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Friday, October 31, 2008

articulate athlete acts algorithmically

Word games can be fun. Looking at my emails, I noticed that my last three emails were from three different people whose first names all began with the letter A. This triggered an email exchange with my sister, the second of the A-list people to come up with A-adjectives.

My first try:

Argumentative?Amusing, articulate and absolutely androgenous. (Couldn't think of another A-word)

Her suggestions:

Admirable, amiable, artistic, artificial, agitated, angry, ambitious, ambidextrous, and now I'm starting to recycle so I think I'm done for now. Antipodean?

Her alliterative and aerobic Antipodean adspired me to accomplish
articulate, antagonistic, agonist (ic), Aegean, altimetric, ambassadorean, actual, abricadaverous, adornable, alit-able, alight-able, agit-properian, axe-to-grind-ian.
Alternatives admixing a-readers?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cindy McCain federal tax rate is around 27 to 29%

Cindy McCain released her taxes yesterday, Friday Oct 18, 2008. In 2007, she paid 1,138,189 in taxes on 4,197,028 in income. In 2006, she paid 1,746,445 in taxes on 6,066,431 in income. That's all US Dollars.

She made more than I do both years. In fact, in 2006 she made more than I will likely make in my lifetime.

Not adjusted for inflation, natch.

Her marginal tax rates were 27.1% and 28.8% in 2007 and 2006 respectively.

Her marginal tax rates are lower than her husband's, which according to his press release were 32.6% and 33.8% respectively. Here's the direct quote about his taxes:

For 2006, Senator McCain paid $72,771 in federal income, alternative minimum, and self-employment taxes (LINES 57 and 58) on taxable income of $215,304 (LINE 43), which is a 33.8% tax rate.

For 2007, Senator McCain paid $84,460 in federal income, alternative minimum, and self-employment taxes (LINES 57 and 58) on taxable income of $258,800 (LINE 43), which is a 32.6% tax rate.

It's kind of crazy that John pays taxes at a higher rate than his wife.

What do you suppose will happen to Cindy's taxes under John McCain's tax plan? She'll pay even less taxes than she's paying now. John might pay more or less taxes under Obama's plan, depending on the year.

I couldn't find the exact figures for McCain's tax plan, but I did find this link suggesting that Cindy will get a 4.4% decrease in taxes under John's plan, while she will see a 11.5% increase under Obama's.

No wonder Cindy is so in the tank for John! That's a 15.9% swing! Taking those numbers at strictly face value (which is unlikely to be a true picture of things, let's be honest here), Cindy is going to pay $277,685 and $180,972 more in taxes under an Obama plan than under a John plan.

Friday, October 3, 2008

How do we know if the average pollster is unbiased?

There is a discussion going on at about whether Realclearpolitics is cherry picking the polls going into their averages.

Now, a comparison site is, which uses all polls.

There is a problem with any of these models:

How do we know if the average pollster is unbiased?

A key parameter in 538's (or anyone's) election modeling has to be the grand mean across all polls.

Speaking in rough terms, the grand mean is estimated as the average across all pollsters, and the grand mean is our best estimate of who is winning. But we don't have that large a universe of pollsters. It's entirely possible the actual sample of pollsters is biased on average. How would we know if they were or were not?

For example, Daily Kos (DK) (Research 2000) recently started a tracking poll. DK appears to have the strongest pro-Obama lean of all tracking polls at the moment. They may be right, they may be wrong, I can't tell. BUT, suppose that prior to DK starting up, we actually had an unbiased set of currently active pollsters. Then, when DK starts up, suddenly the average pollster will lean towards Obama.

One thought: 538 does have some background data on pollster quality from the primaries. Under the assumption that pollster quality carries over to the general election, then it could be possible to estimate the average bias of a set of pollsters. However, the incentives, (really, the utilities) of the many various pollsters are different in the primaries and the general election. Whether you have a democratic or republican bias, you really don't have much preference between primary candidates, (unless you are employed by a particular candidate). In contrast, in the general election, you will have a preference between the two candidates and thus may be inclined to tilt your polling.

If Sean's/Nate's discussions of the Obama ground game are correct, DK could come closest to estimating the final result correctly. And if public predictions in other areas of policy (oil prices for example) are symptomatic, its entirely possible that all pollsters could end up on the same side of the actual result. This usually doesn't happen in the political sphere, but do remember New Hampshire.

I posted a version of this over at as well.