975 and the submittal of the proposed implementation legislation to the legislature, most of us active at that time were determined to keep Peter as far away from any decision-making and participation as possible. Nearly all of us believed that not only was he incapable of understanding the complexities of the Plan, the legislation and the political strategy that was developed, but he had shown a distressing tendency to urge weakening of the protections whenever opposition presented itself. I had assigned on of the Commission’s staff members to sit with him every day and make sure he did nothing more that edit the legislation.
After the passage of the entire Coastal Program, Peter again disappeared from any involvement and for a while busied himself in an unsuccessful attempt to find work in the private sector. Ultimately he took a job as a not so respected member of the reconstituted Coastal Commission staff. Finding himself ignored, he resumed his search for other work when a series of unfortunate events, including resignation of the existing executive director, he, to the dismay of many in the environmental community, was chosen to succeed the departing director.
Over several years of ineffective management, his removal many on all sides of the development process urged his removal. Fortunately for Peter, the development community, through the inept handling of the move to remove him by the then Republican Governor, pushed the most radical members of the environmental community to rally around him and defeat the putsch, and Peter the Wishy-Washy seeing which side of his bread was buttered was reborn as an anti-development crusader.
JOEY’S MYSTERY NOVEL:
Vince felt ager boil up within him as David burst through the door. But since David appeared highly agitated, he suppressed his urge to throw him out.
“What’s the matter, David,” he inquired as calmly as he could?
“This attorney, Seamus Cohen, that you want to hire. I think it is a very bad idea.”
“Why is that,” Vince said placidly while signaling Foster, who looked embarrassed and like he was ready to leave, to stay seated.
“I checked with some of my contacts, they say that while at the DOJ he was a loose cannon.”
“What does that mean in his case.”
“He was a laughing-stock. Both you and the firm will be also if you retain him.”
“I’m sorry David, I have already retained him and the executive committee voted to approve it.” Vince lied slightly. “Perhaps if you could be more specific, we would reconsider it.”
Kitchen looked a little startled, and sat in the other uncomfortable wooden chair, ignoring Foster’s presence.
“Ah well, of course my contacts did not give specifics, but they were adamant that he would embarrass you and the whole firm as well. He also has angered some of our most important clients with his shenanigans at DOJ and since.”
“Hmm… I see where that could be a concern. But he comes highly recommended to me. I will need a little more information before I reverse our decision. Perhaps you could have your contacts and concerned clients call me and give me the facts directly.”
“Dammit Vince, why are you so eager to hire this guy? Couldn’t you wait a few days until we vetted him?”
“Look David,” said Vince his voice getting a little higher. “I do not understand the issue here. He is my lawyer and suits my needs. You have provided me with no specific facts other that concerns expressed by your contacts that are inconsistent with mine.” Then for no reason that he could think of other than to throw our something to force Kitchen on the defensive. “Does this have something to do with that Yeung woman or the Brotherhood or Red Star? Do you know that I sent someone to fly up there to find Charlie and all he found it that Charlie is missing.”
Kitchen’s face darkened, whether from anger or embarrassment Vince could not make out.
“I thought we brought you back to manage the firm through its difficulties,” Kitchen drawled. “Why are you involving yourself in these matters Vince? They are a waste of everyone’s time.”
“That’s just it,” Vince responded his anger cooling slightly. “I am trying to get back to addressing the firm’s needs, That is what I am doing here with Foster, which you interrupted and why I intend to hire Cohen to handle these other things. It seems like every time I try to settle in and work on firm matters, you, Ms. Young, or Stephanie come along hinting at something mysterious about Red Star, the Brotherhood or whatever it is or even Sam’s death.”
“OK, ok, I get your point. I will get you something more specific about Cohen. I think you should avoid both Stephanie and that Yeung bitch. They both are time-wasters'”
“Probably, I have a meeting tomorrow with Stephanie. She says she has a lot to tell me. Maybe I’ll just blow her off.”
“That would be a good idea. I have to get back to work.” With that Kitchen left the office as abruptly as he came in.
a. Eponymous laws:
Shermer’s Last Law — A corollary of Clarke’s three laws, it states that, “Any sufficiently advanced alien intelligence is indistinguishable from God.”
b. Trenz Pruca’s Aphorisms, Apothegms, Epigrams and Maxims ( http:/trenzpruca.wordpress.com/):
“It is interesting to note how much easier it is today for a government to abandon its promises to its people but not to its creditors.”
c. The Mac Attack:
“Men act right only upon compulsion; but from the moment that they have the option and liberty to commit wrong with impunity, then they never fail to carry confusion and disorder everywhere. It is this that has caused it to be said that poverty and hunger make men industrious, and that the law makes men good; and if fortunate circumstances cause good to be done without constraint, the law may be dispensed with. But when such happy influence is lacking, then the law immediately becomes necessary.”
In other words, there is neither God, nor the mythical “Invisible Hand” of the self-correcting market to right things. It is up to us to create the laws that assure our society is what we wish it to be.
“He who has bathed in Christ, does not need a second bath.”
Jerome, you stinker, you.