Sites to follow the legislature

The Arkansas legislature convened yesterday and it’s apparent the digital revolution is chasing them down at full speed.  Last time around you could tune into the Arkansas Times Arkansas Blog for an overview or Steve Harrellson’s Under the Dome for the details, but you only got their distinct opinion on things.

This year we have my brother-in-law’s Tolbert Report with his ubiquitous flip camera and house speaker Robbie Will’s new blog also keeping us informed on what is going down at the Capitol. I can promise you the Tolbert Report will have a slightly different take on the legislature’s actions than the rest of the pack, but I am wondering if Robbie Will’s will have the stamina to keep up with all the duties of being Speaker and keeping the blog up to date and responding to comments and questions from the blog (it’s fun reading about his struggles with technology).

It’s also interesting to see how the Arkansas legislature agenda compares to other states. The National Conference of State Legislatures has released their  top nine issues of 2009.

Copyright like it should work

Today, January 1, 2009, Popeye the Sailor falls into public domain in Britian 70 years after it’s creators death because of an EU law that restricts the rights of authors to 70 years after their death. Falling into the public domain means anyone can print and sell posters, T-shirts and even create new comic strips, without the need for permission or to make royalty payments.

In the US Congress keeps extending copyright law primarily under the influence of Disney to keep Mickey Mouse out of the public domain by extending copyright protection eleven times in the last forty-five years.  Lawrence Lessig, Internet law guru argues that the expiration of copyright (and the start of public domain) creates a culture where people could take and build upon what went before, but our current copyright law prevents innovation throught the restriction of derivative works.

Literal quotes– a reporter’s payback

The PolySigh blog takes a look at what all reporters and editors know to be the hatchet they carry around in their back pocket– quoting their source verbatim and making them sound like an idiot. It’s common for reporters to clean up quotes by correcting grammar and removing verbal pauses (like uh), but at times reporters decide to let it slip to make a point.

It was common to see reports do this to President George W. Bush when they wanted him to be seen as a bumbling idiot, but PolySigh points out they have recently started including Caroline Kennedy’s repeated “You Knows” in her quotes.  Apparently, Kennedy annoyed the reporters by dismissing one of their questions: “Have you guys ever thought about writing for, like, a woman’s magazine or something?”

Polysigh also looks at an interview with President-elect Obama and compares the quotes in the article to an audio file of the interview.  Even thought Obama is a precise speaker, his quotes had to be cleaned up quite a bit, too.

Here’s a transcription below, with “cleaned-up” material in bold:

It is not clear that, uh, uh, an ongoing, open-ended presence has prompted political change in Iraq either. I mean, the fact of the matter is that we still don’t have an oil law. We still don’t have pro-, provincial elections. Uh, we haven’t dealt with Kirkuk, and the argument for staying is that we haven’t made sufficient political progress. So it, it strikes me that for us to deliver a message of clarity to the Iraqis, to the surrounding, uh, the surrounding countries that we are not looking at a permanent occupation, but we want to partner with you to structure, uh, a, uh, a stable, uh, and uh, secure Iraq — that actually will force the Iraqis to make some decisions that they would not otherwise make.

Problems with polls

I’m not an expert in polling research methodology at all, but I’ve recognize a couple flaws in the polls we constantly see touted in front of us.

  • Sampling methods are flawed and don’t pull from a complete census.
  • Tracking polls work for following trends, but not to predict what’s going to happen on a single day.
  • It’s difficult for polling companies to properly represent who has voted and who has not since states early/absentee voting vary great.
  • People lie.

Polls and the electoral college

It’s about that time in the Presidential election cycle for the media polls to start meaning absolutely nothing.  This always happens right about the same time the media really starts hyping the spread between the candidates in the poll. There are two issues with looking at nationwide polling data. First, we don’t elect a president by popular vote so whoever is winning the national polls doesn’t matter at all and second, the basic polls are flawed in and of themselves (I’ll try to go more into this later in a later post).

The best way we have of handicapping the presidential race is to look at the flawed polls in individual states in conjuction with those states electoral pull. A couple of websites do a great job of this.

  •’s electoral map calculator gives you a chance to see who CNN is giving the race to at this moment in time and which states are leaners and tossups. It also lets you play with electoral math by changing who wins what states and see historical races.
  • I also really like because it breaks down the polls state by state and tells you the latest polling data from which state and how current it is. During the last election cycle I think I visited three or four times a day for the two weeks preceding the election.

Do you have any election trackers that you like? Share in the comments.