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Quotes of the day: Nate Silver
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Published Tuesday, January 12, 2016 @ 10:01 PM EST
Jan 12 2016

Nathaniel Read "Nate" Silver (born January 13, 1978) is an American statistician and writer who analyzes baseball and elections. He is currently the editor-in-chief of ESPN's FiveThirtyEight blog and a Special Correspondent for ABC News. Silver first gained public recognition for developing PECOTA, a system for forecasting the performance and career development of Major League Baseball players, which he sold to and then managed for Baseball Prospectus from 2003 to 2009.

In the 2012 United States presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, Silver correctly predicted the winner of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)

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A lot of journalism wants to have what they call objectivity without them having a commitment to pursuing the truth, but that doesn't work. Objectivity requires belief in and a commitment toward pursuing the truth- having an object outside of our personal point of view.

A lot of news is just entertainment masquerading as news.

Actually, one of the better indicators historically of how well the stock market will do is just a Gallup poll, when you ask Americans if you think it's a good time to invest in stocks, except it goes the opposite direction of what you would expect. When the markets going up, it in fact makes it more prone toward decline.

Almost everyone's instinct is to be overconfident and read way too much into a hot or cold streak.

Caesar recognized the omens, but he didn't believe they applied to him.

Distinguishing the signal from the noise requires both scientific knowledge and self-knowledge.

Every day, three times per second, we produce the equivalent of the amount of data that the Library of Congress has in its entire print collection, right? But most of it is like cat videos on YouTube or 13- year-olds exchanging text messages about the next Twilight movie.

Every four years in the presidential election, some new precedent is broken.

I don't play fantasy baseball anymore now because it's too much work, and I feel like I have to hold myself up to such a high standard. I'm pretty serious about my fantasy football, though.

I don't think that somebody who is observing or predicting behavior should also be participating in the 'experiment.'

I prefer more to kind of show people different things than tell them 'oh, here's what you should believe' and, over time, you can build up a rapport with your audience.

I think it's odd that people who cover politics wouldn't have any political views.

If you have reason to think that yesterday's forecast went wrong, there is no glory in sticking to it.

If you're keeping yourself in the bubble and only looking at your own data or only watching the TV that fits your agenda then it gets boring.

In politics people build whole reputations off of getting one thing right.

On average, people should be more skeptical when they see numbers. They should be more willing to play around with the data themselves.

People attach too much importance to intangibles like heart, desire and clutch hitting.

People don't have a good intuitive sense of how to weigh new information in light of what they already know. They tend to overrate it.

People gravitate toward information that implies a happier outlook for them.

People still don't appreciate how ephemeral success is.

Success makes you less intimidated by things.

The key to making a good forecast is not in limiting yourself to quantitative information.

The problem is that when polls are wrong, they tend to be wrong in the same direction. If they miss in New Hampshire, for instance, they all miss on the same mistake.

The public is even more pessimistic about the economy than even the most bearish economists are.

The thing that people associate with expertise, authoritativeness, kind of with a capital 'A,' doesn't correlate very well with who's actually good at making predictions.

The way we perceive accuracy and what accuracy is statistically are really two different things.

There's always the risk that there are unknown unknowns.

We must become more comfortable with probability and uncertainty.

We want to get 80%-85% of predictions right, not 100%. Or else we calibrated our estimates in the wrong way.

We're living in a world where Google beats Gallup.

We're not that much smarter than we used to be, even though we have much more information - and that means the real skill now is learning how to pick out the useful information from all this noise.

You don't want to influence the same system you are trying to forecast.

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(January 13 is also the birthday of Ernie Kovacs.)


Categories: Nate Silver, Quotes of the day


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"I reject your reality, and substitute my own."
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Published Thursday, November 08, 2012 @ 3:00 AM EST
Nov 08 2012

That famous quote by Mythbuster Adam Savage is, simply, the reason why the Republicans were handed their lunch on Tuesday.

Here are two essays which address the issue in a sane, rational manner. The videos that follow, from last night's Daily Show, are a bit more... bombastic.

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Ohio really did go to President Obama last night, and he really did win. And really was born in Hawaii. And he really is legitimately President of the United States. Again. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not make up a fake unemployment rate last month. And the Congressional Research Service really can find no evidence that cutting taxes on rich people grows the economy. And the polls were not skewed to over sample Democrats. And Nate Silver was not making fake projections about the election to make conservatives feel bad. Nate Silver was doing math. And climate change is real. And rape really does cause pregnancy sometimes. And evolution is a thing. And Benghazi was an attack on us. It was not a scandal by us. And nobody is taking away anyone's guns. And taxes have not gone up. And the deficit is dropping, actually. And Saddam Hussein did not have Weapons of Mass Destruction. And the moon landing was real, and FEMA is not building concentration camps. And UN election observers are not taking over Texas. And moderate reforms of the regulations on the insurance industry and the financial services industry in the country are not the same things as Communism.

Listen. Last night was a good night for Democrats and liberals for very obvious reasons. But it was also possibly a good night for this country as a whole. Because in this country we have a two party system in government. And the idea is supposed to be that the two sides both come up with ways to confront and fix the real problems facing this country. They both propose possible solutions to our real problems. And we debate between those possible solutions. And by the process of debate, we pick the best idea. That competition between good ideas from both sides about real problems in the real country should result in our country having better choices, better options, than if only one side is really working on the hard stuff. And if the Republican party and the conservative movement and the conservative media are stuck in a vacuum-sealed door-locked spin cycle of telling each other what makes them feel good, and denying the factual lived truth of the world, then we are all deprived as a nation of the constructive debate between competing feasible ideas about real problems.

Last night the Republicans got shellacked. And they had no idea it was coming. And we saw them in real time, in real humiliating time, not believe it as it was happening to them. And unless they are going to secede, they are going to have to pop the factual bubble they've been so happy living inside... if they do not want to get shellacked again. And that will be a painful process for them, I'm sure, but it will be good for the whole country, left, right and center. You guys, we're counting on you. Wake up. There are real problems in the world. There are real knowable facts in the world. Let's accept those and talk about how we might approach our problems differently. Let's move on from there. If the Republican party and the conservative media are forced to do that by the humiliation they were dealt last night, we'll all be better off as a nation.

And in that spirit, congratulations everybody.

- Rachel Maddow

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If You're Surprised By The Election Results, You're The Reason You Lost, Or: A Plea for Useful Republicans.

Dear Republicans:

I know the despair you feel this morning, and sympathize, because I've been there. In 2004 my stiff, robotic millionaire lost to a President he should have soundly thumped, and I was so hurt I took a week off from the Internet afterwards. I am completely sympathetic with that slow terror that the country is now in the hands of an incompetent, and the voters don't even know it.

But I noticed a weird difference between the way Republicans and Democrats reacted to a losing candidate. In 2004, when the polls turned against Kerry and it was obvious he was going to lose, the Democrats asked "How can we fix that?" Oh, they asked in their glum, incompetent way, but when I personally talked to other Democrats both in real life and online, we were all pretty cognizant of the fact that Kerry was the underdog.

The Republicans of 2012, however, became increasingly convinced that Romney was going to win.

Everywhere I looked on Twitter and Facebook, I saw my Republican friends- not straw men, but actual people- talking about how terrible Nate Silver's methods were, how these Rasmussen polls showed Romney's real strength, and eventually you got the travesty of UnSkewedPolls.com, which cherry-picked the data and even today has their prediction of not just a Romney win but a landslide, Romney 311 to Obama 227. (Actual result: Obama 332, Romney 206.)

It all crystallized for me when my friend Brad Torgerson said, "Liberals and Democrats have Nate Silver and his 538 blog. Conservatives and Republicans have the U of CO guys. It's an epic cage match of predictive numbers geekery!"

Look there. Right at that post- one not too dissimilar from a thousand other dismissals of Nate Silver and the other aggregated polls. See what Brad did there? The way the guy bringing you news he didn't like was automatically assigned a partisan bias, and the only rational solution was to get a guy on your side with better numbers? As if reality was merely a function of getting enough guys on your side?

That's why you lost.

Stop confusing hard reality for partisan opposition.

It's time to step out of the bubble, dear Republicans, because we fucking need you. I don't trust the Democratic party to run the country single-handedly. I want a Republican party I can rely on for real solutions- and you've become lazy, voodoo-like, dismissing any data you don't like as partisan opposition.

Jay Lake is fond of saying, "Reality has a liberal bias." That's not because reality inevitably verifies liberal thinking, but because the Republican response to anything that challenges them is now to write off the data.

And let me repeat: we need you. I want a counterweight to Democratic power, not a deadweight that refuses to acknowledge the issues. I want a Republican party that will look at the numbers for climate change and not go, "I don't like what those scientists are saying, so I'll call it a silly liberal bias!" but say, "We're business experts, we know how to motivate rich people to do what we want, how do we fix this?" I want a Republican party that will realize while yes, we're spending far too much and should cut down, the results of thirty years of trickle-down theory and tax cuts won't actually provide enough revenue, because we are at the lowest effective tax rates we've had in thirty years.

And yes, you can argue all my statements here. But in that, smart person, you're like a driver with an SUV in Alaska. A person with a car in Alaska is going to get stuck in the snow eventually; that's a fact. But if you have an SUV, you're gonna get stuck way the heck out in the woods where no one can get at you, because you have the strength to do it and won't stop when common sense tells you to. I had a ton of Very Smart friends dissecting all the reasons why Nate Silver was wrong, why his methodology sucked, why these pollsters who said what they liked over here had better ways of slicing the data- and all that flurry of so-called "facts" amounted to was an elaborate justification of personal biases that had no basis in reality.

It's time to stop fighting the obvious. It's time to stop assuming that anyone who presents contradictory data is out to get you.

You should have won, guys. You had a President with an economy in the doldrums, a guy who'd lost a lot of his electoral mojo in the realities of politics. But instead of rising from the grave, you chose a candidate who never actually gave us firm numbers on what expenses he'd cut to fix the economy. You chose a candidate who said he'd get rid of Obamacare, but never actually named the parts he'd destroy. You chose someone who, though all politicians lie, lied a lot more than almost any modern Presidential candidate.

You had a guy who should have sliced Obama to ribbons- and he lost, in large part, because he said, "Trust me" instead of giving us a plan. And you let him get away with it.

You let him get away with it because you're indulging in a great deal of magical thinking. You let him get away with it because facts have ceased to matter; as long as someone tells you something you want to hear, you'll find a way to justify it with pseudo-science and trust and spit and baling wire. You don't like to hear how bad a candidate Mitt was, because you came so close this year, but it's true; the problem is that so much of the country has abandoned listening to reality that you can get massive votes and never touch a fact.

If you can't be honest today, in the aftermath of this great defeat, then you're never going to see the truth.

If you seriously thought that Romney had a good chance of winning, then you're part of the problem. Wake up. I implore you: learn from this. Look at your deepest beliefs, and see whether the numbers support them. Start thinking, maybe those people with data I don't like are right.

If you think the lesson to be learned is "We weren't conservative enough," then you're handing me a great victory in 2016. I want to have a real choice then.

Love,
T.F. (The Ferret)

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Megyn Kelly teaches Karl Rove the power of scientific gobbledygook.

"If only President Bush could have been so lucky as to have a massive hurricane on his watch, then... oh, right..."

It's just arithmetic.


Categories: Barack Obama, Bill O'Reilly, Chick-fil-A, Daily Show, Elections, Fox News, Hypocrisy, Jon Stewart, Karl Rove, Megyn Kelly, Mitt Romney, Nate Silver, News Media, Politics, Rachel Maddow, Sarah Palin, The Ferret, YouTube


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