Friday, November 20, 2015

Two Problems Solved with One Fix--Disabling HTML5 in Chromium

Ever since I "downgraded" from the wretchedness which was Windows 8 back to Windows 7 (Dell Inspiron did not allow me the choice to get my new laptop with Windows 7, so 8 was foisted onto me), one of the problems I have faced with Chromium (the open-source version of Chrome) is that about 80% of any videos I try to watch have an awful screeching static sound rather than the actual audio from the video. I've searched for 2 years to find a solution, with no success. Another annoyance is that when I go full-screen in videos there is a pop-up idiot warning that I have gone full-screen, and it won't go away unless I click on "approve." Having briefly worked in internet security, I never click pop-ups anywhere, anytime, for any reason--if I can't 'escape' out of a pop-up, or use AdBlock or NotScripts to get rid of it, I go to task manager and shut down the entire browser. I NEVER click pop-ups, and neither should you.

Anyway, today I found a way to get rid of the "you are in full screen" popup: disable the HTML 5 dll file, "ffmpegsumo.dll" by renaming it to something else. In my case, whenever I want to rename a file to disable the computer from accessing it, I put "RENAME" at the beginning of the name, so in this case, it became "RENAME-ffmpegsumo.dll" -- that way I can always find it easily if I need to undo this step.

The exciting news is that this also solved the problem of the awful, screeching, static noise!! Now I don't have to switch to firefox everytime I do searches for online videos!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

ANOVA-Regression, and the GLM--Comic Pedagogy

In my Intro to Statistics course, one of the tasks I feel obliged to do is to introduce the students to how two of the main topics of the course--linear regression and ANOVA--are linked, since they seem to be completely unrelated, other than the fact that we spend 75% of the semester on doing these two tests. Regression was first explored in the late 1890s by Pearson, applying the procedure to genetics, and similarly, ANOVA (analysis of variance), pioneered by Fisher, was also applied to genetics some decades later, in the 1920s. Both tests have somewhat different assumptions that must be met before they can be applied correctly, and both tests require different types of data. Because of these, and other differences, it isn't obvious that both of the two tests are based on the same math, linear/matrix algebra. At a later point in statistical research, their linkages were discovered, and now both are subsumed under the General Linear Model.

After studying these two separately in the Intro to Statistics class, I present this finding--that not only are these two tests based on the same math, but some statistical packages are moving to unify them. For example, in SPSS, there are some ANOVA tests that you can no longer find under the ANOVA tab--you must look under the GLM tab. Additionally, any data that ordinarily seems amenable only to an ANOVA test can be transformed into being amenable to regression. At the end of this lecture, I show my students one of my favorite geeky math cartoons--it sometimes goes around on Pi Day. I explain that after hearing that ANOVA and linear regression are fundamentally the same test, subsumed under the GLM, that their faces, I'm sure, all look like this, that they will rush out to twitter the discovery to all of their friends, and use the information to pick up dates at parties.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Prager "University" and Racist "Educational" Videos

I recently ran across a video from Prager "University," of which I have never heard--it's actually just a conservative think-tank founded by Dennis Prager, which has tacked the word "University" to his name. The title of the 5-minute video is "Don't Judge Blacks Differently," filed under the "Political Science" section of the "University." Production is a combination of a still-shot of the single speaker, and primitive South Park style animation. It's a fairly typical conservative approach to race--i.e., the "color-blind" approach, that if we ignore race then the problem isn't really there, and it's academics who are the "real racists." However, while claiming to be academic, being affiliated with a "university," the video not only fails to present any kind of evidence-based claims, the theories that it uses to present its ideology is contradicted by decades of sociological and economic research.

Because of the farcical nature of the video, I created a spoof of the video, using the same video, but overlaying it with the built-in Microsoft text-to-speech voice of Anna using the software Balabolka. The text-to-speech isn't always as clear as I had hoped, and I am considering adding in a sub-titled track. But that would be a lot of work, so maybe I will, maybe I won't...

I don't have a title for the remade video, but here it is on Youtube:

Prager Spoof Video of "Don't Judge Blacks Differently"

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Social Movement Tactics--Integrating Symbols for Mutual Benefit

I had a recent unfortunate Facebook encounter. I posted the image above, and an interlocutor argued that the function of the image was to "erase" the Black civil rights movement by the "co-opting" of the iconic imagery of segregated water fountains by the LGBTQ movement. The catalyst for the image was the March passage of the Indiana's version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, causing a tidal wave of opposition nationwide, and is rightly seen primarily as a counter-offensive against the increase in LGBTQ rights, including a recent federal court decision striking down Indiana's attempt to enforce anti-gay marriage law. I have seen similar arguments appear based on individuals using other Black civil rights symbols in the current series of protests against Indiana's RFRA law. Language such as "co-opting," "dilution" and "erasing" of the symbols of racial injustice are being deployed to prevent LGBTQ activists from using any such imagery. Granted, I believe that such a practice has occurred in the wake of the Ferguson, "Black Lives Matter" slogan, when its counterpart, "All Lives Matter" became a point of controversy.

The issue in that case seems to be based on the false narrative of "reverse racism." This idea relies on an overly-simplistic understanding of the concept of "racism," which presumes that any type of discrimination or prejudice by one "race" or ethnic group against another can be called "racism." However, racism is neither a behavior, nor a belief/opinion--it is a systemic pattern of oppression built on unequal social power relations. While this blog post is not the place to argue that complex case, and while it is true that members of any race can have prejudices about another, and can discriminate against another, there is no such thing as "reverse racism," nor is there such a thing as "Black against White racism," specifically because of the fundamental structural inequalities between Blacks and Whites in the United States. Racism is about broad structural power, not individual acts.

So when the "Black Lives Matter" language was altered to "All Lives Matter," I believe that activists rightly argued that this represents an erasing of the importance of the race component of the broad social problem that started the "Black Lives Matter" movement. Given that the "Black Lives Matter" slogan was 1) new, so did not have the culturally iconic nature of symbols from the 1950s civil rights movements, such as the image of the segregated water fountains; and 2) that the revised slogan failed to link to any oppressed group or specific incident of injustice, I believe the opposition to "All Lives Matter" was justified. In that sense, "dilution" and "erasure" seem like an appropriate description. While it's certainly true that "All Lives Matter," movement success depends on the ability to highlight specific repression and motivate target groups. The revised slogan seems, at best, to merge all social problems into an abstraction, and at worst, tries to argue that, "sure, Black people get harassed by police, but so do White people, and you don't see us whining about it." That argument, ubiquitous among those who enjoy, but fail to identify, White privilege, fails to recognize the profound and specific disenfranchisement of race minorities in the US, and rightly needs to be vigorously confronted and rebutted.

I don't know where the specific image above came from--it seems to be a recent design. I can only track it back to a Facebook page from March 26, 2015. A similar image from 2010 points back to the 2008 California Proposition 8 campaign to prevent gay marriage in that state. However, the process of integrating movement symbology is not new. For example, the Black Power movement's primary symbol of the raised fist, which we see used at the 1968 Olympics by Tommy Smith and John Carlos, and other Black Power motifs of the 1960s-1970s, draws from a long history of "raised fist" imagery.

It more widely represents movements of mass solidarity against repressive states. For example, the following images are from the early 1900s, for the Russian Communist party, a 1917 union poster, and the cover of a 1948 Mexican resistance magazine. The Black Power movement's utilization of this early imagery I would argue, neither functions to, nor is intended to, "dilute" or "erase" the prior movements that had used these symbols, but rather, to pay homage to the fact that the movements are sharing in similar repression, and thus functions to link into the broader social consciousness and reinforce the connections between the movements.

Within social movements theory, a widely recognized phenomenon is the "protest cycle," where several movements often arise in tandem with each other, often preceded by the creation of a salient "master frame." For example, in the mid-late 1800s, Black civil rights gained significant ground during the Reconstruction Era, only to get quickly submerged and largely rolled back. The first wave feminist movement had much success in the late 1800s-early 1900s, then seemed to disappear. In the 1950s, the Black civil rights movement was revived, and the inclusion of university students into the movement, plus other explicit strategies to link it to other groups, broadened the movement into a national force, and created much broader and long-lasting effects than had the previous, and isolated movements. A broad anti-nuclear weapons and peace movement had been simmering in response to WWII, the Korean War, and the Cold War. Martin Luther King, Jr. was successfully able to connect those movements, largely White, middle class, together in a broader discussion about minority repression in the US, as is evidenced by his focus on non-violent actions in the protests he organized. This linked his movement constituency and goals to much wider groups than had been previously incorporated.

Specifically, the master frame that developed within this cultural milieu was rooted in the idea of civil rights and justice for all people, and was able to link many movements together--peace movements argued true peace requires social equality and justice; environmental movements argued that civil rights included a sustainable set of public policies that created livable spaces for all people; clearly, women and sexual minorities were able to draw from this frame to understand their own treatment by society, and join the broader movement for rights; similarly, class disenfranchisement can be understood as a basic civil rights-type issue of being treated with equality. When these varied groups were able to see each of their forms of repression under a common rubric, or 'frame,' then they were able to more effectively share experiences, leadership and tactics to resist, to protest, and to work together for broader social change. This synergy helped to produce the decade of mass protests in the 1960s, a 'protest cycle.'

Rather than "diluting" or "erasing" each other, these varied movements were able to create a larger mass movement by sharing their symbols, integrating them, and working together. The image at the top of the page is unmistakably a reference to the iconic image of the 1950s segregated water fountains, and the Black civil rights struggle that went into remediating the "separate but equal" fallacy. In a similar way, the Indiana RFRA creates the fallacy that all people will be treated equally, even though certain groups of people may be relegated to separate facilities of public accommodation, if one of those facilities is operated by a private individual who is offended by members of specific social groups. While it is claimed that current law prohibits discrimination based on race, so purportedly, even a religious objection to interracial marriage would not allow a restaurant to restrict access to an interracial couple (this is a disputed contention), no such protections exist for sexual minorities, so such groups, or any other non-protected classes of people, could legally be excluded from facilities of public accommodations--i.e., privately owned businesses which serve the public.

The historic image of the segregated water fountain overlaid with LGBTQ symbolism, points to the connections between these movements that were recognized at least as far as the 1960s. The linkage reminds the audience of the racist history of the United States, especially in the context of the current upsurge in recognition of continued race minority disenfranchisement in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. That reminder sensitizes the audience to that movement, while also raising the spectre of a revisitation of the past, both for the potential implications of this law for LGBTQ individuals, as well as any other minority group, including race minorities. I would argue, therefore, that, while there are ways that the majority can dilute and erase the power of minority resistance to oppression, such as the "All Lives Matter" counter-campaign, there are also powerful ways that movements can link arms together to support each other, show their solidarity with each other, and therefore benefit from each other's power. The segregated water fountain graphic above, from my perspective, works toward the goal of solidarity by connecting, in the popular consciousness, the same master frame of civil rights that unites all oppressed groups, and broad social repression that they face.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Campaign Finances: City-County Council Elections, 2015 (Update to yesterday's post)

Yesterday I posted an analysis of prior votes in the Indianapolis city-county council (CCC) elections, to make predictions about this November's election. Those predictions were based solely on prior voting estimates from the 2011 CCC election (the boundaries have since changed, so only an estimate is available), and the 2014 state elections (updated boundaries are applicable). In a sociology textbook from which I used to teach, the author quoted a common political science dictum, that the candidate who gets the most contribution money, wins 90% of the time. A recent analysis at the federal level, indicates that in the 2012 election, "94 percent of biggest House race spenders won," and "82 percent of biggest Senate race spenders won."

I don't know how that translates to local elections. In our case (Indianapolis), based on city published financial records of city-council filers as of 3/12/2015, of those who have filed reports, those with the largest war chests are likely to win anyway, either being an incumbent, the only filer in the race, or already having a wide historical voting margin. In that sense, the financial data as of mid-March doesn't give us much new information.

Below, I provide two tables of the same information, both of the major party candidate filers (the deadline has passed, so this is the final list, unless independents, or minor party candidates file)--the table on the left is sorted by contribution amount, and the table on the right is sorted by district. In both tables, I have highlighted the district in red if Republicans seem likely (or assured, by virtue of being the only candidate) to win the seat, blue if a Democrat is likely (or assured) to win the seat, and green if prior voting history does not give me confidence to predict the race--there are three districts in that category: 2, 3 & 21. Of those, only district 3 has candidates with more than $1,000 in contributions so far reported, and there are two incumbents running (Hickman and Scales). Historically, district 3 has voted largely Republican, and combined, the current 2 filers have almost 250% more money than the Democrat. So far, no empirical data is looking good for Ms. Hickman.

At the far right, there is a small table with the total Republican vs Democrat finances--so far Republicans have reported more than twice the contributions as Democrats.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Indianapolis City-County Council 2015 Election Predictions

I am making an early attempt at predictions for the Indianapolis City-County Council (CCC) elections for this Nov 3, 2015. Currently, Democrats have a majority--15 to 14. However, two factors are radically changing the status quo, and may put Republicans back in power: 1) the Republican supermajority Indiana state legislators eliminated the 4 "at large" seats in Marion County, and 2) the Republican political attorney, David Brooks, created the district maps that will be used until early 2020s. The latter was the source of lawsuits, as Democrats alleged that the maps were drawn prior to the designated time, in order to get them passed before the Democrats took office, not to mention the quarter of a million dollars spent for the creation of the maps, that likely could have been created for a fraction of that cost by non-partisan city employees in our current GIS (mapping) office. One might also mention that the Republican City Council President at the time, Ryan Vaughn, while losing his CCC presidency in the following election due to the majority shifting to the Democrats, he was subsequently hired by Republican Mayor Ballard to be his Chief of Staff.

The other issue, the elimination of the "at large" seats, was also controversial, widely viewed as a partisan attempt to eliminate the consistently Democrat-elected at large council seats, and an invasion of city affairs by state legislators. Not counting the current 4 Democrat "at large" seats, Republicans on the Council would currently have the majority, 14 to 11. Both of these factors are partisan efforts that give Republicans an advantage in future CCC elections. Spoiler alert: my conclusion is that Republicans have a good chance of regaining the majority in 2015.

Some districts are easy to predict: there is only one candidate who filed by the major party deadline last February, or both filers are from the same party, in districts 1, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 23 and 24. Two of those are Republicans, and seven are Democrat. Theoretically, a minor party candidate or independent could file by July 15, 2015, but a win would be highly unlikely, considering Libertarians, legally a "major party" rarely exceed 5% in city council elections.

Several other races have a natural advantage because an incumbent is running. The changing of the district boundaries make the incumbent advantage less important than it might otherwise, since, in some cases, the incumbent's previous voters may have been largely shifted into another district, or in 3 cases there are two incumbents running against each other: districts 3, 13 and 22. Some of the districts where an incumbent is running, and past voting gives that same party an advantage, I am predicting as "likely for that party." In most other races, I largely use past voting to predict the outcome.

Generating past voting data for the current CCC election is difficult for two reasons. First, it is an off-off cycle election: not only is it not on the 2-year mid-term cycle where we elect many of our state and federal officials (non-presidential election year), always an even year election, the Indianapolis city elections are on an odd year cycle, and there are no other candidates on the ballot other than for local races. Historically, this gives an advantage to Republicans, since there is exceptionally low turnout by all voters, but especially the Democrat base voters. I looked at the most recent, 2014 election (as did Paul Ogden in his race predictions), which would have a similarly low turnout compared to the presidential-year elections, but odd year elections suffer from even worse turnout than what one would find in mid-term elections. The second problem is that one can't look directly at the previous CCC election, because of the boundary changes described above. Below (Appendix 1), I summarize how I estimate the voting for current districts from the 2011 CCC election.

The following tables show the district-level votes for the 2011 and 2014 elections. The 2011 percentages (left-hand table) are unweighted averages of the combined district-level and at-large council races--these are estimates, generated with the process described below (Appendix 1). The 2014 percentages (middle table) are unweighted averages of the auditor, treasurer, and secretary of state races--these are the actual voting percents (not estimates). I have highlighted in red those party outcomes with less than 45% of the vote, and green for those party outcomes of greater than 55%. I have also highlighted in purple those Libertarian wins of over 5% (calculations were done in MS Excel). As can be seen, there is a satisfying consistency between the 2011 estimates and the 2014 actual voting averages.

The right-hand table has my predictions for the 2015 race, based on past election results. Currently I am estimating 10 likely or secure seats for Democrats, and 12 likely or secure seats for Republicans, with 3 seats I am not willing to predict (districts 2, 3 & 21). Most of the districts where a substantial lead exists for either party, there is only one filer, so the race is not contested (except by multiple filers from the same party--districts 1 & 8, both Democrat)--those are designated with an "x" in the appropriate party column for the respective district (7 Democrat, 2 Republican). There are several races with an incumbent in a district where past voting gives that same party an advantage (1 Democrat, 7 Republican).

There are also several races with multiple incumbents running against each other--1 of those races seems to favor Democrats, and 1 Republicans, based on prior voted margins. District 2 has a Democratic incumbent, but prior voting gives Republicans a significant advantage (12%) in my 2011 CCC estimates, but only a small advantage in the 2014 election (1%). District 3 gives Republicans a significant advantage in previous elections (19% & 9%), but one incumbent is a prior at-large council-person (Hickman, Dem), against a district councilor (Scales, Rep). I do not know if that will impact voting decisions, so am leaving that race unpredicted. Finally, district 21 gives Democrats an advantage in the 2011 voting estimates (5%), but Republicans an advantage in the 2014 election (6%). The difference could be a preference for specific candidates, or an estimate error on my part. Either way, I am unwilling to predict that election, although if pressed, I would be likely to say it leans Republican based on the 2014 voting, the same as I might guess for district 3.

In any case, if my "likely or secure" predictions are accurate, Democrats would have to win all 3 of the unpredicted elections to retain the majority for the 2016 CCC, which seems unlikely. However, my predictions are based solely on previous elections. I refer the reader to Paul Ogden's site mentioned above, since he brings in pertinent local information, such as personality and funding factors.

Update: 1) Subsequently I posted campaign finances for the CCC candidates as of 3/12/2015. 2) I corrected an error in the 1st paragraph--I said that Vaughn lost the election, when I meant that he lost the majority presidency.

Appendix 1: 2011 Election Estimates Procedure Summary

For the 2015 prediction of CCC races, I used some geospatial mapping (QGIS) techniques to estimate how the past voting patterns would look based on the new precincts. Briefly, 1) I used GIS shapefiles of the old precincts with the 2011 CCC voting data, 2) overlaid that onto block-level census Tiger shapefiles, 3) calculated a factor variable that estimated the approximate mean number of voters for each block for each of the 2011 city-wide elections (mayor, at large CCC, district-level CCC) by party (Dem, Rep, Lib), 4) overlaid the new precinct-district maps onto the block-level voting estimates, and summed those values to get first precinct-level estimates, and then district-level estimates. To check the reliability of this method, I tested the correlation for straight-party voting for both Republican and Democrat by precinct, compared to the actual voting data from the 2014 election, obtaining r=0.88. I also compared the 2011 voting district-level estimates to the 2014 election for "registered voters," with differences ranging from 6% to 24%, and an average difference of 16%. While in absolute terms these are large differences, presumably the relative disturbance effects when comparing Democrat vs. Republican voters would be small--since I am comparing party voting within each district, not comparing districts to each other. (Some of this current work is based on mapping work I did in 2011-2012 to explore the outcomes of the Brooks maps using the newly drawn district maps)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Growth Rate of University Graduates by Country (2000-2012)

Quick Data Note: Based on a Facebook conversation about U.S. college attendance, I looked at OECD data for 2000-2012 to see how the U.S. compared to other high-income countries. While our average annual university graduate rate per capita is slightly above the OECD average for this time period (3.0%, compared to 2.5% per year in a 30-country average), the growth rate of the percent of graduates per year is far below average. From 2000-2005, compared to 2006-2012, the US tertiary education (all programs, including advanced research programs) graduation growth rates were 17.6%, compared to the OECD average of 27.4%). This implies that while we continue to produce university graduates per year at a slightly greater rate than average, that rate is dropping dramatically--almost half the rate of the average high-income country, and we are close to the bottom of the pack. Here is a chart of 15 countries compared. Given that U.S. university costs are between 2-3x the average for the high-income countries, most of which provide tertiary education completely free for their citizens, it is not unreasonable to suggest that our college graduation rates will continue to decline, unless we implement measures to dramatically reduce college costs, putting us at a further global economic disadvantage.