There's obviously not been any posting on my part in the last week, due to the intensity of the work I'm involved with (and the quality of the internet connection I have access to), but I will be back in NYC on Sunday night (10/3), at which time I'll do the preliminary work on the next iteration of the electoral college survey, and then back again Monday night (10/4), which is when I'll finish it and post it. I'm hoping that soon I'll be able to up the frequency of the survey to twice a week as we get closer to the election, especially considering that I'm flying to London on 10/30 and will be there for Election Day.
Meanwhile, it's certainly encouraging to hear the virtually unanimity of commenters, analysts and pollsters that Kerry "won" the debate on Thursday. I hope that the right-wingers who expressed that opinion aren't simply setting him up for a fall by raising expectations, saying how well he did this time so that the next two times they can express "disappointment" at Kerry not living up to his potential. (And, once again, allowing Bush to "win" by simply not being as bad as he was the first time: the soft bigotry of low expectations for the Yale legacy frat-boy son of a powerful ex-President.)
I'm off again, for a week away from home with limited (or no) posting. I'll be back on Monday the 4th and will post a new Electoral College survey then or on Tuesday.
In the meantime, check out this book review from the New York Times:
September 5, 2004
Against Toleration By Natalie Angier
THE END OF FAITH
Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason.
By Sam Harris.
336 pp. W. W. Norton & Company. $24.95.
When I was 8 years old, my family was in a terrible car accident, and my older brother almost died. The next night, as I lay scared and sleepless on my paternal grandmother's living-room couch, she softly explained to me who was to blame. Not my father's Aunt Estelle, a dour, aging wild woman and devout Baptist, who, as usual, was driving recklessly fast. No, the reason Estelle's station wagon flipped over and Joe was thrown out the back window was this: my father had stopped going to church the previous year, and God was very, very angry.
Dear old Grandma June. A compelling lack of evidence for any sort of Higher Power may have steered my mind toward atheism, but she put the heathen in my heart.
It's not often that I see my florid strain of atheism expressed in any document this side of the Seine, but ''The End of Faith'' articulates the dangers and absurdities of organized religion so fiercely and so fearlessly that I felt relieved as I read it, vindicated, almost personally understood. Sam Harris presents major religious systems like Judaism, Christianity and Islam as forms of socially sanctioned lunacy, their fundamental tenets and rituals irrational, archaic and, important when it comes to matters of humanity's long-term survival, mutually incompatible. A doctoral candidate in neuroscience at the University of California, Los Angeles, Harris writes what a sizable number of us think, but few are willing to say in contemporary America: ''We have names for people who have many beliefs for which there is no rational justification. When their beliefs are extremely common, we call them 'religious'; otherwise, they are likely to be called 'mad,' 'psychotic' or 'delusional.' '' To cite but one example: ''Jesus Christ -- who, as it turns out, was born of a virgin, cheated death and rose bodily into the heavens -- can now be eaten in the form of a cracker. A few Latin words spoken over your favorite Burgundy, and you can drink his blood as well. Is there any doubt that a lone subscriber to these beliefs would be considered mad?'' The danger of religious faith, he continues, ''is that it allows otherwise normal human beings to reap the fruits of madness and consider them holy.''
Right now, if you are even vaguely observant, or have friends or grandmothers who are, you may be feeling not merely irritated, as you would while reading a political columnist with whom you disagree, but deeply offended. You may also think it inappropriate that a mainstream newspaper be seen as obliquely condoning an attack on religious belief. That reaction, in Harris's view, is part of the problem. ''Criticizing a person's faith is currently taboo in every corner of our culture. On this subject, liberals and conservatives have reached a rare consensus: religious beliefs are simply beyond the scope of rational discourse. Criticizing a person's ideas about God and the afterlife is thought to be impolitic in a way that criticizing his ideas about physics or history is not.''
A zippered-lip policy would be fine, a pleasant display of the neighborly tolerance that we consider part of an advanced democracy, Harris says, if not for the mortal perils inherent in strong religious faith. The terrorists who flew jet planes into the World Trade Center believed in the holiness of their cause. The Christian apocalypticists who are willing to risk a nuclear conflagration in the Middle East for the sake of expediting the second coming of Christ believe in the holiness of their cause. In Harris's view, such fundamentalists are not misinterpreting their religious texts or ideals. They are not defaming or distorting their faith. To the contrary, they are taking their religion seriously, attending to the holy texts on which their faith is built. Unhappily for international comity, the Good Books that undergird the world's major religions are extraordinary anthologies of violence and vengeance, celestial decrees that infidels must die.
In the 21st century, Harris says, when swords have been beaten into megaton bombs, the persistence of ancient, blood-washed theisms that emphasize their singular righteousness and their superiority over competing faiths poses a genuine threat to the future of humanity, if not the biosphere: ''We can no longer ignore the fact that billions of our neighbors believe in the metaphysics of martyrdom, or in the literal truth of the book of Revelation,'' he writes, ''because our neighbors are now armed with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.''
Harris reserves particular ire for religious moderates, those who ''have taken the apparent high road of pluralism, asserting the equal validity of all faiths'' and who ''imagine that the path to peace will be paved once each of us has learned to respect the unjustified beliefs of others.'' Religious moderates, he argues, are the ones who thwart all efforts to criticize religious literalism. By preaching tolerance, they become intolerant of any rational discussion of religion and ''betray faith and reason equally.''
Harris, no pure materialist, acknowledges the human need for a mystical dimension to life, and he conveys something of a Buddhist slant on the nature of consciousness and reality. But he believes that mysticism, like other forms of knowledge, can be approached rationally and explored with the tools of modern neuroscience, without recourse to superstition and credulity.
''The End of Faith'' is far from perfect. Harris seems to find ''moral relativism'' as great a sin as religious moderation, and in the end he singles out Islam as the reigning threat to humankind. He likens it to the gruesome, Inquisition-style Christianity of the 13th century, yet he never explains how Christianity became comparatively domesticated. And on reading his insistence that it is ''time for us to admit that not all cultures are at the same stage of moral development,'' I couldn't help but think of Ann Coulter's morally developed suggestion that we invade Muslim countries, kill their leaders and convert their citizens to Christianity.
Harris also drifts into arenas of marginal relevance to his main thesis, attacking the war against drugs here, pacificism there, and offering a strained defense for the use of torture in wartime that seems all the less persuasive after Abu Ghraib. Still, this is an important book, on a topic that, for all its inherent difficulty and divisiveness, should not be shielded from the crucible of human reason.
(Note: I've converted to a more conservative method of counting Newsweek's results, which is that all toss-up states -- the number of which changes in every installment -- are simply counted as toss-ups and not assigned to one candidate or the other on the basis of poll results, as I was doing. I changed because this seems more in line with Newsweek's intent.)
MEDIAN: Kerry 237 - Bush 291 (remainder: 10) (was: 221-291-26)
MODE: Kerry 243 - Bush 291 (remainder: 4) (was: 254-284)
"Mean" is what is colloquially called "average." All items are added up and divided by the number of items.
"Median" is the center point, the middle value in a list. There are as many values larger than the median as there are values that are smaller.
"Mode" is the number in a list which appears the most times.
RANGE Kerry max: 300 (297) Kerry min: 143 (146)
Bush max: 341 (341) Bush min: 163 (180)
No really significant change from last week. Bush still leads Kerry by a sizable margin according to almost every site (only 4 of 49 sites show Kerry winning and one shows him ahead, while 36 show Bush winning and 8 show him ahead) but more than half of the sites showed Kerry gaining votes and Bush losing them (and only about a third showed the opposite), and Kerry did manage to make some improvement in his position, on the order of about 12 to 27 votes.
Nevertheless, Bush is ahead, now with 277 to 291 electoral votes, a drop of 2 to 14 votes from last week, and Kerry is at 231 to 237, a gain of about 10 to 13 votes. It's difficult to know if this shift is the precursor to larger changes or just an adjustment in a new status quo.
Since I'm spending the bulk of the week in a place with poor Internet access, I really can't update the survey as I usually do in the days after I post it. I'll do what I can on Monday night and Tuesday morning to make sure everything is up to date but any updates after that will have to wait until the next iteration a week from now.
In the first publication of this post I got the numbers backwards for TruthIsAll. I've fixed that now.
From each website I've taken the most comprehensive set of numbers offered, if possible without a "toss-up" category or other caveats, just Kerry versus Bush. Many of them differentiate between "solid" or "strong", "slightly" or "weak", and "leaning" or "barely" states, but I've combined them all together in order to present numbers which are as comparable as possible.
I encourage everyone to use the links and check each site for the specifics of that site's methodology and presentation.
My convention is that Kerry is listed first and Bush second, bold type indicates a winning candidate (i.e. 270 electoral votes or more), and italics or underlining indicates a leading candidate.
Sites which haven't updated in a while will be temporarily removed from the list until they're freshened. Right now, until around the end of September, I'll keep a "stagnant" site in the survey for about 3 weeks. For the first half of October that will tighten up to 2 weeks. From the middle of October until the election, it'll be a week at most.
One-time Electoral College analysis articles from the news media (as opposed to ongoing features) will be included, but only for a single interation of the survey, unless they are replaced by a new article.
As always, if anyone has links for any other sites that regularly track Electoral College status, please feel free to send them my way and I'll be glad to add them to the list. I'm also more than happy to hear from the proprietors of any of the sites surveyed here, should they have any complaints, comments, or suggestions for improvements.
The following sites have been removed for the reasons indicated:
Human Events (9/17): Kerry 211 - Bush 327 (one-time news report)
The following sites were removed in previous weeks for the reasons listed:
As Rocky said to Bullwinkle, "Fan mail from some flounder":
Ed, Your article about Strategic Vision not being a legitimate polling operation is as skewed as your own internal current predictions and or projections of the allocation of the electoral vote. Most (45 out of 47) or (90% to 95%) of the prognosticators have Bush in the lead unless you are a Democrat. Ed, you are a two faced idiot. Sincerely, Mark
I'm thrilled! My first poison pen pal!
As it happens, as my new friend Mark cannot know, I just updated my own numbers last night after downloading a bunch of poll results, and many states changed status, so that I'm currently at Kerry 247 - Bush 291.
You see, with the survey I simply report what all these web sites are saying, and do the math, and report the averages, and summarize them to the best of my ability. Similarly, with my own prediction, I follow a methodology that's not a strict algorithm but does have rules that I adhere to. You can argue that my rules are bad or inadequate (which they quite possibly are), but I do indeed try to report the results they bring, whether they make me happy or not. My interest (and the reason I started making my own estimations and then began to do the survey) is to get as good a handle as I can on what's happening, and regardless of whether my candidate is ahead or behind, that's still what I want to know. I imagine that many of the other Electoral College trackers are motivated by the same impulse.
My objections to Strategic Vision's polling is based on how they appear to me to be skewed in relation to the polling of other organization, and my speculations about what the reason for that might be. I've seen enough to pretty much convince me it's deliberate, and, given the Republican history of dirty tricks in Presidential elections, I think that's a justifiable conclusion. Others will obviously differ, but simply holding that opinion doesn't, I think, disqualify me from making an estimate of the electoral college situation that's as objective as it's possible for me to be.
One last thing: I did say, and have said, that I thought last week's strong showing for Bush was the highwater mark of his campaign, and that Kerry would be doing better from now on. That was based on some poll results and my own updated numbers. But now, based on more polls, my own newest estimation, and a quick look at a few sites, I don't expect that to be the case. When I do the survey tonight or tomorrow, I fully expect Bush to be in at least the same position as he was last week, or perhaps stronger. As a supporter of Kerry, I certainly hope that isn't the case, but I'll report whatever results I find, whichever way they go.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.