Moderation On

I feel like I’m really coming of age as a blogger — I’ve gotten my very first troll! As explained yesterday, someone has emerged from the far Left fever swamps and taken it upon herself to call me every name imaginable. If you want some entertainment, take a look at the comments she has left over the last couple of posts.

I’m now fairly confident that all of these recent hostile comments are coming from the same person, and I also have a strong suspicion as to that person’s identity. She seems to have followed me over here from a discussion thread elsewhere on the web, in which I deigned to question whether the election of Barack Obama was an unalloyed Great Leap Forward for America. (Doubtful that she’ll understand that allusion, but I trust the rest of you get it.) The word choices in these blog comments are too similar to the vitriol she expressed in those other threads, and in private emails she sent. I know her name, and have actually met her a few times in the past when she was more balanced, but will not use that name here.

For those of you who have wondered why I’ve never used Mrs Yeoman Farmer’s actual name in the blog, and why I’ve never named the children or shown photographs of any of them…this is why.

I’m going to leave all of the troll’s comments up, for illustration purposes, but will be turning on comment moderation for now. I still encourage the rest of you to add your comments to my blog posts — you will just need to wait a while for me to approve them. I hope this is only necessary as a temporary measure. I’ve never used comment moderation before, so please bear with me as I learn how it works.

More Hate

All readers know that the election didn’t turn out the way I would have liked. I’ve thus far put up a couple of posts referencing the results; once I’ve caught my breath from the campaign season, I intend to put up a longer post with my thoughts about the outcome and what it means for the country. (As many of you are aware, my day job involves political polling and microtargeting on behalf of GOP candidates.)

Though I have strong partisan and ideological convictions, I am not a confrontational person by nature. As such, in addition to work for Republican candidates, I’ve been able to develop a strong “secondary” client base among left-leaning nonprofit organizations and foundations; they appreciate my insights, and the balance I bring to their research. In return, I have enjoyed the relationships I have built with them, and the opportunity to work on some important causes (not all of which I have agreed with).

Two months ago, I put up a post describing my first excursion into the fever swamps of the Far Left “net roots.” Not a few readers of this blog are themselves left-of-center, and I appreciate the respectful tone they have always used in their comments and/or personal correspondence. But somehow or another, someone seems to have crawled out of those fever swamps and has taken it upon him/her self to tell me (and you) what they really think about this author. He/she seems to have gravitated toward my first post-election post, in which I jokingly speculated as to whether the liberals who had moved to Canada after the 2000 and 2004 elections might begin returning soon. I also joked about the rest of us trying to find Galt’s Gulch before January 20th — a literary allusion which seems to have gone over this person’s head (as Galt’s Gulch is decidedly not in Canada, but rather somewhere in the Rocky Mountains).

As this person did not leave an email or web address, it’s impossible to verify his/her identity. But I will preserve his/her comment for the rest of you to get a good look at what crawls out of the fever swamps from time to time.

If you wish to criticize me or my ideas, please do so. I ask only that you be respectful of me and of those who take the time to comment on my posts. And leave my wife out of it. It may infuriate some of you that Mrs. Yeoman Farmer is a black conservative and did not vote for our current President-elect. You may disagree with her and my belief that these election results are good for neither blacks nor the country as a whole. Despite the highly personal investment in and commitment to racial equality that Mrs. Yeoman Farmer and our children have, I understand that others may have a different point of view. I ask only that you be as considerate and thoughtful in your commentary as I have been — and always will be — in writing these posts.

That Lottery Pick

An interesting rumor began circulating in the last couple of days: on election night, the Illinois Lottery “Pick Three” numbers were 6-6-6. Within hours, I’d heard the same thing from two different friends. As this sounded too coincidental to be true, I took a closer look.

It turned out to be extremely easy to investigate. The Illinois lottery publishes all of its results online, and you can search all the way back to 1980. With a couple of clicks, I determined that none of the draws on Tuesday November 4th included a combination of 6-6-6. Here are all of that day’s picks:

11/04/2008 Evening Pick 3 8-4-5
11/04/2008 Evening Pick 4 2-7-2-0
11/04/2008 Little Lotto 02-09-21-29-30
11/04/2008 Mega Millions 10-21-23-41-55[09]
11/04/2008 Midday Pick 3 6-0-5
11/04/2008 Midday Pick 4 9-3-8-2

But take a look at the evening pick of the very next day, after Barack Obama’s election:

11/05/2008 Evening Pick 3 6-6-6

Naturally, many will read some kind of significance into this. As for me, I do think it’s interesting — but I’m far more interested in probability than in numerology.

As the three lottery balls are drawn independently, the odds of getting three sixes (or any other three numbers) are .1x.1x.1, or one in a thousand. Indeed, this calculation matches the odds posted on the Illinois Lottery’s website. So far this year, there have been 1160 Pick 3 or Pick 4 drawings (the only games, as far as I can tell, with balls between 0 and 9 drawn independently). By the laws of probability, there should have been only one or two 6-6-6 combinations drawn this year. In fact, there have been five. (Nov 5th, Oct 23rd, March 22nd, and Jan 16th on the Pick 3, and July 5th as part of a Pick 4.) In other words, this combination isn’t as rare as you’d expect. And besides November 5, none of those other dates even comes close to corresponding with significant Obama milestones or primary victories, or good debate performances.

Further evidence that 6-6-6 isn’t as unusual as you’d expect: In all of last year, there were 1364 Pick 3 or Pick 4 drawings; 6-6-6 occurred three times (again, more than the laws of probability would predict).

There will always be those who read significance into the occurrance of certain numbers. Remember the kooks who said Ronald Wilson Reagan was the antichrist, because each of his three names contained six letters? In the current case, I’m more inclined to believe that the state lottery is the province of the devil than to believe that the November 5th Evening Pick 3 signals that Barack Obama is the antichrist.

But if, on January 20th of next year, one of our goats gives birth to a kid with seven heads and ten horns, I’ll make sure I publish the news here.

Moving Back Down?

A week or two ago, I posted an amusing video with instructions for liberals who might be interested in moving to Canada after the election. I guess that’s no longer necessary (but the video is still pretty funny, and one can only hope that our friends on the left will be dusting it off four years from now).

But that has gotten me thinking about two questions:

1) When will the liberal American ex-pats start moving back home from Canada?

and

2) Can the rest of us get to Galt’s Gulch before January 20th?

One Big Family

One of the best things about being Catholic is that you’re not alone. Regardless of your personal family situation, you’re part of a much larger family. That’s really been brought home to me (in a manner of speaking) these last few days, when I’ve been in NYC on business. There is a Catholic church right around the corner from my hotel, and right on the way to where I’m working. It’s been easy to stop in for Mass, and it’s remarkable the diversity of people who are there: the business executives, the Fordham students, the young married couples with small children, the homeless man huddled in the back pew…all here. All part of this crazy family.

And the family isn’t just here in this particular church building, or the one we attend back in Michigan, or anywhere else. All of us are only one slice of the family; the saints who’ve gone before us, and are now in heaven, are the older brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles we’ve heard so much about and are looking forward to meeting again. And especially during this month, we’re praying for the souls in purgatory, that they can be speeded along their way to that family reunion as well.

I think it was James Joyce who said the best description of the Catholic church is “Here comes everybody.” And it’s hard to think of a pair of days that illustrate that better than November 3 and 4 do. Today is the feast of St. Charles Borromeo, one of the most prominent reformers at the Council of Trent. He grew up in the aristocracy, became a cardinal archbishop at the age of 22, and his uncle was a pope. He lived a life of outstanding holiness, and cleaned out many of the abuses in the 16th century church. And yesterday, November 3, we celebrated the feast of St. Martin de Porres — a contemporary of Charles Borromeo, but living in a social situation which couldn’t have been more different. He was the illegitimate mixed-race son of a Spanish nobleman and a young black freed slave in Lima, Peru. He grew up in abject poverty, and lived a life of austerity and menial labor (which he regarded as a tremendous blessing, because all work is a participation in God’s own creation).

November 3 and 4. Two men, alive at the same time, on different sides of the world, in entirely different circumstances…and yet both are my older brothers who I admire and who have a lot to teach me.

I posted the following video some time back, but it somehow seems especially appropriate to recommend it again today:

Sure Enough…

Like I was saying yesterday about Zogby’s Friday night tracking result being unreliable unless substantiated by an additional day:

After a strong day of polling for Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Friday, Democrat Barack Obama experienced a strong single day of polling on Saturday, retaining a 5.7 point advantage that is right at the edge of the margin of error of the Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby daily tracking poll.

But as bleak as the situation looks for the GOP at this point, I’m still not prepared to concede defeat until the votes are counted.

That Zogby Result

By now many of you have heard the news that John Zogby’s tracking showed John McCain up by a point in last night’s interviews — which narrowed the gap to about five points in the three day roll. As willing as I am to grasp at straws at this point, and as hopeful as I know this news makes many of you feel (except you, J.D.), I need to throw a bit of cold water on the story.

There is one glaringly obvious fact that was missing from Zogby’s press release: Last night was a Friday. And Halloween.

What difference does this make? All the difference.

As many of you know, in my day job I am a political scientist and public opinion researcher (sad to say, but farming does not pay the family’s bills). Before going into business for myself, I spent many years working for a Republican political polling firm. In the last three or four weeks leading up to every election day, we would be in the field nearly every night conducting tracking interviews.

Every night, that is, except Friday and Saturday. Well, occasionally Saturday. But we almost never interviewed on Friday. And during the rest of the year, when a regular poll was in the field, we almost never interviewed on a Friday night. There is a simple reason for this: the kind of person who is home, and willing to sit around answering a series of questions about politics, on a Friday night, is…well…not all that representative of the electorate as a whole.

And then there’s Halloween. No matter what day of the week Halloween fell on, we tended to regard that night’s interviews with skepticism. If we didn’t have to be in the field that night, we didn’t interview on Halloween. Simply put: many young and single people are out at parties that night. Go to any big or not-so-big city on Halloween night, and you’ll find lots of twenty and thirty-somethings out and about, dressed in bizarre costumes. You’ll also find, pretty much anywhere in America, single parents out taking their kids door-to-door. Who’s home to answer the phone when the pollster calls? Disproportionately (and that’s the key word), married parents of young children (home to answer the door for trick-or-treaters while the other parent takes the kids door to door), or single people with no social life, or empty nesters whose children have grown.

A pollster can weight his sample all he wants to make it representative in terms of age, gender, race, and partisanship. But when the available sample on a certain night is fundamentally skewed on certain other dimensions, that’s something more difficult to weight into proportion — assuming the pollster is even able to identify those other biases in his sample that night.

I’m not saying John Zogby shouldn’t have interviewed last night. Heck, we interviewed on Halloween (at least when it wasn’t a Friday) at my firm. Rather, what I’m suggesting is that there’s a strong possibility last night’s sample is fundamentally unrepresentative of the electorate as a whole. I’d love to be proven wrong. But until Zogby reports a similar result in Saturday’s interviews, I’m going to remain highly skeptical.