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Nate Silver’s forecasting model: partisan hack-job or garbage

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Nate Silvers forecasting model partisan hack-job or garbage

Nate Silver is the founder of FiveThirtyEight, a widely known data analysis website. And while the website has a widely reputable reputation for quality infographics, it may be time to question the credibility of its founder and data analysis. America’s top political research (gambling) website PredictIt sent this message to its members.

You all know Nate Silver, the famous prognosticator and founder of fivethirtyeight.com. Great guy. Except that he just called you “dumb”.

Okay, not exactly, he said prices on PredictIt are dumb. And it’s true there are some markets where your expectations and his are a bit out of whack.

For example, you’ve got the GOP at 58% to win Arizona’s Senate race. Nate is at only 38%. You’re pricing Claire McCaskill at only 39% to keep her Missouri Senate seat. Nate is much more confident at 57%. And, the Democrats to win the House? He thinks it’s nearly a foregone conclusion at 88%. You’re hedging your bets at 72%.

So who’s right? We’ll know that later today. In the meantime, are you comfortable being called “dumb”? If not, get back on the site and vote with your money. Or maybe you want to take the advice of an expert and hedge your bets.

This was great motivation to check out the current prices the day of the election. If you are unaware, PredictIt operates a stock market model. The price of a pick is what the last person paid for it. It’s putting your money where your mouth is. Digging deeper, FiveThirtyEight has a unique algorithm applied to polls and even non-polling factors for its more premium models. In contrast, a free market betting system is the aggregate of how likely people think this event will take place. So here’s the question: is the free market of election betting more reliable than the data analysis of Nate Silver and his infrastructure?

The answer is unequivocally yes. Nate Silver’s predictions were aggressive and extremely bearish on Republican candidates. The midterm results were anything but the historic Blue Wave we’ve been hearing about for two years. In the two Senate examples from the email, we saw Josh Hawley unseat Claire McCaskill with greater ease compared to the far tighter expectations of the Senate race in Missouri. We also saw Martha McSally ahead in a tight Arizona race.

Here Nate Silver explains that his model gave the Democrats an 18% chance at gaining control of the Senate. In my previous analysis Mapping the Senate in the midst of midterms elections I explain what the Democrats would have to do in order to achieve majority.

At a glance, the GOP already secures 49 seats, two fewer seats than what they currently hold. A Democratic majority would require the Democrats to win all 9 toss up races along with securing the competitive races that aren’t tossup. The Democrats max out at 51, maybe 52 if they drum up some rape allegations on Ted Cruz; it’s approaching that time in the race if they are going to do that. In contrast the Republicans max out at 59, all of the tossups and a W in both New Jersey and Michigan.

Giving these events an 1% chance is preposterous. If you had parlayed those odds, you would have become rich. A $100 parlay on the Democrats winning the Senate races in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, and Nevada would yield $2036.35 according to odds found on Newsweek. Throw in Beto and the Blue Wave would have paid off over $10000. These odds come with an implied probability of 4.68%. This isn’t even all that the Democrats would need to win. Somehow, FiveThirtyEight had 18%, which was within 1 standard deviation of his model’s prediction. My Bookie had either -700 or -800 line on the GOP maintaining the Senate, in the 88-89% probability that the GOP retains the Senate, placing the Democratic control outside of one standard deviation away from their average.

And while boasting his mediocre system, Silver then proceeds to make woeful partisan hot takes.

(Uses popular vote)

(Neglects fact that Beto had $60 million dollars that could have gone to more viable campaigns, major celebrity endorsements, media attention. Such high cost for such a low reward.)

And then Silver reposts his shameless defense of polling. There a two specific fallacies. the first being that national polling has weight on Congressional or Presidential elections. In fact his defense uses national polling, and the results from such to average out the more volatile state results, when the state results in 2016 were the second most deviant results in his data set, the first being the disastrously polled 1980 presidential election. Secondly, Nate Silver defends polling by saying that polls predict the outcomes of races overwhelming majority of time. This is true, however, most political races aren’t competitive. Incumbents generally get reelected. So getting it right majority of the time is an easy accomplishment. It was fairly obvious Corey Stewart was not going to win in Virginia. Saying that polls got this right is unproductive. The thrill in predicting elections is in the competitive races.

In Silver’s Classic and Deluxe forecasts, he employs non-polling method, which of course include generic ballot polling… But his ratings here were flawed. In Florida, he gave a 1.6 fundraising advantage to Bill Nelson in one of few races where the GOP senate candidate had a bigger warchest, data if evaluated properly would have accounted for outside spending as well. The generic Ballot entitle Nelson to a +7.2 advantage. The overall advantage for these non-polling factors was 7.2 in Nelson’s favor. The Deluxe Model also employs experts who were more aggressive in their Nelson picks. This model gave Nelson a 73% chance of victory. My Bookie had this race even (50%). PredictIt was more bullish towards Scott. No fancy algorithm, just a collective intuition and a fiduciary desire.

The Classic model showed Mike Braun with a 28.2% chance of winning, Joe Donnelly’s performance outside of a reasonable margin of error. The same classic model gave the greatest edge Claire McCaskill (56.9%) in a race most had much tighter. For people financially invested, Josh Hawley was likely to win, a more aggressive prediction than could be derived from only polls. My Bookie had Josh Hawley’s moneyline at -160, an implied probability of nearly 62%. This race was easier to predict than Florida, Nevada, or Arizona, and Nate Silver still got in wrong, though his Deluxe Model which factored outside experts had Hawley winning. Out of all the tossup Senate races, Silver got Nevada correct, Arizona still pending. Nevada, as I pointed out was the second easiest seat for Democrats to flip, though this was before Kyrsten Sinema’s comments surfaced. Admittedly, I had Dean Heller winning. Jackie Rosen’s victory is hardly a bracket buster in an election where I foresaw GOP Senate gains. In the DeSantis race, Gillum was projected to win more aggressively than warranted, given his overtly corrupt nature as a candidate, but to mitigate the damage towards Silver’s credibility, My Bookie had DeSantis at +150 (40%). Upsets happen. Sometimes the 40% happens, but My Bookie foresaw the upset happening at nearly double the rate that Silver.

It’s time to admit, as a society, that Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight and his forecasting model is either partisan hackery or well animated garbage. Or perhaps, it is both because why assume the two options presented are mutually exclusive. If Silver really believed PredictIt’s prices were dumb, then the Arizona and Missouri races were bargains and he should have bought. Perhaps if Nate Silver put his wallet where his mouth was, he would have created a better model. But without such incentive, due shaky ethical grounds, he can continue operating his below average model, being celebrated as an expert to a partisan leftist media because he aggressively and incorrectly forecasts their favorite candidates to win.

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Economy

To those who don’t care about the national debt, consider this

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To those who dont care about the national debt consider this

The national debt has been growing dramatically for decades. It’s so great that most Americans seem to dismiss it altogether; if we haven’t been harmed by it already, it obviously can’t hurt us, right? This sort of “head in the sand” thinking is why lawmakers refuse to tackle it. As long as the people don’t seem to care, why should they?

It’s time to care. It’s been time to care for a while but the collective ignoring of it has brought it to the level that now, in 2018, we are nearing the point of no return.

Why? Because the astronomical interest is now going to noticeably affect how the government operates. We’ve spent years pretending like the interest isn’t a big deal even though it was growing to unsustainable levels during the Clinton administration. Now, we’re seeing it reach levels that are tangible. Why? Because the cost to cover it is now great enough that other areas are going to need to be cut.

In 2017, the interest on our debt was $263 billion. That’s 6.6% of federal government spending. We’re on track to spend more on interest than Medicaid in 2020 and more on interest than defense by 2023. Let me repeat that:

By 2023, we will spend more in interest on the national debt than we spend on national defense.

Normally, we can take CBO predictions with a grain of salt because they’re usually off (see Obamacare predictions for CBO’s epic failures) but this one relies on simple math. Even in a humming economy with the best case scenarios in play, you can’t overcome interest without paying down the debt.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans have any intention of paying off the debt. This is why candidate Trump went from promising to pay off the national debt in eight years, then ten years, then paying part of it off, then finally proclaiming himself the “king of debt” – all within the period of one month on the campaign trail.

To get the national debt in line will require an ironclad commitment backed by irrevocable legislation that spans two- to four-decades. It means entitlement reform, budget limits, cutting entire agencies and possibly even departments, and commitments to rein in all forms of discretionary spending.

In other words, the only way to get the national debt to a manageable level – not even getting it to zero but somewhere much lower than it is – would require commitments by politicians that none of them are willing to make. Oh, there might be a couple of Senators and a handful of Congressmen who would embrace such measures, but even those ones won’t buck the system to the point that they’d push hard for it without a mandate by voters.

We are the only hope for the very near future. If Americans don’t care that our tax dollars are being used to pay interest on the mountainous debt that has been accumulated in recent years, let alone the debt that preceded it, then we shouldn’t expect politicians to care, either. This can has been kicked down the road for decades, but the road is coming to a very abrupt end soon. It’s beyond unsustainable. We’re on the verge of collapsing under the weight of our own mistakes.

As long as voters ignore the national debt, neither party will pay attention to it, either. We will drown in our own ignorance if we don’t act soon. In the past, they said the debt will affect our children and grandchildren. Now, the debt is starting to affect us.

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Entertainment and Sports

Hey Kansas: If you get Les Miles, the funny quotes come free

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Hey Kansas If you get Les Miles, the funny quotes come free

The Kansas Jayhawks have had a rough football season. They’ve had several rough football seasons. Today’s loss to the Oklahoma Sooners showed a spark of offense for a team that may not be as bad as their record indicates. They also got some good news on the coaching front.

Les Miles may be coming to Lawrence.

The coach that won a national championship with LSU and helped put Oklahoma State on the college football map may try to do the same for the Jayhawks if rumors turn out to be correct.

Beyond being a great coach, Miles has built a reputation for saying some of the funniest things to the press. Here’s one of my personal favorites:

“When I wake up in the morning and I turn that film on, it’s like reading a book and it’s exciting. I don’t read books, but if I read books it would be like reading a book.”

I do hope to see Miles coaching at KU. They need him. The Big 12 needs him. Football fans in general need him.

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Foreign Affairs

State Department denies claims MBS involved in Khashoggi killing

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State Department denies claims MBS involved in Khashoggi killing

Yesterday, reports were flying across the news wire that the CIA had concluded Saudi Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The State Department issued a statement today denying the claim, stating no conclusion has been reached.

My Take

This is a lie. The State Department has seen and heard the mountains of evidence. The various cover stories put forth by the Saudi government have been hollow and debunked. They aren’t investigating further. They’re simply buying time and hoping other stories will help sweep this one under the rug.

Either MBS is so incompetent and disrespected that members of his own team went behind his back to murder someone, or he gave the order. The fact that Saudi Arabia wants us to buy the “rogue killer” is absolutely pitiful.

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