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Beware the polls

Once again over the weekend we were treated to a "scientific" poll on the horse race between Clinton and Trump.
This NBC poll purported to show that the candidates were neck-and-neck.
Truly, the results showed them very close together.
But what the reporter didn't say was who exactly participated in the poll. Probable voters? All potential adult voters? People who have voted before? People who voted in primaries?
And she did not tell us what the tiny print at the top of her screen said, that the poll was considered accurate plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Given that accuracy rate, the poll results were not accurate at all. They were so approximate that not an informed better in Vegas would bet on the results.
Polling is out of hand in this presidential race. The results are all over the place. They are not to be trusted.
Don't take my word for it. Check it out with such experts as Norman J. Ornstein and Alan I. Abramowitz, who together wrote a column on poll wackiness over the weekend in The New York Times.
News folks love horse race polling. So we will not see a rational end until the only poll that matters is taken: that's the November election.

The vanishing Statesman

When the Austin American-Statesman announced a couple of years ago that it would no longer cover Friday or Saturday night sports live, so that readers could see game stories and scores in Saturday and Sunday papers, I gritted my teeth but carried on with a seven-day subscription.
Here's why: I was a newspaper guy for 45 years, meaning I worked for news media -- mainly newspapers -- for 45 years. More than that, I was a true-born newspaper reader. When I was growing up, we had two newspapers in the house every day but Saturday and Sunday. I've never not subscribed to a newspaper.
But the Statesman seems intent on changing all of that. Yesterday, the editors announced they will no longer publish a daily editorial page. It appears that the only two national columnists they will carry will be Leon Pitts and George Will. Already, they have cut back on news coverage to such an extent that the nightly local TV news seems to have beaten them to every local story.
I like editorial pages and editorials. I don't like Pitts or Will. I like Krugman and others.
So, for the first time in my life, I am weighing the idea of stopping my subscription altogether. Is the new Statesman worth the money?
I'm having serious doubts.
My wife says the only reason she wants to keep the paper is for the daily comic strips and the crossword puzzle.
Seems to me like a lot of money for not much in return.
More on this later.

It's discouraging

I subscribe to a daily blog sent out by Retraction Watch.
RW is a service that tracks, as the name suggests, retractions and corrections published in scientific and professional journals.
When I first ran across RW, I thought: Wow. How can there be enough retractions to publish a daily list?
Turns out there are way more than you'd have thought.
In fact, there are so many it's kind of depressing to realize how many scientists and researchers just make stuff up and then get it published in unsuspecting publications.
But, the pressure is on now more than ever for researchers to publish or perish. And the amount of money involved is less and less.
Unfortunately, scientists are just as human as the rest of us and just as prone to serve their own selfish interests.

Well, it does make me feel icky

OK. So, now I have read the book, and I can kind of see the point of those who don't want it on their YA library shelves.
The book is "This One Summer," and it's by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki, two cousins. It's a graphic novel.
The school district in Henning, Minn., banned the book recently. A parent complained, the administration agreed with the complaint and the book was gone.
In the world of librarians, this is offensive. A single parent should not have the power to censor an entire library. The selection of books should be left to professionals who, one assumes, don't have the agendas of individual parents. There are other contentions, but those are the main ones.
I agree with those basic ideas.
I wanted to read "This One Summer," though, to let it stand in my mind on its own merit.
Two observations about it: It is boring. I mean the other side of boring, and I'm not a kid. And, it made me feel icky. I think my teenage self would have read it and felt icky.
So, if my teenage granddaughters (it is aimed a girl readership) asked me about reading "This One Summer," I'd probably recommend they pass it by in favor of something that would not make them feel icky, too. In fact, I'd probably be embarassed if asked to recommend this book to them. Not like I'd feel at passing along a copy of something by the Brontes.

Gaming the systerm

The results of this experiment seem intuitive, if you know anything about boys.
The test was conducted in a small set of third-grade classrooms in France.
Only a handful of boys and girls were involved. They were asked to read a passage and underline the names of animals. When the kids were told that the test was a reading assessment, the boys did worse than the girls. When the kids were told it was a contest or game, the boys did better than the girls.
The conclusion: Boys beat girls at reading -- if the exercise is called a game.
I'm not surprised. Boys, from the time they are little bitty, are challenged to this or that competition. They learn early on to play the game and try to win.
That seems to be true not just in America, but in France, as well. And maybe that's just a universal situation.
I don't know, but I do know that this competitive spirit serves boys either well or ill, depending on  how you see them in the workplace, marriage and retirement.
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