Aug. 19, 2012: Olympics: Over. Presidential Election: Just Getting Started.

Well, it’s about time for another semester of classes to start for my students here at Purdue University. Because of that, as well as the time I’ve been spending helping my wife prepare for her new job at the University of Akron, this week’s post will be a bit shorter than the epics of the last few weeks.

With that said, let’s start by closing the book on the Olympic Games. NBC managed to infuriate viewers one last time during Sunday’s closing ceremonies. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say after the closing ceremonies, since like almost everything else during the Games, NBC decided that it would be best to forego a live broadcast in favor of a tape-delayed broadcast hours later. This particularly upset Sunday night viewers, who eagerly anticipated a classic rock party with several big-name acts but were reluctant to stay up late on a work night. But it only got worse when the network decided to prematurely cut its broadcast in order to provide a commercial-free airing of its new sitcom Animal Practice (which sparked worldwide outrage well before it ever aired). Furious fans, who were missing performances by The Who, Muse, and Ray Davies of The Kinks, flocked to social media sites to express their rage. My personal favorite line was a fake quotation from Twitter user @BookSavvy: “‘Gee, I can’t wait for the #ClosingCeremonies to be over so I can watch Animal Practice’ – No One Ever.”

At least NBC eventually showed The Who at midnight Eastern time, after the widely panned pilot episode of Animal Practice reached its end. Having ten choice minutes of The Who after an hour-long wait, however, only made fans question why NBC didn’t just delay their hardly-anticipated pilot by a few more minutes, to let the closing ceremony reach its conclusion. After all, they couldn’t say they underestimated how long the event would take when the entire thing was tape-delayed. And NBC completely cut Muse, which performed the official song of the 2012 Olympics, as well as Davies. No wonder the fans were furious.

Despite all the complaints, however, NBC shattered Olympic viewership records throughout the two weeks of competition; viewers numbered in the tens of millions on a daily basis. And perhaps NBC was right to cut parts of the closing ceremony given how weak much of the second half was — the network executives just chose the wrong performances to omit. So the lesson here is that if you’re angry with a network’s programming, don’t whine about it on Twitter. Just stop watching. For network executives, Nielsen viewership ratings have infinitely more volume than even the loudest Twitter post.

As if the closing ceremonies themselves weren’t enough to end the Olympics on a sour note, a few hours before the closing ceremony we had the first revocation of a gold medal. Belarus’ Nadzeya Ostapchuk won the shot put competition but was subsequently stripped of her win after her blood tested positive for steroids immediately before and after her competition. Both her “A” sample and the backup “B” sample yielded a positive result. Upon being presented with the evidence at an official hearing, Belarus’ officials did not dispute the test results — even though Ostapchuk herself vehemently denied any wrongdoing — and said they would “take the appropriate measures,” which could include a two-year ban from the sport. The record of Ostapchuk competing in the games has been expunged, and it also bumps up Valerie Adams of New Zealand to the gold medal, her second straight Olympic title. Russia’s Evgeniia Kolodko moves from bronze to silver, and fourth-place finisher Gong Lijiao of China will receive the bronze.

Nadzeya Ostapchuk, before she lost her gold medal.

Now that the Olympics are behind us, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are doing their best to pull our attention back to the presidential election, especially with Paul Ryan officially tapped as Romney’s running mate. In fact, much of the debate seems to be a gigantic battle to define Ryan to the American public. Ryan has spent the past week speaking largely for himself, pitching a set of Medicare reforms and challenging Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, as a death sentence for the program. Obama, on the other hand, claims that Ryan’s proposals would push voters away from Medicare and result in thousands of dollars less being devoted to the average senior citizen. He also accused Ryan of tax policies favoring the wealthy — a ubiquitous battle cry used against Republican candidates — and slammed Ryan’s opposition to a new $170 million package designed to prop up the struggling agricultural sector. Ryan, in defense, cited his vote of support last month for a Republican-drafted drought relief bill, which ultimately stalled in the Democrat-led Senate. And as some analysts have noted, whether or not you like Ryan’s controversial “Path to Prosperity” budget, at least he has a proposal, whereas “Democrats haven’t passed a budget at all since 2009.” No wonder even investing legends are nervous about our current financial state, which some say is the worst economic climate in the last 60 years.

Nonetheless, the real battle was, is, and shall remain Obama vs. Romney. The two continue to duel over undecided voters while trying to maintain their connections with their respective voter bases, and they have been sparring over Medicare, gun laws, education programs, and even NASA’s now-famous “Mohawk Guy.” It’s little wonder that some are already placing this campaign cycle among the meanest they’ve ever seen, particularly since we’re still two-and-a-half months from election day.

While it’s likely still about a month too early to really take the polls seriously, RealClearPolitics.com gives Obama a 3.4-point edge in the average of all five recent major national polls. The only problem is that the results are heavily skewed by CNN’s and Fox News’ polls, which have Obama leading by seven and nine points, respectively. The only poll of the five that Romney leads was the latest Gallup poll, in which he has a two-point edge. But that poll had more than twice the number of participants as any of the others, with over 3,000 participants; the CNN and Fox News polls each had under 1,000 registered voters, giving them the smallest sample sizes of all the polls on the list. Taking a weighted average of the five polls using these sample sizes — in other words, treating the five surveys as one giant poll (using approximate vote counts since exact counts were withheld) — leaves Obama with roughly a 1.7% advantage, half of RealClearPolitics’ average. Check out the tables below for a demonstration… and feel free to be confused by the apparent statistical contradiction. Like I said, these things probably won’t really matter (or get any clearer) for quite some time.

Table 1: Real Clear Politics Polling Data Average

Poll Sample Size Margin of Error Obama Romney Spread
Rasmussen 1500 Likely Voters 3.0% 46% 44% Obama +2%
Gallup 3050 Registered Voters 2.0% 45% 47% Romney +2%
CNN 911 Registered Voters 3.5% 52% 45% Obama +7%
Politico 1000 Likely Voters 3.1% 48% 47% Obama +1%
FOX News 930 Registered Voters 3.0% 49% 40% Obama +9%
Average 7391 Voters 48.0% 44.6% Obama +3.4%

Table 2: Approximate Tabulated Results of All Sampled Voters

Poll Sample Size Margin of Error Obama Votes Romney Votes Spread
Rasmussen 1500 Likely Voters 3.0% 690 660 Obama +2%
Gallup 3050 Registered Voters 2.0% 1372.5 1433.5 Romney +2%
CNN 911 Registered Voters 3.5% 473.72 409.95 Obama +7%
Politico 1000 Likely Voters 3.1% 480 470 Obama +1%
FOX News 930 Registered Voters 3.0% 455.7 372 Obama +9%
Total 7391 Voters 3471.92 votes 3345.45 votes Obama +1.7% (126.47 votes)

Alright, enough of that. Let’s close with a couple of lighter stories. First we have the man who cracked John F. Kennedy Airport’s $100 million security system… on accident. Daniel Casillo was riding his jet ski in New York’s Jamaica Bay when the watercraft died. Unable to ride it back to shore, and with no one responding to his distress calls, he chose to swim for land. And it just happened that the closest lights lay on the expansive runways of JFK Airport.

Once Casillo reached the airport, all he had to do to infiltrate it was to climb an eight-foot barbed wire fence. He then strolled undetected through the (poorly named, apparently) Perimeter Intrusion Detection System and crossed two runways before entering the terminal, still dripping wet and wearing his yellow lifejacket. A Delta Airlines employee finally noticed him there, and the unlucky jet skier was arrested for criminal trespassing — despite some officers’ comments that “he should be given dinner and a bottle of champagne for showing us our faults.”

Now, sure, Casillo pulled a pretty interesting stunt. But if you really want to be an accidental daredevil, try going through a trash compactor. After a night of drinking with a friend, Justin Gilpatrick of Portland, Oregon decided that since he was too intoxicated to drive, he would sleep it off in a nearby dumpster. Not the wisest decision. A local Waste Management truck subsequently picked up the dumpster, tossed the trash and Gilpatrick inside, and tried to compact its contents — twice. The truck driver only heard Gilpatrick screaming from inside when he parked at a nearby shopping mall. But miraculously, Gilpatrick wasn’t seriously injured, but merely shaken up. In fact, the driver had to convince him to stay and wait for an ambulance to arrive so that his minor injuries could be treated.

As the regretful Gilpatrick later posted on his Facebook wall, “I have not had a drink in years and the one time I do this I [sic] what happens. I will never drink again.” Yet, somehow Gilpatrick wasn’t the biggest fool of the night. Remember Gilpatrick’s drinking buddy? Well, apparently he decided to drive home… and found himself in the middle of a three-car wreck. The friend didn’t sustain any life-threatening injuries, but he still made using a dumpster as a bed look smart by comparison.

Other articles of interest:
UN Chief Condemns Iran’s Anti-Israel Rhetoric
Alleged Xbox ‘Durango’ development system sells for $20K on eBay
Review: Super-sized Nintendo 3DS XL is a big improvement
Critics: New Super Mario Bros. 2 offers solid play, few surprises
DARPA develops color-shifting robot for possible military operations
Military to test hypersonic jet that could zip across the U.S. in less than 1 hour
West Nile virus flying through many Florida and Georgia counties on mosquito wings
Wal-Mart, Indiana Grower Pull Fruit After Outbreak
Researchers: Trogloraptor spider with hook-like claws found in Oregon cave
Mars rover set to zap rock, analyze chemicals
Shia LaBeouf: Sex Scenes in Lars von Trier’s ‘Nymphomaniac’ Will Be Real
Clown entertains kids with Steve Jobs’ stolen iPad
One wispy leaf could have cost Carl Pettersson half a million dollars
Dolphins release Chad Johnson, ushering out the era of the diva wide receiver

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