Mar 30Liked by david roberts

David, fair enough. I have posted it to another Substack group with the recommendation that they read this post including the previous. Points well made.

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Apr 3Liked by david roberts

I’m confused. They overstated the numbers, but your more accurate analysis also shows a big decline in values. I take polls skeptically in general, especially since many people don’t answer them any more. But taken on the terms of the poll, isn’t their takeaway basically correct?

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Mar 29Liked by david roberts

David, I appreciate your positive attitude and belief that we are and can be good. For myself, I think this issue is more complicated than whether there has or hasn't been a decline in values, because of several factors:

- Reporting. Media spins data as easily as a spider spins it webbing: out of its butt. I don't take any one headline or article that seriously, and frankly don't believe polls are all that accurate. I followed the trail and found lots of polls are conducted with 1000 people total. Not much of an accurate picture.

- Statistics. There's a joke that makes me wary of any statistic I see: An actuary goes to a job interview. The boss gives the candidate numbers to crunch and asks, "What's the answer?" The candidate writes down the answer and the boss says, "Thanks. We'll let you know." A second actuary comes in to interview, and again the boss presents a statistic problem asking "What's the answer?" The second candidate solves it, and again the boss says, "Thanks. We'll let you know." A third actuary comes in to interview. But when the boss hands the third candidate the problem and asks, "What's the answer?" the candidate replies, "What do you want it to be?" Hired on the spot.

- Values. As I learned in my Sociology of Social Control class at Penn, our American values shift over time, as behavior and its criminal punishment are enforced or not. Some would call that shift "degrading" those values. In an absolute sense, absent of what any particular value represents, yes, they are degrading over time. Nothing is static. Not our values, not our laws, not our belief that statistics printed in the media are true.

- People believe what they want to believe. Humans love an echo chamber. If people believe the WSJ article, it's likely they believed it anyway. It's a right-skewing publication. The Fox News watchers don't need Fox News to believe what they do - they felt that way to begin with.

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CNN headline: "The US economy grew 2.6% during the fourth quarter, slower than previously estimated" Why do we assume this is bad news for the economy and not just an honest assessment of the inaccurate estimators?

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I'll do you a favor if you do me a favor: stop ghosting my yes/no questions? :-)

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