Thursday, 14 October 2004

White-collar Klan back in the news

According to the Clarion-Ledger, a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center indicates Mississippi Supreme Court justice Kay Cobb and U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker spoke at a Council of Conservative Citizens event in Byhalia, Miss. (a small town southeast of Memphis) four years ago, and that a sitting Republican member of the state legislature, Tommy Woods, is a member of the organization. (Woods is apparently something of a “joiner”; he’s also a Mason, Shriner, and a Gideon.)

The so-called “white-collar Klan” and its sponsorship of the quadrennial “Blackhawk” political rally was an issue in last year’s governor’s race, and Sen. Trent Lott’s links with the group added to the firestorm after his appearance at Strom Thurmond’s birthday celebration in 2002.

The Other Side

Maria Farrell isn’t too happy with her introductory statistics course. There are a couple of points in the comments to her post that I think are key:

  • “Statistics is a practice, not a toolkit.”—Bill Tozier.
  • “I wonder if the obscurity is partly a result of a lack of the why of statistics.”—Randolph Fritz.

I was in my chair’s office today talking about how my methods class was going, and the second point was one we both hit upon.

Next year, I’d like to move more in the direction of applied data analysis. This year I’ve been doing baby steps in that direction—every student has a CD with R Commander, and I show how to use R Commander to do every statistical procedure we go over by hand… for the moment, I’ve been using the Chile data set included in the car package as my “guinea pig” data.

I also think that students do better when the professor is engaged and enthusiastic about the material; this, of course, applies to any class from intro on up, but I think it’s particularly important when the class is one that students approach with some degree of resistance.

Cool election stuff

Heidi Bond points out a few cool uses of statistical theory to show probable electoral college outcomes, including this site by Andrea Moro, an econ prof at Minnesota; I actually had more-or-less the same idea a month ago, but was too lazy to do anything with it.