Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What Presidential Polls Should You Trust?

Posted By on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 6:51 PM

I've noticed a recurring conversation among some MemphisFlyer.com commenters about presidential polls. I'm here to tell you there are lies, damned lies, and polls. And if you put all your argumentative eggs in one poll's basket, you're liable to end up with yolk on your face when November 7th comes around.

The first thing to remember is that not all polls are created equal, or, more accurately stated, their methodologies are vary widely. Some polls, for example, use recorded messages via auto-dial, which means they can't call cellphones. These polls have to make a lot more phone calls to get a decent sample size, since most people hang up as soon as they hear a recorded message.

Some polls are conducted online. Some polls use real live people making real live phone calls. So how do you know which polls to trust? You don't. That's why smart commenters and armchair pundits use a polling aggregator, a website that polls the polls, adjusts for variances of sample size and historic tendencies, and publishes an average of all the polls.

There are number of good sites to check out. My favorite is fivethirtyeight.com, Nate Silver's nerderiffic blog that offers more polls and poll analyses than you can shake a cellphone at. Silver was on the money with the electoral results in 2008 as an independent blogger. The New York Times then hired him to do the same schtick for its website. Highly recommended info on not just the results, but also the methodology of polling.

Another good aggregator site is RealClearPolitics. RCP is seen by many as leaning GOP, but that, IMO, is primarily because they call lots of states "tossups" that other aggregator sites put in one or the other candidates' column. Silver, for instance, only has seven states that he considers still to be tossups. RCP has 11 such states, including several deemed by most polls to be in Obama's column: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, to name three. However, in 2008, RCP came the closest of any polling organization to the actual national popular vote percentages for McCain and Obama, so I don't discount them.

One thing almost all aggregator sites will make obvious by their comparisons is that Gallup's national popular vote survey is an outlier — way out of line with almost every other poll's results. That said, putting any stock in any national popular vote poll is a sucker's bet. The only numbers that matter are the Electoral College totals. And at this point, the only states that matter are the tossups, however you define them. Most aggregators have Obama ahead in the majority of swing states, and one or two points behind in the national popular vote. Which is much better for him than the other way around.

If you look hard enough, you can eventually find an aggregator that will make you feel good about your candidate's chances. For example, when I'm feeling a little discouraged, I just go here. I call it my "happy place." It'll have to do until November 7th.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Memphis Voter Photo-ID Drama Gets Heated

Posted By on Sat, Oct 27, 2012 at 9:42 AM

Things are really heating up in the battle over voter photo-IDs in Tennessee, as evidenced by this dramatic picture in today's Commercial Appeal. Wowsers.
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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Appeals Court Rules Memphis Library Cards are Acceptable for Voter ID

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2012 at 1:48 PM

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has given the city of Memphis a victory of sorts, ruling Thursday that city library cards could be used as a valid photo-ID to vote. The court upheld the state's photo-ID law, however.

Early voting is already underway for the November 6th election, but the court ruling indicated that voters could begin using the library cards "immediately."

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Justin Timberlake Ties the Knot

Posted By on Sun, Oct 21, 2012 at 3:37 PM

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fat Possum: The New Destin?

Posted By on Thu, Oct 18, 2012 at 11:52 AM

As a fly-fisherman, I always enjoy getting away to the Little Red River in Arkansas. Two hours and change from downtown Memphis, and I'm standing in a cold, crystalline stream surrounded by abundant birdlife, beavers, chirping frogs, and circling dragonflies. Occasionally, I even catch a rainbow or brown trout.

For the past few years, I've been staying at a place called Fat Possum Hollow, owned by a former Memphian, Maurice Lipsey. A few years back, Lipsey left the city life behind and purchased a couple hundred acres on the Little Red near Heber Springs. In the intervening years, he's built cabins (nine, at last count) that he leases in various short and long-term time-share arrangements that depend mostly on how much time you want to spend on the river each year.

The cabins are great, close to the water, but Lipsey added another touch: He built a BYOB "bar" in the ramshackle old barn on the property. It's filled with Memphis Tiger memorabilia, old Press-Scimitar and CA clippings, old Memphis photos, etc. If there's a Memphis game on television, it'll be playing on the TV at Maurice's place.

In the evenings, the place is filled with fly-fishermen and their families. Kids and teens play pool and ping-pong or run around outside while the adults crowd the bar. And everyone, it seems, is from Memphis. As one woman told me: "This is the new Destin."

To me, that's not a compliment, but I knew what she meant: FPH is a Memphis-centric vacation spot. I'm sure Maurice wouldn't mind if I mentioned his phone number, so if you're interested in checking out the place, call him: 501-362-7738. Here are a few pics I shot last weekend:

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Maurice at the "bar"
  • Maurice at the "bar"
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cashiola Leaves City Hall Job

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2012 at 11:42 AM

Former Flyer senior editor Mary Cashiola, who has been working as the city of Memphis' media relations officer for the past two years, has resigned to take a position at Sullivan Branding.
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In an email released by the mayor's office, Cashiola wrote: "Serving as the city's media relations contact has been a joy and a privilege, and it is with mixed emotions that my time in city government has come to an end."

Cashiola will serve as corporate communications manager at Sullivan. We at the Flyer wish her continued success.

Flyer Office Gecko Now in Captivity

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2012 at 8:34 AM

Over the past few weeks, there have been numerous reports in the Flyer office of a mysterious "lizard" roaming the halls — and desks and cubicles. Those who have seen him swear he's real. Those who haven't seen him think their co-workers are delusional.

This morning, I arrived early and headed back to the breakroom with an empty mug, planning to make a little coffee. Imagine my surprise when I looked down and saw this little fellow (lady?) slithering along the baseboard.

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After a prolonged struggle, I was able to subdue the creature and get him into my mug. I plan to release him back into the wilds of our office later today, because if lizards run free, why can't we?

UPDATE: Several co-workers who saw "the" lizard earlier have told me that the beast they saw was much larger, perhaps 5 inches in length, leading me to believe that there is a reproducing family of geckos living among us.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Caption Contest 2: The Winner!

Posted By on Thu, Oct 11, 2012 at 11:34 AM

The responses to this week's photo caption contest were a bit, er, desultory. The fault is mine, I think, for choosing a photo that didn't inspire you readers. However, commenter Jeff did not let that deter him. He sent along a visual entry, which I now declare this week's winner. Congrats, Jeff!
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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pro-Life Tennessee Congressman Urged Abortion for His Mistress

Posted By on Wed, Oct 10, 2012 at 10:58 AM

Ho hum. Another day, another story about hypocrisy.
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Fourth District Tennessee Congressman Scott DesJarlais, who is also a physician, has had some embarrassing revelations come to light concerning his marriage and one of his former mistresses.

The most damning details come from the transcript of a phone conversation DesJarlais had with a mistress, a former patient, in which he urged her to have an abortion. Needless to say, DesJarlais, who was elected to Congress in 2010 as a Tea Party Republican, is stridently 'pro-life.'

Details — and lots of them — can be found at the link above.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Caption Contest! Week Deux

Posted By on Tue, Oct 9, 2012 at 1:07 PM

Here's this week's official BruceV Blog caption contest photo. Have at it.
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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Caption Contest!

Posted By on Tue, Oct 2, 2012 at 4:50 PM

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Mitt Romney visited a Chipotle Grill in Denver Tuesday, then posed with the staff. I don't care what your politics are, this is pretty funny.

Caption Contest! Keep 'em clean and funny. Winner (decided by me) gets a $40 gift certificate to a local eatery.

Go.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Blackburn: Libya Worse Than Watergate

Posted By on Mon, Oct 1, 2012 at 11:51 AM

Tennessee Seventh District Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn appeared on Fox News Sunday and offered this assessment of the administration's handling of the recent attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya:

I think this is an issue — Benghazi-gate is the right term for this. This is very, very serious, probably more serious than Watergate.

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That's correct. Blackburn contends that the U.S. UN ambassador's initial misreading of the Libya embassy attack as part of the Arab world's riots in response to an anti-Muslim film is on a par with the Watergate scandal.

You remember the Watergate scandal, right? It led to the impeachment and resignation of President Richard M. Nixon, and involved Nixon administration officials approving a criminal break-in and wire-tapping at Democratic party headquarters.

The parallels are so obvious. On one hand, we have an initial misinterpretation of events by an administration official, one that has subsequently been corrected and acknowledged. On the hand, we have a U.S. president condoning a criminal act of breaking and entering by his own operatives, then authorizing an official cover-up.

Why, they're almost mirror images of each other. History repeating itself.

No wonder Mike Huckabee is calling for the president's impeachment.

Just one question: What planet do these people inhabit?

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