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   PoliticsView from the Center and Left


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From: Wharf Rat11/3/2012 8:42:01 AM
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The Article That Predicted the New York Subway Storm Surge Problem
By Alexis C. Madrigal

Oct 28 2012, 12:53 PM ET

Sandy may flood New York's transportation system. Meet the Columbia risk researcher who told us this could happen last month.

If you would like to see the definition of prescience, take a look at this New York Times article from September by Mireya Navarro. She quotes Columbia's Klaus Jacob essentially predicting the trouble that New York now faces, namely, that a big storm surge could paralyze its transportation system.

Klaus H. Jacob, a research scientist at Columbia University's Earth Institute, said the storm surge from Irene came, on average, just one foot short of paralyzing transportation into and out of Manhattan.

If the surge had been just that much higher, subway tunnels would have flooded, segments of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive and roads along the Hudson River would have turned into rivers, and sections of the commuter rail system would have been impassable or bereft of power, he said.

The most vulnerable systems, like the subway tunnels under the Harlem and East Rivers, would have been unusable for nearly a month, or longer, at an economic loss of about $55 billion, said Dr. Jacob, an adviser to the city on climate change and an author of the 2011 state study that laid out the flooding prospects.

"We've been extremely lucky," he said. "I'm disappointed that the political process hasn't recognized that we're playing Russian roulette."

Today, Andrew Cuomo announced the MTA subway, buses, and trains will shut down this evening and may remain out-of-service until Wednesday.

Update: New York Magazine's Daily Intel reached out to Jacob for his take on the current situation. It appears the big question is whether Sandy arrives at the full-moon high tide on Monday night or not. If it does, things could get ugly.
We may not know which of those two scenarios we face, however, until just hours before the storm hits. "Sandy is a very moody storm," Dr. Jacob added. "It changes its mind as it goes along, so it will take probably until tomorrow or early afternoon before we know exactly what the exact timing will be."

Regardless, it seems like we're in for some subway flooding. According to Dr. Jacob, the most vulnerable are subway stations are those in downtown Manhattan, particularly along Wall Street -- newswire photographs showed transit workers boarding up subway grates near the Staten Island Ferry on Friday -- as well as on the Upper East Side near the Harlem River, and near the Newton Creek boundary between Brooklyn and Queens.

Besides the subway, car tunnels, coastal streets, and even the airports should expect flooding from a Category 1 hurricane, according to one city report. Both LaGuardia and JFK airports, where serious delays and travel disruptions are already expected, may experience as much as three feet of flooding.

theatlantic.com

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From: Wharf Rat11/3/2012 8:48:55 AM
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What no candidate says about energy and the economy

By Jan Lars Mueller, executive director, Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas USA
Charles A. Hall, co-author "Energy and the Wealth of Nations" - 11/01/12 10:00 AM ET

This election is being framed as a choice between two different approaches to return to robust economic growth. But what if both sides are missing a critical underlying factor in our economic troubles? What if tools of the past no longer fit the economy of the future? Economic growth, as we have known it, is being constrained by an unprecedented slowing of growth in world oil supply. America’s path to future prosperity needs to recognize and confront this new energy reality, and adapt our economy to run on a lot less oil.

World crude oil production has been on a century-long rising trend—from less than one million barrels per day (mbd) in 1900 to nearly 75 mbd today. There have been aberrations along the way, such as a large fall in production during the Great Depression, but the upward trend has persisted—until recently. Since 2005, global oil production has been essentially flat. There have been plateaus before, but what is different this time is that real oil prices—i.e. adjusted for inflation—have roughly tripled within the span of a decade, yet relatively little additional production has been brought forth.

For most of the 20th century, oil prices in 2009 dollars were less than $35 per barrel. During the 25-year economic boom following World War II, they stayed reliably below $20. Real prices shot up to the $50 mark in the early 1970’s following the Arab oil embargo and reached $100 shortly thereafter with the Iranian hostage crisis. Excepting those oil shocks, average real prices remained remarkably low.

But something appears to have fundamentally changed over the past decade. Since 2000, aside from a spike and crash in 2008 and 2009, U.S. oil prices have climbed steadily and are now holding in the $80-$100 per barrel range, approximately three times their historic average, despite a worldwide economic slowdown. We have essentially been in a long, slow, but equally damaging oil shock for several years, only this one is not associated with any acute geopolitical event.

Various forces are contributing to rising oil prices, but an unavoidable key factor is the increasing cost and energy required to produce each new barrel of oil. From an energy and economic standpoint, the return on energy invested for new petroleum sources — such as tight oil in North Dakota, Canadian tar sands, or deepwater offshore oil is much lower than for conventional oilfields of the past, as research at the State University of New York at Syracuse has shown.

What does this mean for the economy? In essence, oil is delivering substantially less energy “profit” or surplus wealth to society than it used to. Higher prices also mean more American dollars flowing to oil-exporting countries, less money for households and businesses to invest or spend on other goods and services, and rising prices for oil-dependent products (a long list). It all adds up to a major drag on economic growth.

There is another important new wrinkle in the story of the petroleum age. Before 2000, we didn’t care much about other countries. The United States essentially laid first claim to the world’s oil exports. No longer. Oil consumption in developing countries, especially China, has exploded over the past decade. At the same time, oil-exporting countries are using more oil domestically. The result: oil exports available on the global market have been declining by an estimated 0.7 percent per year since 2005, according to analysis by Texas geologist Jeffrey Brown, and competition for those declining oil exports has increased, pushing prices further upward.

Rather than grasp and face this new reality, many candidates are instead harping about “energy independence.” Not only is U.S. oil production unlikely to meet current consumption (ignore the hype, check the numbers for yourself), more domestic production will not address oil’s increasing burden on the economy. Canada, for example, produces much more oil than it consumes; however, adjusting for taxes, our northern neighbors pay about the same at the pump as we do.

No matter who sits in the White House or controls Congress, America cannot drill its way out of our oil predicament, and more importantly, we cannot just “grow” our way to prosperity without addressing this new energy reality and charting a new course toward a low-oil economy.
thehill.com

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To: Ron who wrote (206786)11/3/2012 8:49:42 AM
From: ChinuSFO
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Desperation. One instance: giving up on Ohio and trying elsewhere. " Spreading the map" of falsehood.

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From: Dale Baker11/3/2012 9:58:03 AM
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November 3, 2012, 9:33 am
Nov. 2: For Romney to Win, State Polls Must Be Statistically Biased
By NATE SILVER

President Obama is now better than a 4-in-5 favorite to win the Electoral College, according to the FiveThirtyEight forecast. His chances of winning it increased to 83.7 percent on Friday, his highest figure since the Denver debate and improved from 80.8 percent on Thursday.


Friday’s polling should make it easy to discern why Mr. Obama has the Electoral College advantage. There were 22 polls of swing states published Friday. Of these, Mr. Obama led in 19 polls, and two showed a tie. Mitt Romney led in just one of the surveys, a Mason-Dixon poll of Florida.


Although the fact that Mr. Obama held the lead in so many polls is partly coincidental — there weren’t any polls of North Carolina on Friday, for instance, which is Mr. Romney’s strongest battleground state — they nevertheless represent powerful evidence against the idea that the race is a “tossup.” A tossup race isn’t likely to produce 19 leads for one candidate and one for the other — any more than a fair coin is likely to come up heads 19 times and tails just once in 20 tosses. (The probability of a fair coin doing so is about 1 chance in 50,000.)

Instead, Mr. Romney will have to hope that the coin isn’t fair, and instead has been weighted to Mr. Obama’s advantage. In other words, he’ll have to hope that the polls have been biased in Mr. Obama’s favor. (I recognize that ‘bias’ is a loaded term in political contexts. I’ll explain what I mean by it in a moment.)

There are essentially three reasons that a poll might provide an inaccurate forecast of an upcoming election.

The first is statistical sampling error: statistical error that comes from interviewing only a random sample of the population, rather than everyone. This is the type of error that is represented by the margin of error reported alongside a poll and it is reasonably easy to measure.

If you have just one poll of a state, the statistical sampling error will be fairly high. For instance, a poll of 800 voters has a margin of error in estimating one candidate’s vote share of about plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. In a two-candidate race, however, the margin of error in estimating the difference between the candidates (as in: “Obama leads Romney by five points”) is roughly twice that, plus or minus seven percentage points, since a vote for one candidate is necessarily a vote against the other one.

The margin of error is much reduced, however, when you aggregate different polls together, since that creates a much larger sample size. In Ohio, for example, there have been 17,615 interviews of likely voters in polls conducted there within the past 10 days. That yields a margin of error, in measuring the difference between the candidates, of about 1.5 percentage point — smaller than Mr. Obama’s current lead in the polling average there.

In other words, Mr. Obama’s current lead in Ohio almost certainly does not reflect random sampling error alone. The same is true in states like Iowa, Nevada, Wisconsin and others that would suffice for him to win 270 electoral votes. (Mr. Obama’s more tenuous leads in Colorado and Virginia, and Mr. Romney’s thin lead in Florida, potentially could be a product of sampling error.)

So why, then, do we have Mr. Obama as “only” an 83.7 percent favorite to win the Electoral College, and not close to 100 percent?

This is because of the other potential sources of error in polling. One is that a poll is a snapshot in time — even if you’re sampling the voters accurately, their opinions could change again before Election Day.

This is a huge concern if, for instance, you’re conducting a poll in June of an election year. Michael Dukakis led the polls for much of the spring in 1988; John Kerry did so for some of the summer in 2004; even John McCain, in 2008, had a few moments when he may have been ahead in the polling average.

But it’s now the weekend before the election. The vast majority of voters are locked into their choices. In some states, in fact, a fair number of them have already voted. (Perhaps about 20 percent of the vote nationwide has been cast, and the tally may be as high as two-thirds of the vote in some states like Nevada.)

Nor are there any more guaranteed opportunities for news or campaign events to intervene to alter the dynamics of the campaign, at least not at the national level. The debates have been held; the conventions occurred long ago; the vice-presidential nominees have been picked. The last major economic news of the campaign came on Friday, with the release of the October jobs numbers. A negative print on the payrolls report, or a sharp rise in the unemployment rate, could have altered the campaign, but instead the jobs report was a pretty good one. (I don’t expect the jobs report to produce much of a boost for Mr. Obama, but there’s little in the report that would aid Mr. Romney.) The recovery from Hurricane Sandy is still a developing story, but not one that seems to be playing to Mr. Romney’s benefit.

There is the remote possibility of a true “black swan” event, like a national-security crisis or a major scandal unfolding at the last minute, but the chance for news events to affect the campaign is now greatly diminished. And most of the polls that we’ve seen over the past several days are the last ones that polling firms will be releasing into the field.

That leaves only the final source of polling error, which is the potential that the polls might simply have been wrong all along because of statistical bias.

Polling is a difficult enterprise nowadays. Some estimate that only about 10 percent of voters respond even to the best surveys, and the polls that take shortcuts pay for it with lower-still response rates, perhaps no better than 2 to 5 percent. The pollsters are making a leap of faith that the 10 percent of voters they can get on the phone and get to agree to participate are representative of the entire population. The polling was largely quite accurate in 2004, 2008 and 2010, but there is no guarantee that this streak will continue. Most of the “house effects” that you see introduced in the polls — the tendency of certain polling firms to show results that are consistently more favorable for either the Democrat or the Republican — reflect the different assumptions that pollsters make about how to get a truly representative sample and how to separate out the people who will really vote from ones who say they will, but won’t.

But many of the pollsters are likely to make similar assumptions about how to measure the voter universe accurately. This introduces the possibility that most of the pollsters could err on one or another side — whether in Mr. Obama’s direction, or Mr. Romney’s. In a statistical sense, we would call this bias: that the polls are not taking an accurate sample of the voter population. If there is such a bias, furthermore, it is likely to be correlated across different states, especially if they are demographically similar. If either of the candidates beats his polls in Wisconsin, he is also likely to do so in Minnesota.

The FiveThirtyEight forecast accounts for this possibility. Its estimates of the uncertainty in the race are based on how accurate the polls have been under real-world conditions since 1968, and not the idealized assumption that random sampling error alone accounts for entire reason for doubt.

To be exceptionally clear: I do not mean to imply that the polls are biased in Mr. Obama’s favor. But there is the chance that they could be biased in either direction. If they are biased in Mr. Obama’s favor, then Mr. Romney could still win; the race is close enough. If they are biased in Mr. Romney’s favor, then Mr. Obama will win by a wider-than-expected margin, but since Mr. Obama is the favorite anyway, this will not change who sleeps in the White House on Jan. 20.

My argument, rather, is this: we’ve about reached the point where if Mr. Romney wins, it can only be because the polls have been biased against him. Almost all of the chance that Mr. Romney has in the FiveThirtyEight forecast, about 16 percent to win the Electoral College, reflects this possibility.

Yes, of course: most of the arguments that the polls are necessarily biased against Mr. Romney reflect little more than wishful thinking.

Nevertheless, these arguments are potentially more intellectually coherent than the ones that propose that the race is “too close to call.” It isn’t. If the state polls are right, then Mr. Obama will win the Electoral College. If you can’t acknowledge that after a day when Mr. Obama leads 19 out of 20 swing-state polls, then you should abandon the pretense that your goal is to inform rather than entertain the public.

But the state polls may not be right. They could be biased. Based on the historical reliability of polls, we put the chance that they will be biased enough to elect Mr. Romney at 16 percent.

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From: Sam11/3/2012 9:59:47 AM
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Here is another prediction from the RW--Michael Barone, who is being heralded as "having more credibility than any other commentator on the American political scene" (contrasted with Nate Silver by some RW pundits), predicts that Romney will win with 315 electoral votes, including OH, VA, FL, CO, IA, NH, WI and PA.

We'll see.

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To: Dale Baker who wrote (206798)11/3/2012 10:05:48 AM
From: Dale Baker
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In Defense of Nate Silver

Wired: "David Brooks is mistaken and Joe Scarborough is wrong. Because while pollsters can't project, statistical models can, and do ... and they do some predictions very well. We rely on statistical models for many decisions every single day, including, crucially: weather, medicine, and pretty much any complex system in which there's an element of uncertainty to the outcome. In fact, these are the same methods by which scientists could tell Hurricane Sandy was about to hit the United States many days in advance. Dismissing predictive methods is not only incorrect; in the case of electoral politics, it's politically harmful."

"So if Brooks wants to move away from checking polls all the time, he should support more statistical models. And we should hope for more people like Nate Silver and Sam Wang to produce models that can be tested and improved over time. We should defend statistical models because confusing uncertainty and variance with "oh, we don't know anything, it could go any which way" does disservice to important discussions we should be having on many topics -- not just politics."

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To: Sam who wrote (206799)11/3/2012 10:07:01 AM
From: Dale Baker
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denverpost.com

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To: Dale Baker who wrote (206801)11/3/2012 10:12:03 AM
From: Dale Baker
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By MIKE ALLEN | 11/03/12 9:14 AM EDT

EXCLUSIVE—Obama campaign: Yesterday, “we placed our final advertising buy of the election -- the overwhelming focus of which was to double down on Florida and Virginia. The Romney campaign has tried to claim for weeks that they’d be victorious in those states, but from everything we’re seeing in the numbers and on the ground, we believe that they’ll end up in the President’s column on Tuesday night.

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From: Mary Cluney11/3/2012 10:13:03 AM
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November 3, 2012, 9:44 am Soup Kitchens Caused the Great Depression
Some readers have been asking me to reply to Casey Mulligan's latest attack on my recent book. Um, no. Life is short, and if I spent my time responding to every attack on yours truly -- or indeed, every thing Mulligan himself writes that I consider foolish -- I would have no time to do anything else. So let me just outsource this to John Quiggin.

Now, Quiggin's post takes on both Mulligan's specifics and the broader claim that increased use of the social safety net is a cause rather than a result of the depressed economy. As one of his commenters points out, this amounts to the claim that soup kitchens caused the Great Depression. Quiggin does an admirable job of refuting this claim. I would, however, add one more point. If you really believe that the problem is that excessive generosity to the downtrodden is reducing the incentive to work, so that what we really have is a supply problem rather than a demand problem, you should expect to see upward pressure on wages. What we actually see:

Oh, and feel the hyperinflation.

krugman.blogs.nytimes.com

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To: Dale Baker who wrote (206802)11/3/2012 10:17:10 AM
From: Dale Baker
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This is the headline I wanted to see take hold in the last few days.....

Posted at 09:07 AM ET, 11/03/2012 Where we are with three days left
By Greg Sargent

Nate Cohn looks at all the most recent polling in Ohio, Wisconsin and Nevada — three states that would put Obama over 270 — and concludes:

As of today, there is not a single non-partisan survey showing Romney ahead in any of these three states.
The RCP averages show Obama leading in those states by 2.9, 5.4 and 2.7 points respectively. This comes after two polls yesterday — from CNN and NBC/WSJ — put Obama up three and five points in Ohio. Meanwhile, Cohn notes there is evidence Obama is edging ahead in Colorado.

And in Florida, an NBC/WSJ poll last night put Obama up two points. In the averages, Romney’s lead in Florida ranges from 0.2 points to 1.4 points. For all the talk about his “expanding map,” Romney is still fighting to hold Florida. Cohn concludes:

Obama is far better positioned in Florida than Romney can claim in any of the states along Obama’s path of least resistance to 270.
And in Virginia, the race is within one point, too.

Unless Romney can pick off Pennsylvania, where he trails by 4.6 points or more in the averages, he very likely has to win Florida, Ohio, and Virginia to win the presidency. That’s especially true if he doesn’t win Colorado.

And so, in the three Romney states likely must win, Romney is behind in one, tied in the second, and holds the most tenuous of leads in the third. He is leading meaningfully in none of them.

Meanwhile, Obama only has to win one of those three to virtually assure his path to 270. And he is leading meaningfully in one, tied in the second, and seriously contesting the third. With three days to go.

As always, the polls could be wrong, and Romney could still win. But the polls would have to be overwhelmingly, systematically, catastrophically wrong in multiple states for that to happen.


By Greg Sargent | 09:07 AM ET, 11/03/2012

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