Thursday, January 11, 2018

Johnstown, PA has Been Crawling with Documentary Filmmakers

Katie Couric enjoying  the Johnstown High-Bishop McCort Football Game
Since the 2016 election have been many documentary filmmakers here in my hometown, Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  The most famous of these would be Katie Couric.  I never had the opportunity to be interviewed by Couric (but I'm available Katie) but I have met three other filmmakers who came here.  

With the rain from Siobhan Furnary on Vimeo.

Above is the documentary by Siobhan Furnary and Hunter Zepeda titled With the Rain.  They were students from Oberlin College who who filming here in town.  I met Siobhan while working at Sunnehanna Country Club and was happy to help her by giving her background information on the city and introducing her to my friend Catherine Anne McCloskey. In the opening scene you can see Fr. James Crookston saying mass.  Fr. Crookston was principal at my high school, Bishop McCort when I was there.  

Another documentary filmmaker I had the pleasure of working with was Gary Younge who is a writer at The Nation Magazine and Sugarfilms.  Whilst I never met Younge I did work with his associate Paddy Duffy showing him around town and giving him background information.  Above is an interview given by Younge to The Nation Magazine.  Their project was interviewing people from Portland, Maine to Louisiana about their economic situation.  I have yet to see the finished product.  It's being shown on the BBC channel four in Britain.

The third documentary filmmaker I met was Vince Grassi who is from nearby Bedford, PA.  His project is titled This Town Won't Die.  Currently he is done filming and is in the editing process.  A premiere date should be announced soon.  I was interviewed by Vince on election day when I was running for council.  I look forward to seeing the finished product.

These are the documentary projects that I know about.  There could be others that I don't know about.  It's a lot easier to make films these days.  The hard part is getting people to see them.  A lot of news people have also been here to see how a county that was once solidly democratic would vote overwhelmingly for Donald Trump.

As for this writer/amateur journalist I have a new piece on the new state laws taking effect.  More specifically 20 states have minimum wage increases this year and California is the seventh state to legalize recreational marijuana.

**Related Posts**

Election Epilogue

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A Closer look at Hate Crimes in DC, Massachusetts and Washington state: DC has more LGBT Crimes

In a recent post on The Hill Talk I looked at the latest FBI report on hate crimes reported to law enforcement.  The three states reporting the highest rate of incidents (after adjusting for population) are the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Washington.  These states with the highest rates were surprising because they are some of the most progressive states in the US.  I thought I would take a closer look at the types of hate crimes reported in these states by the five categories that they consider: Race/ethnicity/Ancestry, Religion, Sexual Orientation, Disability, Gender (specifically targeting men or women) and Gender Identity (ie. Transgender, gender fluid).  The raw number of incidents were adjusted for the population covered by the reporting entities to allow for the comparison of one state to another and one type of crime to another.  The numbers in the table above are reported as crimes per million residents.

Race/ Ethnicity/ Ancestry
Sexual orientation
Gender Identity
% Population Covered

The % of the population covered is lower for the US as a whole because in other parts of the country some law enforcement agencies do not participate in the FBI uniform crime report.  The state of Hawaii does not participate at all.

For Massachusetts, Washington, and the US a a whole, racial/ethnic motivated attacks had the highest rate of incidence of any subcategory comprising more than half of the total incidents.  These two states had higher rates than the US rate for every category.  Some incidents can fall into more than one category.

DC had considerably higher rates of incidents in each category than the US as a whole except for gender motivated incidents.  There were no such incidents reported there in 2016.  Unlike the other two states profiled and the US, the largest incident rate there was ones that target those of a different sexual orientation.  The graph below shows the rates for each category and entity on a logarithmic scale.  This is done to show differences in the less common categories of gender and disability.

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How is Washington DC an outlier? Let's count the ways. (Repost from Data Driven Journalism)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Update

The past few weeks have been rough.  I battled the flu, worked.  I have been writing for other online publications.  I have two posts on The Hill Talk, one is on new hate crime data from FBI while the other is on new data from the Census Bureau on poverty in every county in the US.  I also published on the website  on how logistic regression can be used by data journalists to investigate relationships between a categorical outcome and more than one predictor variables.

I should have more time to elaborate on these posts later this holiday.  I'll leave you with this video I took at the Midnight Mass at the Cathedral in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2015.

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Season's Shootings

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Minimum Wage and Veterans at the State Level

In my last post on cities with living wage ordinances and the percentage of veterans in that city, the percent of the city who are veterans was negatively associated with the amount of the living wage that was passed.  For this post I thought I would take a look at what variables were associated with the amount of the minimum wage passed at the city or county level.  

All but six states have their own minimum wage laws:  Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Tennessee.   Georgia and Wyoming have minimum wages below the national minimum at $5.15/hour.  Thirty states plus DC have minimums above the national minimum of $7.25/hour.  

First I looked at the univariate relationship between veteran percentages and the state minimums.  I coded the states without minimums as zero.  All of the zero states except Alabama had percentages of veterans above the national rate.  There was a weak negative correlation between these two variables of -0.214 which accounts for only 5% of the variability.  This relationship was not statistically significant at p=0.13.  The graph below shows the nature of the relationship.

Next I thought I would conduct an analysis of the 30 states plus DC with minimum wages above the federal minimum.  This was done to make it comparable to the analysis I conducted for the living wage cities and % veterans.  This time the univariate correlation was significantly negative with a value of -0.389 and a p-value of 0.03.  This relationship accounts for 15% of the variability in the state minimum wage.  The graph below shows this relationship.

The relationship at the state level is not as strong as it is for the living wage cities.  There veterans accounted for 28% of the variability.  To see which other variables might be at play I added the percents of the 30 states plus DC that voted for Trump.  When I did this the effect was no longer present for veterans but it was for Trump's % of the vote.  There was a fairly strong positive correlation of 0.55 for these states with suggests that states with higher veteran populations are more politically conservative.  For all states the correlation between veterans and Trump's % was slightly weaker at 0.46.

Standard Error
t Stat
Trump %
% Veterans

The District of Columbia was included in both the analyses for cities and states.  Removing DC did not radically alter the results.

**Related Posts**

Veterans, The Elderly, and Living Wage Cities/Counties

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Net Neutrality and CSI wo DB

I have been busy working and writing for the Hill Talk and Data Driven Journalism.  I was going to post on a further analysis on Veterans and minimum wage and on new hate crime numbers from the FBI. However there is a more pressing issue for this website and others like it, Net Neutrality.  The other posts are forthcoming.

Currently it is hard enough in the current web climate to get ones message out to the masses for websites like this one.  The competition for eyes and ears is fierce.  Removing net neutrality rules will make it even worse.  The airwaves are public domain.  It is shameful that the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) will sell out the public domain to large corporations to increase profit and diminish dissenting views.  I urge you to contact your representatives in the House and Senate to pressure the FCC not to do this.  The FCC will vote on December 14.

In the spirit of giving Tuesday, I have added a donate button to the right side of the site for those who want to support the work of this site.  It takes time to write posts for this site so any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

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The Need for CSI Without Dead Bodies (& Similar Websites)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Election Epilogue

The election is over.  It's time to take stock in the numbers and see what they mean. In the City Council race I received 765 votes (not including the absentee ballots).  This was 864 votes short of winning a seat on the council.  I did receive a positive response to my platform from those who heard my message.  It does get sobering when the actual numbers come in.

Percent of votes cast (n=8,633)
% of voters (n=2,179)
Sylvia J.
King (Democrat)

Britt (Democrat)

Marie A.
Mock (Democrat)

Vitovich (Democrat)

Amsdell (Republican)

Ricci (Independent)

WRITE-IN (No Party Specified)

Bottom of Form

I received 8.9% of the votes cast.  There were 8,633 total votes cast.  Because voters could vote for up to four candidates in this race, there were 2,179 total voters in the race.  When dividing by the total voters I received 35.11%.

Looking at the 20 precincts in the city, my best showing percentage wise was 11.6% in the 2nd and 3rd precincts in the 8th ward (the Roxbury sections of town).  This makes sense as I had volunteers working the polls all day there on that cold rainy/snowy day as the picture below shows.

In terms of how I placed relative to the other candidates, my best pacing was 5th out of 6 candidates In the 11th ward and in Kernville ahead of the only Republican in the race, Mark Amsdell.  I tied Amsdell in the second center city and in the 7th ward.  You can see a summary of the precincts here.  Amdell's best finishes were in the 2nd thru 4th precincts in the 17th ward (Moxham) and in the 21st ward (West End) here he placed in the top 4.

In other local races, Charlene Stanton ran a write in campaign for Mayor.  There were 495 write in votes in that race.  Assuming that they didn't all vote for her, I had about 300 more votes than her as this race covered the same precincts at my race.

Terry Smith and Seki Taranto ran a Green Party and an independent challenge respectively to the four Dem/Rep candidates for the Greater Johnstown School board.  This race covered 8 more precincts as my race which means I can compare their race to mine by looking at precentages of the vote.  Smith had 7.3% and Taranto had 7.2%.  A difference of 9 votes between them.  I did vote for both of them.

Voter Turnout was reported to be higher than expected in the county with a turnout of 30%.  This was above the predicted 25% turnout.  Shirley Crowl, Cambria County's director of elections attributed the increased turnout to the contested race for district magistrate between Max Pavlovich and Susan Gindlesperger.  I believe that the candidacies of Amsdell, Smith, Taranto, Stanton, and my own as well as any other challenger in the local races contributed to this increase as well.

I called this post election epilogue rather than election epitaph as I see this election as a step to other things rather than an end.  This was a learning experience.  I passed out over 1,000 flyers at events, grocery stores, high school football games and every other large event I could think of.  Likewise over 1,000 people saw my posts on social media.  In both arenas the response was generally positive and I received 765+ votes.  As I kept my campaign spending under $250 and had a few volunteers, it may have been the best result I could expect.  Thanks to Larry Blalock, Woody Weaver, Catherine Anne McCloskey, and Dave Casker for all they have done for my campaign.

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