Friday, January 11, 2013

Politics is stupid, or, Why I stick to charts and graphs

William Tucker has some responses from prominent libertarians – Mark Warden, Tim Condon, and Steve McDonald – to the earlier drama at Blue Hampshire. No surprise, they're about on the same level as Kathy Sullivan's original post.

All three imply that the comments came from liberals masquerading as Free Staters. Because, Free Staters are gentlemen!

I must be lucky. I know both of the two accused of posting anti-cop slurs. They're definitely not liberals, and it's something both would do.

Heck, even without knowing them, I'd be more surprised if Free Staters didn't post inappropriate slurs in that thread. If you're at all involved in the Free Stater community, there's no way you can miss the steady stream of these kinds of statements.

So the allegations from these three libertarians are so embarrassing and immature that it causes me pain.

Anyway, back to charts and graphs...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Blue Hampshire: Liberals Behaving Badly

Due to rampant incivility, often crossing the line into hate speech, there are a few New Hampshire political websites that I avoid discussing here. Free Keene and Blue Hampshire top the list. In fact, I stopped posting at Blue Hampshire for exactly that reason.

So I was stunned by a recent post by Kathy Sullivan at Blue Hampshire. It's titled Free Staters Behaving Badly (and I include the link reluctantly).

The charge?:
Back story: a Manchester right wing talk show host put a poll up on is web site for people to vote on who should be the person of the year for greater Manchester. A Manchester police officer, Dan Doherty, who was badly wounded but survived a shooting in 2012 was nominated, as was a free stater whom I’ve never heard of.

... One person, identified as Daniel Cuevas, called a murdered Manchester police officer a “pig”. Another, David Crawford, called Officer Doherty a “statist brute”, and referred to the website where the poll was posted as a “statist website.”

I don't agree with those comments, but... that's it? A few tasteless comments from some non-prominent, rank and file Free Staters? (And one of them isn't even a Free Stater!)

For comparison, let's read a comment from Blue Hampshire:
The state 2012 election is set to be a referendum on the extreme, hate-filled right-wing agenda of Bill O’Brien and his henchmen, including the Free State carpetbaggers.

Just a little hypocritical, right?

Actually, I lied. That wasn't a comment. It was a blog post. And not just any post— a post from one of the editors of the website. Naturally, it was promoted to the front page. (In the website layout of the time, posts started their life in a sidebar on the page, and only those posts deemed truly meritorious by the site editors were moved to the center of the page.)

And it doesn't end there, either. I actually pointed out that these statements were inappropriate and unprofessional. (Me! The neanderthal Free Stater!) The response was, predictably, more of the same:
[text lost due to website bug] to take over political institutions ALWAYS resent being called carpetbaggers. The Free State Movement is the purest example of such unprincipled self-promotion since the Civil War.
Calling you out on that is not a matter of hate.

Apparently, in enlightened liberal circles, "carpetbagger" is a purely descriptive term. As Steve Vaillancourt would say, "You just can't make this stuff up!"

On Blue Hampshire, these kinds of tasteless slurs occur constantly. They're the norm, not the exception. And they are posted by the most active and prominent members of the community. (Another Blue Hampshire editor, susanthe, is about twice as bad as Elwood above.) I can count the number of times a liberal poster has objected to them on two fingers. Neither of the two were Kathy Sullivan.

So when I read this recent post from Kathy Sullivan, and comprehend the level of hypocrisy involved, it is sincerely shocking to me. It's disgraceful, and it makes me ashamed to be a Democrat.

But that's par for the course at Blue Hampshire.

[Disclosure: Yes, I did move here for the Free State Project a long time ago. And it shouldn't matter.]

Friday, December 21, 2012

Learn 2 R

I've been using R regularly, for W-NOMINATE and for other things. It's a free, open source programming language created to perform statistical analyses, and it's very popular in some academic circles.

I never got a good introduction to it, though, so I'm excited to see that Coursera is offering a course, Computing for Data Analysis, which is all about using R. I will definitely be taking this, and I recommend it to anyone else who does statistical analyses on a regular basis.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Data is online

I procrastinated a bit, but the W-NOMINATE data for the NH House from 1999 - 2012 is now online at Google Drive, if anyone wants to look through it. I just uploaded the entire file straight from my computer, so it also contains helpful notes that I kept for myself, the programs I wrote to make the process more manageable, and some other things.

Next on the agenda-

1) DW-NOMINATE, a program that allows direct comparisons between legislative sessions. I finally found the program online, but I'm having trouble using it. I'll have to email Keith Poole about it.

2) Party influence comparisons.
Seth Masket's fantastic book No Middle Ground, which inspired my NOMINATE project, includes graphs comparing legislators' ideological positions with the liberalness (or conservative-ness) of their districts. The idea is to see who legislators represent -- their party or their district?

I made a similar graph in 2011 using New Hampshire LDI's, though I didn't post it at the time.

You would expect to see a straight diagonal line if legislators were perfectly representing their districts. If they were perfectly representing their parties instead, you would see two horizontal lines, one for each party. In this graph, it looks like they might be representing their districts more than their parties, though it's hard to tell. They don't seem to be representing anyone very accurately.

It would be nice to compare this through the years, but it'll take some work to get the data.

3) Senate NOMINATE scores. I have the data, so I will get the older state senate W-NOMINATE scores sooner or later.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Will filibuster reform help working families?

Liz Iacobucci at The New Hampshire Labor News argues that it will:
Progress Massachusetts looked closely at Scott Brown’s voting record and came up with 40 bills that would have passed the Senate – if they hadn’t been killed by a Republican filibuster.  The list includes: 
  • Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 (the original financial regulatory reform bill);
  • Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act;
  • Emergency Senior Citizens Relief Act of 2010;
  • American Jobs Act of 2011;
  • Rebuild America Jobs Act;
  • Middle Class Tax Cut Act of 2011; and
  • The Buffett Rule (a 30% effective tax rate on income exceeding $1 million).
All of those bills would have passed the Senate – if they had ever gotten to the floor for a vote.

If you've ever studied game theory, though, that conclusion seems a lot less persuasive. Republicans are almost certain to change their legislative strategy in response to the new rules. The outcome in this scenario is impossible to predict without more information.

Sarah Binder at The Monkey Cage puts it this way:
It’s tough to turn on a new rule and  calculate the effects that are likely to follow because it’s hard to know how senators will react.  A new rules regime—particularly one curtailing the right of extended debate under Rule 22—could encourage senators to aggressively avail themselves of every procedural avenue in the Senate rule book for obstructing the Senate.  For instance, the minority could become less likely to agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed, preventing the majority from calling up bills high on its agenda.  Or senators could become more aggressive in the demands they make on a leader as a condition for signing onto consent agreements.   Both scenarios suggest that filibuster reforms could bring  unintended consequences.

If labor sympathizers want to help working families, they'll have to do it the old-fashioned way – by swaying public opinion and helping to elect more liberal politicians.

14 years of the New Hampshire House (in W-NOMINATE)

This is based on data taken from the General Court website, which only provides the most recent party affiliation of each legislator, so some legislators in earlier years may have incorrect party labels.

Watch as the middle slowly erodes. Independent and hybrid representatives are disappearing, too, another sign that party activists are gradually exerting more control over elections.

Friday, November 23, 2012

New Hampshire is "Pulling Apart"

According to a new study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, though we're doing better than most other states.

This is the best I could do with their .pdf flier (you can find the original at the link):