Wednesday 4 November, 2020

Hitler learns he can’t stop the votes being counted.


Quote of the Day

“Credulity is the man’s weakness, but the child’s strength.”

  • Charles Lamb

Musical alternative to the radio news of the day

Bob Dylan – Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right


The nicest version of one of my favourite songs. With that lovely clawhammer pick.

The most eloquent comment on the election

From Dave Pell, in his wonderful daily newsletter:

About last night… After what felt like a few hundred hours of watching election results trickle in, I assumed the fetal position on my couch and moan-cried for about thirty minutes. It was a combination of things. Part of it was personal: I just spend so much time thinking, writing, tweeting, and distracting myself with this all-encompassing political story that I may have been momentarily overwhelmed. Maybe I was just considering how much dough I spent on various races around the country (I don’t want to overstate how invested I am in this election, but I think ActBlue just repossessed my car). The bigger part was less personal: Trump has been basically the same guy since he’s been president, and knowing this, tens of millions of Americans still voted for him. On some level, we are broken. I get the national divide and I frankly agree with many of the complaints coming from rural America. I understand some of the anger, but I’ve never understood expressing that anger through Trump. And watching him go full authoritarian as the votes were still being counted made me especially sad for my parents who had to watch the rise of a strongman during the buildup to WWII in Poland and Germany when they were kids, and who now have to watch half of America embrace a guy who deploys the same political tactics. But then I stopped crying. Partly because no one owns this lib! Partly because I realized that among the challenges my parents have faced, nothing about this election ranks in the top thousand. And partly because, regardless of the premature self-coronation of the mad king, in America, no election is over until every last Retweet is counted. And while there are very fine people on both sides, I have a feeling Biden’s side is going to have enough electoral votes to win. But it’s gonna be damn close. If my math is right, Biden got more votes than any candidate in history and Trump got more votes than he did in 2016. Stress and confusion in 2020. Who saw that coming? And one can safely assume, there’s much more to come between now and the end of this election season. (One irony of presidential elections is that each one takes four years off my life.)

That resonates with me, and I’m sure with may other people. It’s the size of Trump’s vote, after four years of his criminality, that’s the most depressing part of it all.

Long read of the day

Code, on wheels. Software will play a central role in the automobiles of the future by Frederic Filloux.

Or, why Teslas are interesting. Link

(Possibly only of interest to geeks and retired petrolheads.)

The Problem Isn’t That the Polls Were Wrong. It’s That They Were Useless.

Ban election forecasts, or at least ignore them.

Joshua Keating writing in Slate:

If Biden ultimately wins, pollsters and the data journalists who rely on them will claim some vindication. To be fair, FiveThirtyEight’s final projections gave Biden less than a 1-in-3 chance of a landslide. The popular vote projections are likely to be pretty accurate. Yet, frustratingly, pollsters can also marshal a defense of their methods if Trump manages a surprise win. After the polling misfires of 2016, Silver and other data journalists went to great lengths to remind readers that no matter how promising the polls looked, a Trump victory could not be ruled out. “A 10 percent chance of winning is not a zero percent chance. In fact, that is roughly the same odds that it’s raining in downtown Los Angeles. And it does rain there,” noted FiveThirtyEight’s final projection.

It’s not all that comforting to Democrats today to know that 9 out of 10 times this election happens in the greater multiverse, Biden will win it. As former FiveThirtyEight writer Mona Chalabi put it, assuming the voice of FiveThirtyEight’s much-derided Fivey Fox mascot, “No matter what happens, I will find a way to say ‘I told you so! That’s how probabilities work!’ ”

It’s not that we should stop trusting polls entirely. They are a flawed but vital tool for campaigns to know where to devote resources, and for campaign journalists to use in reporting. But an entire industry of pundits and soothsayers have turned polling analysis into something more like a religion while proclaiming it a science. Meanwhile, it is increasingly unclear why these projections are useful at all.

Other, possibly interesting, links

  • How the F@!# Did This Giant Whale Tail Save a Derailed Train?. A rail investigator explains how the Dutch train was saved by a sculpture. Is it any wonder I love Popular Mechanics? Link.
  • Someone Just Emptied Out a Bitcoin Wallet With $964,000,000 In It. It’s not yet clear if a hacker made off with a gigantic payday, or if the wallet’s long-dormant owner just came out of retirement. Link.

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