Our Failed Media Experiment In Action

A while back, I noted that if our sports media, who actually deal with reality, results, statistics, were to cover our election races, we would be better off. Example #97 billion:

“Anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a tossup right now is such an ideologue, they should be kept away from typewriters, computers, laptops and microphones for the next 10 days, because they’re jokes.”

The above words are those of Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. He’s talking about Nate Silver, the statistics wizard whose FiveThirtyEight blog is licensed by The New York Times, and who writes for The Times frequently online as well as in print. Mr. Silver also has a desk in The Times’s newsroom.

As the presidential campaign veers around the clubhouse turn and zooms into the homestretch, Mr. Silver is very much in the public eye.

For months now, he has been predicting that President Obama has about a 75 percent probability, give or take a few points, of winning re-election on Tuesday. He uses an algorithm – some call it a secret sauce — that combines the numbers in public opinion polls and produces a result that he then turns into a prediction.

That has endeared him to liberals and Democrats, just as it has infuriated conservatives and Republicans. Mr. Silver himself has said that he supported Mr. Obama in 2008 but his work tends to focus on numbers, not policy and politics.

***

So on Thursday, frustrated and irritated, Mr. Silver challenged Mr. Scarborough to a wager in a Twitter message — $1,000 to the Red Cross. (The offer later climbed to $2,000.)

If Mr. Obama wins, Mr. Scarborough pays up; if Mitt Romney wins, Mr. Silver does the same.

 So far, Mr. Scarborough isn’t biting on the offer and I could not reach him for comment Thursday.

In a phone conversation, Mr. Silver described the wager offer as “half playful and half serious.”

“He’s been on a rant, calling me an idiot and a partisan, so I’m asking him to put some integrity behind it,” he said. “I don’t stand to gain anything from it; it’s for charity.”

He added that he is feeling the strain of being under attack and vulnerable to criticism as Election Day approaches.

“It’s a high-stress time,” he said.

I can understand and sympathize with that.

But whatever the motivation behind it, the wager offer is a bad idea – giving ammunition to the critics who want to paint Mr. Silver as a partisan who is trying to sway the outcome.

It’s also inappropriate for a Times journalist, which is how Mr. Silver is seen by the public even though he’s not a regular staff member.

“I wouldn’t want to see it become newsroom practice,” said the associate managing editor for standards, Philip B. Corbett. He described Mr. Silver’s status as a blogger — something like a columnist — as a mitigating factor.

Granted, Mr. Silver isn’t covering the presidential race as a political reporter would.

Maybe because he is a statistician and not a political reporter… We’ve all seen what happens when numbers guys become political pundits. Chuck Todd and your well-trimmed face mullet, I am looking at you. At any rate, that’s the NY Times public editor, Margaret Sullivan, concern trolling Nate Silver. Noticeably absent, any analysis of the real numbers or statistics or any attempt to refute Silver’s predictions. Fortunately, our sports media are on the ball. Here’s DeadSpin:

In case you haven’t been hanging around the benighted corners of the political internet lately, there’s an idiotic backlash afoot against Nate Silver, the proprietor of the FiveThirtyEight blog who made his name as one of the sharpest baseball analysts around.

With the election just a few days away, analysis based on state poll aggregation—Silver’s included—suggests that Barack Obama is a heavy favorite against Mitt Romney. The president holds a slight but strong lead in key electoral states. This doesn’t sit well with many political pundits, who insist that the outcome is anyone’s guess and headed down to the wire. Many of these people have directed their anger toward Silver, whose New York Times-hosted blog has predicted a strong probability of an Obama victory since June. They insist he is biased or sloppy in his methodology, even though they seem unaware of how he makes his predictions and of statistical analysis in general. They say—and I’m not kidding—he’s too gay for this sort of work.

In retrospect, we should’ve seen it coming. It was only a matter of time before the war on expertise spilled over into the cells of Nate Silver’s spreadsheets. In fact, in some ways it had already. Turns out that nothing could have prepared Silver better for the slings and arrows of a surly and willfully obtuse pundit class than working on the fringes of sportswriting over the past decade.

***

The political media hate precision: No one tunes in to a boring horse race. The volatility of day-to-day polling allows them to explain how the contest (in which, till recently, no actual votes had yet been cast) has been lost and won and lost again with each news cycle—an endless series of decisive revelations and foundational truths about the candidates or the public. If the narrative had followed Silver’s and Wang’s graphs, there would have been little to no hubbub over Bain’s outsourcing, “You didn’t build that,” the 47 percent, or the first debate. And what fun would that be? Both the Romney and Obama camps are happy to play into the toss-up narrative, as Obama needs his presumed majority to actually go to the polls on election day, and Romney wants to give his base confidence and hope. It’s the rare thing that everyone can agree on this year. (That and coal. Everybody fucking loves coal.)

The baseless criticisms also illustrate how many political pundits proudly display their quantitative ignorance. In the Scarborough article, Politico’s Dylan Byers offered this breathtaking analysis:

What matters for Silver is that the president wins and that he ends up with a total number of electoral votes somewhere in the ballpark of whatever Silver predicts on the afternoon of Nov. 6. And even then, you won’t know if he actually had a 50.1 percent chance or a 74.6 percent chance of getting there.
Maybe you won’t. Forecasts should be judged on their processes, not their results. If Mitt Romney wins the election, Silver won’t necessarily have been wrong (for one thing, he’ll look a lot better than Wang). He’ll only merit criticism if the results show that he made improper inferences, such as a skewed voter turnout model or a flawed weighting algorithm.

Read the whole Deadspin piece, read the whole NY Times piece, and tell me- which one was more informative, and which one is just more of the same fail we get from the media every single fucking day. The difference in the deference to facts and analyses as opposed to feelings and village think is both breathtaking and heartbreaking.

(ht for the Deadspin piece from Brad Delong’s twitter feed @delong)

149 replies
  1. 1

    Time to update the saying:

    Politics Journalism ain’t beanbag baseball.

  2. 2
    Anoniminous says:

    Nobody buys a newspaper with a 48 point headline screaming:

    ELECTION SAME AS IT WAS FOUR MONTHS AGO!

    The Infotainment business is all about eyeballs.

  3. 3
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Anoniminous: EXPERTS: REPUBLICANS TO VOTE REPUBLICAN.

  4. 4
    Gwangung says:

    Yeah, Nate’s gne through the nit stat head attack already.

    Except his sports critics can do arithmetic.

  5. 5
    gogol's wife says:

    This Public Editor hasn’t bothered to even try to hide her sympathies from the get-go. “Why isn’t Benghazi being covered adequately?” and such.

  6. 6
    Speculum Spatula says:

    Hey this.

  7. 7
    Robin G. says:

    I’ve been convinced for the last several years that sports journalism is twenty times better than MSM. In ten minutes of ESPN I learn more about the subject matter under discussion than in thirty minutes on CNN.

  8. 8
    Anoniminous says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    OBAMA, THREAT OR MENACE?

    @Robin G.:

    Sport fans care about sports and often have as much, or even more, knowledge about the subject as the writer. Further, they get irked if they are being BS’ed.

  9. 9
    El Cid says:

    Conversely, imagine how long they would survive if our idiot and conservative-agenda hugging, insider-worshiping power-admiring pundit and anti-journalists calling themselves “reporters” were to be the major sources of analysis and commentary on sports.

    Sports fans would get rid of them, and quicklike.

  10. 10
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Robin G.: Evidently you haven’t been listening to Trent Dilfer.

  11. 11
    Hawes says:

    OTOH, Adam Jones and Andrew McCutchen won Gold Gloves over Mike Trout and Michael Bourn, so it’s not like the sports scene has figured things out completely either.

  12. 12
    anibundel says:

    They’re just mad at Silver because he poked a hole in the Mittmentum myth and deflated their balloon.

  13. 13
    MattF says:

    And the professional political journalists at Politico asked Romney’s campaign manager who’s winning. “We are, we are,” he said. So, QED, and who are you lookin’ at?

  14. 14
    Violet says:

    How would we know what we’re supposed to think if our media didn’t feel the news at us?

  15. 15
    Killjoy says:

    @Robin G.: Not a regular viewer of ESPN’s First Take, I see.

  16. 16
    Anoniminous says:

    @El Cid:

    I said it first! I said it first!

    neener-neener-neener

    (Note how I try to maintain a high intellectual level of discourse here on Balloon Juice.)

  17. 17
    dmsilev says:

    The combination of ignorance and arrogance in the conventional political punditry is just awe-inspiring. Maybe, along with the aggrieved hedge-fund managers, we can convince them to Go Galt?

  18. 18
    dedc79 says:

    Have been struggling for an analogy, how’s this:

    Joe Scarborough is sitting in his basement telling everyone it’s impossible to know what temperature it is outside, while he makes fun of Nate Silver for actually walking outside with a thermometer

  19. 19
    Warren Terra says:

    I was just disappointed Silver didn’t offer $1000 of his money to charity if Obama won against $300 of Scarborough’s money if Romney won, which would be more or less in line with the odds on Silver’s site.

    Of course, I rather suspect Scarborough gets more money than Silver does …

  20. 20
    Ben Franklin says:

    Silver was off by what, 4 points in the electoral vote in 2008; UNDER the actual…so go fuck yourself, Cafe Joe.

  21. 21
    Raven says:

    @Warren Terra: At least you didn’t say “earned” more money.

  22. 22
    danimal says:

    The whole Silver flap reminds me of the Obot/Puma wars of 2008. Just replace the words ‘convention delegates’ with the words ‘electoral college votes’ and the debate proceeds accordingly.

  23. 23
    KG says:

    The difference between sports and politics is that most of us have played sports at some level… so we kind of understand that hitting a curveball is a bitch or getting blindsided while going across the middle to make a catch is not really fun. But very few of us have ever been in politics in the same way.

  24. 24
    Hawes says:

    @Anoniminous: Because sports fans have a more democratic access to knowledge – and the enthusiasm to keep up to date in their information – they hold the press accountable.

    The people who obsess about politics – the blogosphere – are attempting to hold political journalism to a standard that it is currently struggling to meet.

    Hence, Newsweek dies and more will follow.

    I find a lot of what I read on ESPN stupid, too, by the way.

  25. 25
    Raven says:

    @KG: You’re not from around here are you?

  26. 26
    Tony J says:

    I’m sitting here in Ye Olde Englande reading this and listening to BBC News in the background where they’re informing me that, with only five days to go until Election 2012, it’s a neck-and-neck tie with Obama only a single point ahead of Romney. OTOH, the gist of their reportage is that Obama’s Presidential response to Sandy may be winning over some Romney voters, but the ‘undecided voter’ they spoke to was still “Right in the middle”, “Didn’t know what to think”, and would “do his thinking in the election booth”.

    Mentions of or reference to the actual method Americans use to elect their Presidents, in which Obama has a solid and growing advantage. Zero.

    Shorter – It’s not just the US MSM. They’re all invested in pushing the horserace while slowly rolling out the “Sandy changed everything!” meme to explain away Romney’s coming defeat.

  27. 27
    Peter says:

    People still think Derek Jeter is a good defensive player and Tim McCarver was on my teevee, but yeah sports reporters are generally better.

    Also, too, the horse race is so boring. It’s not like Chris Hayes struggles to find stuff to cover.

  28. 28
    Professor says:

    The so-called journalists have so far stopped taliking about a) Rmoney’s Tax returns, b) Rmoney’s take on the Iraq war, c) the killing of OBL d) Rmoney’s lies etc. Do you think that these journalists will insist that the Presidential candidates in 2016 SHOULD release their TAX RETURNS?

  29. 29
    LanceThruster says:

    When I’ve seen Mr. Silver interviewed, he comes across as likeable and knowledgeable…Joe Scarborough…less so.

    Put up or shut up, Joe.

  30. 30
    RP says:

    You’re giving the sports media WAY too much credit. Silver is just as much an outcast among sports journalists as he is among political journalists. Look at the discussion over the AL MVP this year: It’s stat types arguing for Mike Trout, with traditional reporters saying “get your head out of a spreadsheet, nerd, it’s Miguel Cabrera all the way.”

  31. 31
    Violet says:

    It sure would be nice if Nate Silver’s methodology could transfer to areas other than elections in our political media.

    Maybe climate scientists could be polled and he could analyze the crosstabs on how many climate scientists, to what extent and from which countries, believe that global warming is a result of our actions.

    Economists could be polled on various economic theories and their efficacy in getting us out of depressions, and those polls could be compared with real data.

    That sort of thing could be compared to polls of our elected Congresscritters to show just how outside the margin of error their beliefs are, etc.

    Real data analyzed against polls on various subjects and compared to our Congressional representatives’ beliefs might be an interesting way to change how the media covers stuff. Okay, okay, I know I’m delusional. But it would be nice if it started somewhere.

  32. 32
    redshirt says:

    Skip Bayless on Line 1…

  33. 33
    pillsy says:

    I love the Sandy narrative. The pundits at this point must be pretty frigging aware that the Obama is the favorite next week, and they’re just scrambling for a way to explain away the Romentum crap in a way that doesn’t boil down to, “I guess that Silver guy knew what he was talking about.”

  34. 34
    Hawes says:

    In defense of the horse race: I taught a class for Parent’s Day on the election (because I’m suicidal) and I opted for the horse race, precisely because I can say: Obama has led almost every credible poll of Ohio since forever. And I’m not expressing bias, I’m expressing observable fact.

    So I don’t have to defend myself for saying, “Ohio is the state that will tip the election to either side.” No shit.

    What gets me is that observing that Obama is building a steady lead in Ohio is also not controversial, or at least shouldn’t be.

    The Right is taking the mau-mauing of the press to a new level.

  35. 35
    LT says:

    Juvenile oafish stunt by Silver. And he’s not childish or an oaf. I do not get it.

    Disagree all you like but think of this: “Dear Republican Voter: If you don’t like Mitt Romney – you can at least make that asshole Nate Silver lose this bet.”

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if GOPers are using this exactly like that right now.

    Just motherfucking stupid. It smacks of Romney’s “I’ll bet you $10,000”. Many of you make $1,000 bets?

    Argle bargle.

  36. 36
    jon says:

    As another sports guy, Jim Rome, would put it, this campaign has been a boat race. That was his reference to America’s Cup coverage, where one rich owner’s yacht representing something or other pulls ahead of another rich owner’s yacht representing a somewhat different something or other and stays ahead regardless of the scrambling of the many crewmen aboard each ship. In other words: boring television.

    What’s happened? Mitt was the boatrace winner in the primaries, Obama was far ahead, then there was some excitement when a new first mate was picked, then some more excitement when the GOP boat said a “huzzah!”, the Dems responded in kind, pulled ahead, a sail became a bit entangled in one debate so the lead narrowed, but then things caught the wind and it’s been boringly the same ever since because the GOP can’t predict weather very well unless Jeebus is invoked.

  37. 37
    Shakespeare says:

    As if to prove your point, Chuck Todd was just on Hardball, talking about how before Sandy, Romney had all the “intangibles” going his way. Now Obama has the “intangibles” going his way.

    Intangibles.

    What the actual fuck.

  38. 38
    gex says:

    Forecasts should be judged on their processes, not their results.

    First of all, this is utter bullshit. The point of forecasting is to make a prediction. And the only way to evaluate that is whether or not your prediction came to be.

    But even taking this AT FACE VALUE, Silver’s process is far superior than the “pulling data out of your ass” process that the horse-racers are doing.

    For fuck’s sake. How can people say such nonsense with any seriousness? And how do they not get pointed at and laughed at by everyone else?

  39. 39
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Republicans only take bets seriously at $10K.

  40. 40
    Fluke bucket says:

    @Raven: LOL!

  41. 41
    Ed in NJ says:

    The proper analogy to what is happening now with political pundits is the reaction to statistical analysis by professional scouts in sports, particularly baseball.

    Listen to a scout talk about his gut feelings and instincts about a player, talk about things like hustle, clutchiness, etc. and contrast that with their disdain for stats like OPS, WAR, VORP, BABIP. The Fire Joe Morgan blog mocked them relentlessly. It’s exactly the same as the pundit class, who take it as an insult that statistics could possibly substitute for their innate abilities to determine who is winning.

  42. 42
    giltay says:

    Uhh. What’s wrong with Margaret Sullivan’s piece? She’s the public editor, which is an ombudsman-type role. She was writing about whether it was appropriate for a journalist to publicly make a bet on the outcome of a current story. It has nothing to do with whether Silver’s analysis is any good or not, it’s only about the wager.

    (We just had a big flap up here when the public editor for the Globe and Mail went wayyyy to easy on a columnist who was blatantly plagiarizing other people’s work.)

  43. 43
    Hawes says:

    @Shakespeare: Booman laid out a good point.

    http://www.boomantribune.com/s.....81618/3283

    All the Rasmussens and Baby Rasmussens have to be hired in the future. So as the election draws near (The Poll of Polls!) they have to come into line with the actual reality of the race.

    So we should see consistent movement towards Obama in polling averages as the House of Ras seeks to maintain their viability as a pollster.

    This offer does not apply to Gravis Marketing or Citizens United.

  44. 44
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    The thing is, no one even makes much pretense that people like Scarborough base this stuff on anything but hearsay. Does he know that Silver is wrong from his own look at stats, figures, polls… anything? Of course not. He knows it entirely based on that it’s not what all of the Villagers are saying. What’s funny is the outrage, that anyone would not go along with rumor and clubbish consensus.

  45. 45
    BFR says:

    @KG:

    The difference between sports and politics

    More people are emotionally invested in sports than politics so the whole “you’re just a nerd in your mommy’s basement -don’t know what you’re talking about” shtick played out in baseball before politics.

    Looks like political analysis circa 2012 = baseball analysis circa 2000.

  46. 46
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Shakespeare: Intangibles is most likely a euphemism

  47. 47
    dmsilev says:

    @Shakespeare: Did Chuck Todd quantify the intangibles?

  48. 48
    dedc79 says:

    Scarborough & co are not that different from the NFL pregame show on Fox (Bradshaw, Jimmie Johnson, etc…) talking about which team is coming in with momentum and who has the intangibles on their side. The only difference is that Scarborough still sounds that way when the game is about a minute from being over and done.

    What Silver is doing (and he has described it this way himself) is looking at the score of the game with a few minutes left and pointing out that it’s a pretty decent chance that the team that’s ahead is gonna win.

  49. 49
    BFR says:

    @Hawes:

    Booman laid out a good point.

    I disagree – they can be +2 or +3 to the R side without it being a PR problem. Most voters (both R and D) assume the opposition is stealing at least that much.

  50. 50
    SatanicPanic says:

    @gex: Yeah, but you can’t base someone’s ability to predict outcomes off a single prediction. That’s all Deadspin is saying.

  51. 51
    General Stuck says:

    Get a look at this load of village drek

    After reviewing all of the available public polling data as well as talking to operatives in both parties about the private polls they are privy to, we are convinced that Ohio is a 1-3 point race in President Obama’s favor at the moment.

    That — coupled with the state’s electoral history and the absolute necessity for Romney to win the state if he wants to be president — leads us to move it back to the “tossup” category.

    So the race is favored for Obama to win, but since Romney needs it to become presnit, is a good enough reason to move Ohio to toss up.

  52. 52
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    Well, I say we should look at the upside to all this nonsense. Namely that 5 days from now you’ll be able to turn on the TV and see Blitzer, Todd, Brooks, Roberts, Castellanos and the rest look like they just swallowed a pile of cigar ash. All night, if you please!

  53. 53
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @Shakespeare:

    the Intangibles.

    That was the lesser-known Brad Bird animated movie. It was kind of a flop, the atmospherics were interesting, but the plot was kind of vague.

  54. 54
    Darkrose says:

    @Hawes:

    I find a lot of what I read on ESPN stupid, too, by the way.

    You mean The Tebow Channel?

  55. 55
    El Cid says:

    @Shakespeare: Ghosts? Is there now a new fashionable set of undecided undeads?

  56. 56
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim:

    “You sly dog! You got me equivocating!”

  57. 57
    JPL says:

    Intangibles. definition….where’s ryan

  58. 58
    J.W. Hamner says:

    To be fair, imagine sports writing if the only two teams were the Yankees and Red Sox and they played for the championship every four years. Ugh… that makes me nauseous just to contemplate.

  59. 59

    @Robin G.:

    I’ve been convinced for the last several years that sports journalism is twenty times better than MSM. In ten minutes of ESPN I learn more about the subject matter under discussion than in thirty minutes on CNN.

    Stephen A. Smith disagrees with you.

  60. 60
    redshirt says:

    @jon: Jim Rome, the horse owner?

    I can’t figure out if I like Rome or hate him. Today is was hate.

  61. 61
    beltane says:

    It is looking like Sandy will be the deus ex machina in the Village’s tawdry election drama.

  62. 62
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @Tony J: In my experience virtually all of the news that filters out of the US to Europe is straight from conservative central. It’s really kind of shocking.

  63. 63
    redshirt says:

    @Midnight Marauder: Skip Bayless disagrees with you!

    Also, I wonder if this is the year Favre returns as QB. I think he could really turn that Jaguar team around – they’re in desperate need of “gunslingin'”.

    Also, TEBOW.

  64. 64
    ChrisNYC says:

    That public editor thing is so deliciously embedded with knives it’s astonishing.

    “Secret sauce.” The “Dems like Nate because he tells them they are winning,” i.e., his stuff is nonsense, its value is in the eye of the beholder, read Jeff Zeleny for the real scoop on the politics. Plus the incredibly patronizing “tsk tsk young man, I understand your frustration but here at the Times, we are more, shall I say, pruuudent (except with Judith Miller).” I get sort of rash with these things in my real life (to sometimes bad effect) but if I were Silver, I’d shove off on November 7. He takes the model with him.

  65. 65
    Raven says:

    Ugh, the Hokies suckin it up again!

  66. 66
    TenguPhule says:

    50 years from now; “The Onion, The most trusted name in News.”

    And you can quote me on that.

  67. 67
    quannlace says:

    Wow-wee, wow, wow. “Unskewed Polls’ guy is predicting a Romney win of not less than 359 electoral votes. Well, at least we know where Dick Morris get’s his bullshit numbers.

    Or as Charlie Pierce calls it, “Welcome to the Eye of the Stupid”

  68. 68
    gex says:

    @SatanicPanic: Fair enough. But I don’t see how you can judge a forecasting process without essentially judging it based on predictions. How else do you determine whether your process is flawed? Just by theorizing over it?

    I just don’t see how the veracity of the predictions of a forecaster aren’t the main thing to evaluate them on. That may just be me not being super informed on this kind of statistical analysis and population sampling. The sentence still boggles the mind.

    ETA: And either way, his process has to be better than the “pulling bullshit out of your ass” that is Scarborough’s process.

  69. 69
    hep kitty says:

    Chuck Todd and your well-trimmed face mullet, I am looking at you

    This is why I can never quit you

  70. 70
    Chris says:

    Why aren’t all these Galtians setting themselves up to make a killing on InTrade and BetFair?

  71. 71
    geg6 says:

    @dmsilev:

    I watched that, too, and had the same reaction. Chuckie looked VERY SERIOUS when he talked about intangible. Sadly, he never gave us any clue as to what the intangibles might be and how we might measure whether or not either candidate might be leading in them.

    I did like the little exchange that Tweety had with him at the end of the segment. Chuckie was warning Tweety that his buddy Mark Critz was in trouble (last poll I saw, Critz and Rothfus were essentially tied). Tweety cut him and said that he knew how Chuckie felt about it and didn’t want to get into an argument. A telling moment, one of those moments that make all of Tweety’s bluster worth watching, these little gems of information that really tells you something about the person he’s talking to.

  72. 72
    Death Panel Truck says:

    @General Stuck: It’s Cillizza. Guy’s a moron.

  73. 73
    Raven says:

    @geg6: Yea, Chuck was not happy.

  74. 74
    TenguPhule says:

    Do you think that these journalists will insist that the Presidential candidates in 2016 SHOULD release their TAX RETURNS?

    Only the Democrats. SATSQ.

  75. 75
    TenguPhule says:

    The Times is just laying the ground work to fire his ass and his overrated, unreliable “model”.

    I see someone is still bitter they failed statistics in highschool.

  76. 76
    redshirt says:

    Now that I’m thinking about it, I disagree with John’s point. Mainstream sports “journalism” is filled with idiots following the herd, repeating bland familiars, stating the obvious, or out for eyeballs/marketing hooks. Sure, you can find some really good sports journalism, but you can find good regular journalism too, if you look. I mean, really, who are these Pulitzers of sports journalism out there? The Sports Guy? TMQ (writes in notebook: Game Over)?

  77. 77
    Chyron HR says:

    After their humiliating defeat in 2008, the Republicans learned a valuable lesson.

    Unfortunately for them, that lesson was, “Do your bragging before election day, because you won’t be able to afterwards.”

  78. 78
    Fuck ALL the chickens! (né Studly Pantload, t.e.u.u.) says:

    Thanks for confirming for me, Cole, that Chuck Todd actually used to make sense when he opened his mouth before going full-metal journo. I often think I just dreamed up those earlier days.

    Although, his rightward bent isn’t surprising, considering the Evil Spock(TM) beard. For whatever reason (perhaps the outright “evil” connotation), it’s the facial hair of choice for conservatives who choose to sport facial hair.

  79. 79
    Donald says:

    “At any rate, that’s the NY Times public editor, Margaret Sullivan, concern trolling Nate Silver. ”

    Bullshit. Margaret Sullivan made it clear that Silver is doing his job and Scarborough’s attack is without merit. She is correctly pointing out that in his position as someone associated with the NYT he shouldn’t be placing bets–it demeans him slightly, and worse, it actually detracts from his point. If Romney wins it doesn’t mean that Silver’s methodology was wrong–it means that someone can toss a coin twice and get two heads and it’s not a refutation of the laws of probability. If Silver wanted to make his point this way then he should have given odds.

    This term “concern troll” has become hackish. It has a legitimate meaning, but lately whenever I see someone using it they use it as John did here.

    I happen to agree that Nate Silver is worth fifty Chuck Todds or Mark Halperins (and I’m undervaluing Nate when I say that), but you can make that point in a non-hackish way. Krugman did.

  80. 80
    Mike in NC says:

    @General Stuck: Hey, it’s fucking Cilizza. Worthless sack of WaPo shit.

  81. 81
    cathyx says:

    And just like a sporting event, the media loves a close match. So even if the race isn’t close, they will pretend it is just to keep people tuned in.

  82. 82
    Liberty60 says:

    Nate even said it right on his blog that he isn’t making a prediction; he is giving statistical odds.
    He compared it to a team that is down by a field goal with 3 minutes left to play; they can still lose, but 79% of the time, they win.

    I am pretty damn ignorant of sports, and even I can grasp this.

    How willfully stoopid does Joe Scar have to be to not get this?

    “Its impossible to get a man to understand something when his paycheck depends on……”

    Oh, right.

  83. 83
    scav says:

    @gex: one can get outcomes ‘right’ by chance, so if one only judges based on outcome, you can be screwed later. What’s under the hood matters and for long term, systematic understanding and quality, thats where the action is. Getting single events wrong matters, one looks under the hood and finds the problem you don’t immediately judge and junk the car, except for certain spectacullar failures.

  84. 84
    MikeJ says:

    Here’s what yuo should expect in 2016: at least a half dozen “independent” pollsters with a house effect 3x Rasmussen. If you try to toss out the outliers to get the median it will still have a huge tilt. If you multiply by house effect, you’re open to charges that you’re as bad as the unskewers.

  85. 85
    PsiFighter37 says:

    @WMR: ah, going back to unskewing, which I believe was your original gig. Good to see you’re back to rehashing some old moves.

  86. 86
    hep kitty says:

    Scarborough is a bullying, bloviating bag of stupid. He provoked Nate Silver who presents himself as non-partisan and knows a thing or two about data. And here this little twit author is pearl-clutching about a wager of a small donation, certainly for Scarborough, to a charity after being insulted by a twat-brain in a pullover who is spitballing and a primly sexly little sidekick to play the disapproving but tolerant housewife role in his den of Washington insiders and sniggering school fanboys.

  87. 87
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @redshirt:

    I kinda have a weakness for Simmons because he can be such a self-regarding douchebag. It’s strangely endearing. Same with Drew Magary. He’s such a blowhard that it goes into the realm of “character”.

  88. 88
    jayboat says:

    I think Nate finally got fed up with the recent attacks and Scar pushed him over the edge. I only wish he had made the bet 10K.

    Deadspin is one of my daily stops- it’s probably the only place on the toobz where the snark level is on equal footing with this joint.

  89. 89
    Baud says:

    This is the political world’s version of scientists v. creationists.

  90. 90
    Raven says:

    Is this a straight up bet on who wins the election?

  91. 91
    Joel says:

    @LT: Doesn’t matter what Nate Silver does, that’s what the wingnuts are echoing to each other anyways. Cleek nailed them dead to rights the first time around. Updated daily.

  92. 92

    @Just Some Fuckhead:

    Republicans only take bets seriously at $10K.

    formally known as one standard Rmoney unit. the kids are calling it a “Seamus”

  93. 93
    Chris says:

    @TenguPhule:

    What’s this “50 years from now” shit, bro? :D

  94. 94
    MikeJ says:

    @LT:

    Just motherfucking stupid. It smacks of Romney’s “I’ll bet you $10,000”. Many of you make $1,000 bets?

    Silver once lost 75g in one night of online poker.

  95. 95
    Liberty60 says:

    TNC puts it best:

    “Silver’s work is humiliating to people who are little more than gossipmongers. “

  96. 96
    geg6 says:

    @Liberty60:

    The sad thing is, if Joey Scar went to college, it’s almost a given that he was introduced to calculating probability. I can’t think of a degree program that wouldn’t introduce the concept in one form or another. Hell, my undergrad degree is in political science and I had an entire class (besides the statistics class I took) that used statistical analysis to analyze voter behavior.

    It’s not like it an exotic thing. I found it much more understandable than I ever found algebra.

  97. 97
    JPL says:

    @Raven: A friend and I have an on going bet and I’m 40 dollars up at this point after the primary. The last bet that I made is a Romney win. Don’t faint.. she has to put all the money into Planned Parenthood if I win. We are even if Obama wins although we both will give to Planned Parenthood anyway.

  98. 98
    Raven says:

    @JPL: Hmm

  99. 99
    hep kitty says:

    From: Conservatives Can Suck My Fucking Dick

    Limbaugh and the DR sex trade and child sex trade (that is, rape), again (and Limbaugh calling Democrats rapists)

    “Don’t you have a mistress half your age to go fuck? “

  100. 100
    danielx says:

    Forecasts should be judged on their processes, not their results.

    *

    Cannot…process…words….

    Call me crazy, but if the result of a forecast is wrong it seems to this semipro statistician that there’s something wrong with the processes/methodology used in creating that forecast.

    Q. What kind of idiot fuckweasel actually writes a sentence like that for public consumption?

    A. A Republican.

    Sounds suspiciously like “whether a program actually works or not is irrelevant if it doesn’t conform to free market principles”.

  101. 101
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @danimal: The 2008 primary is actually the thing that most makes me think Obama can pull this off. Though you do realize that, by analogy, the next step is going to be a claim that they’ll somehow create a wave of faithless electors.

  102. 102
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    Public editors in the US media are like “fact checkers”: they are symptoms of the problem, not part of the solution, because they don’t actually advocate for the public.

    (The Guardian’s readers’ editor shows how it should be done.)

    I think it’s fairly clear now that the NYT political desk collectively hates how Silver is pissing on their horserace narrative. This slap-down was all about inter-office politics and having GOP contacts whining to the editor.

  103. 103
    Richard Fox says:

    @Shakespeare: it is much easier to stomach Chuck Todd by just pushing the mute button whenever he opines. Works wonders and I notice the sun always shines brightly outside whenever I do so. Coincidence?

  104. 104
    Baud says:

    @danielx:

    Call me crazy, but if the result of a forecast is wrong it seems to this semipro statistician that there’s something wrong with the processes/methodology used in creating that forecast.

    No. For example, you have a 5 out of 6 chance of rolling a number other than a six if you throw a single die. If you roll it once and get a six, there is nothing wrong with your process for calculating the odds.

  105. 105
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Robin G.:

    I’ve been convinced for the last several years that sports journalism is twenty times better than MSM.

    Of course it is. Matt Taibbi wrote about it eight years ago. Sports fans have limited tolerance for bullshit, and results speak for themselves.

  106. 106
    Liberty60 says:

    @hep kitty:

    Given what we know about conservatives closeted sex lives, what makes you so certain of the gender?

    ETA-
    So as not to seem OT, I’d say the odds are 50-50 either way.

  107. 107
    Democrat Partisan Asshole says:

    Although, his rightward bent isn’t surprising, considering the Evil Spock™ beard. For whatever reason (perhaps the outright “evil” connotation), it’s the facial hair of choice for conservatives who choose to sport facial hair.

    @Fuck ALL the chickens! (né Studly Pantload, t.e.u.u.): Ever since the mid-90s, one of my best friends has been calling that facial hair atrocity “the asshole”.

    Had to admit he had, and still does, have a point.

  108. 108
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @danielx:

    if the result of a forecast is wrong it seems to this semipro statistician that there’s something wrong with the processes/methodology used in creating that forecast.

    The problem might be the inputs, and Silver has been up-front — as have Wang and the people at RCP — that something’s got to give on Tuesday night between the national polls and the state polls, because you can’t extrapolate one from the other.

    25% is tossing two heads in a row. It’s not a coin-toss; it’s two coin tosses. (I just tossed a coin: head/tail.) That’s the probability here. It’s not a win-the-lottery probability.

  109. 109
    Lojasmo says:

    I will breathe easier when colorado is called for Obama.

  110. 110
    JPL says:

    @Raven: The bet has more to say about me… I was afraid to jinx Obama’s chances.

  111. 111
    gelfling545 says:

    Margaret Sullivan was completely mediocre at the Buffalo Moribund News and I expect her to continue in that vein. It was my impression that writing was outsourced to local junior high schools for whatever actual “news” they managed to cover(and cover is exactly what they do with it). I believe the junior high crowd is now out of work & the whole thing looks, on the news side, like it’s being written by a computer algorithm or maybe they’ve given their “news” reporters mad libs to fill in. It’s hell living in a one paper town.

  112. 112
    Lojasmo says:

    FYWP;

    I think my time zone math is fuxored. I am looking forward to VA and CO results. The rest can go to hell.

  113. 113
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Donald:

    She is correctly pointing out that in his position as someone associated with the NYT he shouldn’t be placing bets—it demeans him slightly, and worse, it actually detracts from his point.

    He’s hired to be the equivalent of the person tipping horses at Belmont Park, or the person who recommends stocks on the personal finance page. The whole point of his presence is that he’s bringing an oddsmakers’ perspective to the campaign.

  114. 114
    Raven says:

    @pseudonymous in nc: Ah bullshit.

  115. 115
    j says:

    (heh) Joey Scar talking about typewriters.

    That’s funny, because one of his interns was found dead in his office with a typewriter shaped dent in the back of her head.

    Yeah, right. Projecting, Joe?

  116. 116
    GxB says:

    @quannlace: Christ why stop there? Why isn’t he going to win by eleventy-billion EV’s? Fuckers are so far beyond delusional, and many of them are our neighbors, coworkers, customers… I need a drink.

  117. 117
    hep kitty says:

    @Liberty60: You have to read that quote in the context of the article, because god knows what that man is capable of fucking, I don’t want to think about it.

  118. 118
    GxB says:

    @danielx: This from a party where the ends justify the means. Consistency how the fuck does it work?

  119. 119
    kyle says:

    that’s the NY Times public editor, Margaret Sullivan, concern trolling Nate Silver. Noticeably absent, any analysis of the real numbers or statistics or any attempt to refute Silver’s predictions.

    Here’s the catch: she’s not criticizing his numbers, methodology or predictions. Nor does she pretend to.

    The column criticizes Silver on grounds of propriety. The NYT tends to be a stickler about that stuff. Maybe these concerns make sense, maybe they don’t, but Sullivan’s column gave no indication that it was faulting Silver’s reliability as a polling analyst.

  120. 120
    different-church-lady says:

    You left out the money sentence:

    If Nate Silver and Sam Wang screw up, their popularity will suffer as a result, and they’ll have to reconsider their models. Meanwhile, if Brooks, Jordan, Scarborough, Rubin, or Byers make another poor argument, they’ll continue to collect their paychecks as if nothing had happened.

  121. 121
    Sophist says:

    @Donald:

    “If Silver wanted to make his point this way then he should have given odds.”

    Did you forget the part where that’s his entire job and he has a whole website devoted to it?

  122. 122
    Roger Moore says:

    @pseudonymous in nc:

    The problem might be the inputs, and Silver has been up-front—as have Wang and the people at RCP —that something’s got to give on Tuesday night between the national polls and the state polls, because you can’t extrapolate one from the other.

    This is a really important point. But the key thing to understand is that Silver and Wang aren’t making a single prediction about who is going to win the election. They’re making state-by-state predictions about the expected vote share. That gives us a lot of data to look at when judging their predictions against the actual election results. If they get the outcome right, we can tell if it was pure luck; if they get it wrong, we can tell where the problem was in their models.

  123. 123
    Sm*t Cl*de says:

    But whatever the motivation behind it, the wager offer is a bad idea – giving ammunition to the critics who want to paint Mr. Silver as a partisan who is trying to sway the outcome.

    How in this or any other universe does taking one’s estimated odds seriously (to the extent of betting money on them, which is what odds are designed for) turn one into a ‘partisan’, or ‘give ammunition to critics’?

    If Silver were not willing to bet money on what he claims are favourable odds, that would reveal him as partisan (question… how much money is the “Unskewed Odds” dude betting on his superior calculations?).

    Perhaps the NY Times public editor espouses the familiar complaint that “Facts have a liberal bias”, so Silver is partisan if he pays too much attention to what they say.

  124. 124
    Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    @Warren Terra:

    I was just disappointed Silver didn’t offer $1000 of his money to charity if Obama won against $300 of Scarborough’s money if Romney won, which would be more or less in line with the odds on Silver’s site.

    Nope. The dispute is ABOUT those odds, with Scarborough saying they’re more like 50/50. If Scarborough really actually thought that was the case, he should be happy to accept Silver’s challenge – it’s because he suspects Silver is more accurate that he won’t accept it.

    Hell, I’d love to be able to bet with people at 50/50 odds that Obama would win – I’d simply lay off that bet betting on Romney on Intrade or something at more realistic odds, and make risk free money from arbitrage.

  125. 125
    Sm*t Cl*de says:

    If Silver wanted to make his point this way then he should have given odds.

    He gives odds at 538 (currently approaching 80:20). Scarborough claims that the odds are 1:1. Silver is offering to take Scarborough up at Scarborough’s odds. No answer.

    UPDATE: A murrain upon Phoenician and his flashing fingers.

  126. 126
    Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    So I don’t have to defend myself for saying, “Ohio is the state that will tip the election to either side.” No shit.

    As I understand it, Ohio is one of a number of states that will tip the election if they go to Obama. To tip the election to Romney, nearly all of them have to go to Romney. So Romney needs Ohio to win – and several more besides. Obama will win with Ohio – but can win without it.

    That’s a good position to be in.

  127. 127
    LT says:

    @MikeJ: Did not know that. But it doesn’t change my point. “I bet you $1,000” about something like is ALWAYS going to come across as high falutin’ dickishness.

  128. 128
    Elizabelle says:

    @General Stuck:

    Chris Cillizza. Jeebus.

    I already had that one bookmarked under “bad journalism”.

    I want to see him and the WaPost eat crow for months.

  129. 129
    ursine says:

    I think I’ve said this before, but Exhibit A in the argument in support of sports journalism is the short career of Rush Limbaugh as a sportscaster. It was his dream job but it took him only a couple of weeks before he said the only reason Donovan McNabb was a starting quarterback is that he was black and Rush was gone like shit through a goose. The reaction must have been a shock to him, since it was the same kind of crap he always spews, but the sports media wouldn’t have it. It was baseless, stupid and racist and while there is plenty of stupid stuff in sports media, baseless and racist doesn’t fly, certainly not at the same time.

  130. 130
    Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    @Sm*t Cl*de:

    UPDATE: A murrain upon Phoenician and his flashing fingers.

    Don’t fuck with me, man, or I’ll lay a geis on you that will render you impotent with any partner other than a Republican.

  131. 131
    J.W. Hamner says:

    @danielx:

    Call me crazy, but if the result of a forecast is wrong it seems to this semipro statistician that there’s something wrong with the processes/methodology used in creating that forecast.

    If the weather man says there is a 70% chance of rain, but it doesn’t rain… does that mean there is something wrong with the processes/methodology? Possibly, but not necessarily… the only way we can truly evaluate the model’s performance is seeing how it did over a much longer period of time. This is obviously problematic in the case of Presidential elections.

  132. 132
    Vico says:

    Sullivan doesn’t seem to understand that if anything reflects upon Silver’s brand, it’s his association with the New York Times. It’s not that the New York Times is somehow discredited by something Silver does.

  133. 133
    1badbaba3 says:

    @pseudonymous in nc: Who among us could have calculated the odds of that occuring? Who let the nerd out? Who? WhoWho?

  134. 134
    Sad But True says:

    That Deadspin article is one of the best articles I’ve read in a long, long time. I’d been away from that site for awhile in the wake of the many disappointing changes they’ve enacted in recent months. Thanks for pointing me back to it for this one.

  135. 135
    grandpa john says:

    @Elizabelle: Actually I would like to see the assholes file for bankruptcy and put all the smarmy assholes in the unemployment line.

  136. 136
    Michael57 says:

    @quannlace: Yeah, I was waiting for someone to mention Charlie Pierce. It’s no accident that two of the most gifted political commentators around today come out of sports journalism.

  137. 137
    Danil says:

    “Namely that 5 days from now you’ll be able to turn on the TV and see Blitzer, Todd, Brooks, Roberts, Castellanos and the rest look like they just swallowed a pile of cigar ash.”

    Doesn’t matter – they’ll all have been wrong for the Right Reasons[tm], and Silver will still be a DFH.

  138. 138
    Console says:

    @gex:

    Basically it’s like this:

    If you asked a two year old which states were going to be Obama or Mccain and the two year old got all the states right, he would have beaten Silver. But you’d be an idiot to trust the kid over Silver in 2008 or 2012.

    Anyone can be right by random chance. A primary focus on outcomes doesn’t weed that out.

    Hell, let’s say the kid matched Silver. You’d be more able to tell why Silver was wrong on that one state than why the kid was because the kid’s process was bullshit.

    I’d probably prefer the word “models” to “forecasts” but Deadspin is fundamentally right.

  139. 139
    trollhattan says:

    @Danil:
    Fully expect three-quarters of them to dive into the bottomless “he wasn’t sufficiently conservative” pool before Tuesday night signoff, giving little lord Ryan a stiffy that lasts four days.

  140. 140
    jon says:

    @redshirt: I used to listen to him too much, as the other choices for delivery driving were NPR, Rush Limbaugh, or classic rock. Jim Rome and Terri Gross were the Yin and Yang of my day, and his open disdain for his listeners (he calls them “Clones”) is something wonderful to behold.

  141. 141
    Scott Alloway says:

    @Midnight Marauder: Being a political junkie since 1962 (age 12) and a sportswriter and sports editor in the early 80s (having moved on to editorship and all that means), I can attest that sportswriters are much tougher on coaches and managers than the political beat writers ever thought of being. They don’t let bullshit slide, even at the high school level. In my mind, I would move a sports writer to the political desk in a minute. They smell BS quicker than anybody.

  142. 142
    opie_jeanne says:

    @geg6: Not me. I majored in Music and English. I never had to take anything like that.

  143. 143
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Phoenician in a time of Romans: Obama can win without Ohio, but it’s harder. He can do it if, for instance, he holds NH, WI and IA and also manages to win one of either CO or VA, both of the latter being states in which he’s currently running weaker than Ohio.

    What Romney has to do is hold onto FL and VA, then pick off Ohio and one other state where Obama is leading, which could be CO or even NH. Assuming he’s got Ohio, the rest is doable.

    If he doesn’t have Ohio, it does become much harder for Romney than for Obama. But the situation isn’t as lopsided as it was in September.

  144. 144
    Bruce S says:

    Nate Silver on Joe Scarborough:

    “I’m asking him to put some integrity behind it”

    Sorry, Nate. Joe’s all tapped out on that score. Joe does have a stale anecdote for you about his service in the Newt Gingrich congress, two decades ago. That’ll have to do…

  145. 145
    fuckwit says:

    The for-profit entertainment media is a disease– an an actually fatal one, in the case of the Iraq war boosterism

    It used to be these were PUBLIC airwaves which were owned by all of us for the PUBLIC good.

    What the hell ever happened to that?

  146. 146
    Tom says:

    The reasons the asshole pundits hate Silver is they all fear he makes their cushy positions irrelevant and unnecessary. Which he does.

  147. 147

    That Deadspin article is great; thanks for posting it. I’ve started passing it around to my friends who are more into sports than politics, and they all immediately get what’s going on.

  148. 148
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    @fuckwit:

    It used to be these were PUBLIC airwaves which were owned by all of us for the PUBLIC good.

    Cable. Private delivery system. I don’t know anyone picking up TV from public airwaves any more.

    There’s a strong case to be made to bring back the Fairness Doctrine for radio, however.

  149. 149
    300baud says:

    @giltay:

    Uhh. What’s wrong with Margaret Sullivan’s piece? She’s the public editor, which is an ombudsman-type role. She was writing about whether it was appropriate for a journalist to publicly make a bet on the outcome of a current story.

    I thought it was a terrible piece.

    Just for starters, there’s the “blogger — something like a columnist” bit. Classic “TV is radio with pictures” idiocy.

    Then she doesn’t acknowledge that their columnists are not held to any particular standard of accuracy. They are also allowed to be pretty hazy about where the rest of their money comes from. Who exactly is paying Brooks and Friedman tens of thousands a pop for speaking? We’ll never know, because the Times keeps that secret.

    She also doesn’t explain why the bet is a bad idea. Since the money goes to charity, it’s not like there’s a financial conflict of interest. Her expressed notion, that Silver might sway the outcome of the election by asking Scarborough to be accountable for his words, is nonsensical.

    She just asserts that it’s inappropriate. Without ever hinting why, or acknowledging that the Times has been making a lot of money on hyping a horse race.

    She also doesn’t explain how common bets are among quants, or how things like InTrade and the IEM, which also predict an Obama win, are just organized betting. I heard about the bet and said, “About time!” And she ignores that the NYT utterly fails to call pundits like Scarborough to account.

    As an aside, I think it’s funny that she sees Silver as a grubby blogger who gained massive prestige from being associated with the noble institution of the New York Times. For me, it was just the opposite. I read Silver’s independent stuff in 2008 with joy, and thought the Times was doing something unusually smart by bringing him in house.

    So overall, it struck me as classic institution-of-journalism cluelessness. The ship she is on is sinking, and she is, at best, complaining Silver’s improper pinkie positioning on teacup handles. At best.

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