We hear occasionally (but not often enough) about the "growing gap between rich and poor" in this country, but it occurs to me that this terminology gets in the way of putting over the enormity of what's actually going on. After all, most people have a pretty good idea of who "rich people" are: the Donald Trumps, Hollywood celebrities and Eastern bluebloods who live on large estates, have servants and live a life of ease. And people equally "know" what is meant by poor people: large minority families squeezed into tiny inner-city apartments, or backwoods folk living in run-down cabins, who live off welfare payments, food stamps and whatever scraps of work they can find. Given that picture of who the "rich" and the "poor" are, (and though it's obviously an exaggeration, I think you'll find that it's distressingly close to most people's mental image of what's meant), that there's a widening gap between them seems, well, only natural, part of the usual scheme of things, simply what's to be expected.
What needs to be put across is that the gap is not between these cliched stereotypes, but between groups of people who are essentially middle class, sharing the same values and culture, but going in copmpletely opposite directions economically. One group is buying McMansions five times larger then what they actually need, driving around in German luxury cars and top of the line SUVs, and sending their kids to the best colleges money can buy, while the other group -- equally middle class in upbringing and outlook -- is constantly one paycheck away from going under, borrowing money to pay essential bills, living just slightly above their means because they can't afford to make the changes that would reduce their overhead, and not able to put aside anything to deal with the inevitable problems of the future.
This is the gap we have to be worried about, especially those of us who find themselves on the downside more often than not. Somehow, we have to get across the necessity for this disparity to be lessened before it causes an explosion, a "middle class revolution" which would undermine the very foundations of this country, and Western civilization.
(Of course, other Western countries, not so gun-shy as we are about using as much socialism as necessary to keep things in check, don't have the same kind of problem that we do. Hmmm.... I wonder if there's a lesson to be learned there.)
In my almost thirty years as an adult, I've noticed a distinct improvement in the quality of service that government agencies provide to their customers, the citizens whose taxes pay for their salaries and the cost of their paperclips. For instance, the entire experience of filing for and collecting unemployment insurance in New York (something I'm pretty intimately familiar with, given that I always have down time between the various shows that I work on) has gotten incredibly easier and more convenient than it was when I first came to the city 28 years ago, and when one has to go into an office and deal directly with the rank and file of the bureaucracy, there seems to be a real interest from them in being helpful and providing a necessary and potentially uncomfortable service with as little hassle as possible.
Yesterday, however, I got to spend a little time (OK, a fair amount of time) with a corner of the bureaucracy that seems to have been relatively untouched by these systemic changes. Not entirely unchanged, because the workers there were at least courteous enough, but the gross inefficiency of the entire operation and the lack of energy and drive of the clerks was a distinct reminder of the bad old days. Not quite Kafkaesque, perhaps, but certainly reminiscent of, say, Terry Gilliam's Brazil.
I'm referring to the New York City Board of Elections, where I went to get and cast my absentee ballot yesterday.
I won't bore you with the details, but I did spend a certain amount of my considerable waiting time imagining how the office could be restructured and rearranged to provide efficient service to the public. Of course, since the Board of Elections is, as I understand it, a sinkhole of political patronage workers evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, that's extremely unlikely to happen, as each side presumably fears that an efficient operation would be misused by the other side (and, given New York City's history of politicial shenanigans and dirty trick dating back to Tammany Hall and before, that's not an unreasonable expectation).
In any case, I was, in the end, able to get my ballot and cast my vote, doing my small part to keep democracy alive, so if Kerry-Edwards wins by one vote in New York, you'll know who to thank.
Philip K. Dick is one of my favorite authors, and despite the mixed track record of movie versions of his stories and novels, I'm excited about the upcoming Richard Linklater/Keanu Reeves film of A Scanner Darkly, one of Dick's best works. This blog is dedicated to that film, and there's the official PKD site, and the fan site.
When I started doing this survey of Electoral College tracking / prediction / projection / forecast / scoreboard / map sites some 4 months ago, at the end of June, my reason for doing so at the time is the same reason I continue to assemble it now: I wanted a tool which would help me to get a better sense of the state of a tight (and sometimes confusing) race. I think that it's fulfilled that goal, thanks especially to those who encouraged me to start doing averages (which I didn't provide at the beginning, but did calculate retroactively), which turned out to be the key. I've personally found the statistics generated by the survey to be quite helpful in providing benchmarks for comparing things from one week to the next, benchmarks determined by many different people (amateurs and professionals alike) with differing politics utilizing different methodologies. I hope that others have found it to be useful as well.
Here's what the Electoral College trackers are reporting this week:
ELECTORAL COLLEGE TRACKING SITES
ABC (The Note) (10/11 - news report): Kerry 231 - Bush 213 - ?? 94 (new to survey)
Larry Allen (10/7) Kerry 247 - Bush 278 - ?? 13 (AR, IA) (was: 218-285-35)
Bloomberg (10/8 - restored; news report): Kerry 164 - Bush 178 - ?? 196 (was: 143-163-232 on 9/27)
"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. The "n=" number indicates how many times the number listed appears.
"Joint Mode" is not a standard statistical term (as far as I know). Rather than determine the mode of Kerry's and Bush's numbers individually, "joint mode" measures which combination of Kerry and Bush counts appears most frequently in the survey. The "n=" number indicates how many times it appears.
RANGE Kerry max: 325 (297) Kerry min: 153 (153)
Bush max: 311 (348) Bush min: 167 (177)
According to the data mined from the Electoral College trackers, this was a good week for Kerry. While a majority of the 57 sites surveyed have Bush winning (25 sites) or ahead (13 others), the same majority (38 sites) showed Kerry gaining electoral votes this week while Bush lost them (37 sites). Meanwhile, the number of sites showing Kerry winning quadrupled from 3 to 13.
Kerry has clearly made great strides in taking back a good deal of the territory Bush had reclaimed over the last month, reducing Bush's 50 point advantage of last week to a current 14 - 17 point Bush advantage. (At the moment, Bush has 261 to 266 electoral votes, while Kerry has 247 to 249.) Three sites showed a tie, another indication that Kerry has almost closed the gap with Bush.
(Note: Compare these to the graph below, from Jerome Armstrong of MyDD.)
UPDATES & CORRECTIONS
For a few days after I publish the survey, I'll update figures, make corrections, and add new sites that come to my attention. I'll note these changes here, and mark the entry for each altered site when appropriate.
The next iteration of the survey will be on Monday October 18.
(10/11) The New York Times now has an Electoral College feature which they say will be frequently updated, so I've added it into the survey.
(10/12) Thanks (once again) to Matt Nelson for the pointer to the Electoral College analysis on ABC News's The Note Matt also says that the NYT site has not been consistently updated in the past.
(10/12) I got an e-mail from "Frank Myers CPT ARMOR, US Corps of Engineers Baghdad, Iraq" (who has a website, Citizen Frank) pointing me to his 9/26 Electoral College analysis (Kerry 263 - Bush 274 - ?? 1 - an abstaining WV elector). In the course of doing the survey, I've received a number of e-mails from people who do one-time or very occasional EC breakdowns on their blogs and other sites, and I generally don't include them in the survey because I'm primarily interested in people who track electoral votes over time using an explicit methodology. Otherwise, the survey would become even more cumbersome to do then it already is.
(10/12) I've adjusted Mark Durrenberger's 10/11 figures to account for Maine and Nebraska, the only states at this moment which do not award their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote in the state. (Some are awarded to the winner in each congressional district.) Mark's current numbers: Kerry 268 - Bush 270.
(10/12) Of all the stats I provide, the mode has been the least useful, because it's possible for the mode to be determined by as little as two appearances in the survey. To help judge the validity of the mode numbers, I'm going to start indicating how many times they appear -- hence the addition of the "n=" tag. I'm also adding something I'm calling "joint mode" until I find out what the actual name for this concept is. "Joint mode" measures what combination of Kerry and Bush numbers appears most often in the survey.
(10/13) E. Alan Meece points me to his no-frills website, Electoral College Survey, where he says he's been tracking the electoral college situation for several months. Currently, his status is: Kerry 246 - Bush 265 -- ?? 27. I'll include Eric's numbers in the next iteration of the survey.
(10/14) Thanks to my friend Shirley, I'll be adding another site to the next iteration of the survey: Electoral Expectations, where the current status is Kerry 273 - Bush 265
(10/15) I've just noticed that the website I've been labelling as "Amoro" is actually attributed to Andrea Moro, so I've changed the title and moved it down to the proper place in the alphabetical listing.
(10/16) Elsewhere on unfutz, take a look at these graphs of the polling in four crucial states.
(10/16) Thanks to Susanna Cornett, who blogs for the Detroit News Online for her mention of the survey, and even more so for her description of me as "hard-working and apparently quite competent liberal blogger Ed Fitzgerald."
(10/16) Another new prediction to be included in the next survey is that of George Axiotakis, who goes by "The Groundhog". Find his latest here (Kerry 301 - Bush 237), and an explanation of his methodology here.
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. For the first half of October I'll keep a "stagnant" site in the survey about 2 weeks. From the middle of October until the election, that will tighten up to 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 iteration 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:
Take a look at this program description for tonight's edition of CNN Presents from the CNN website:
The Mission of George W. Bush
With less than 30 days until Election Day, CNN examines President Bush's first term and what we have we learned about him and his style.
I don't want to be pedantic or anything, and I'm sure this is purely an innocent error and not indicative of any prejudice on CNN's part, but what we are nearing the end of cannot be called "President Bush's first term" until he starts a second term, or at least wins this election. Until then, it is merely "President Bush's term of office," and not his "first term."
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.