Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Advice for Bloggers

Say Uncle, who blogs from Knoxville mostly on 2nd Amendment issues and Tennessee sippin' whiskey, has a great post filled with plenty of sage advice for bloggers and public relations types. An excerpt:
First, automatically sign me up for your newsletter. That’s right. I love getting newsletters I never, ever signed up for. I love it like all other spam. And that’s exactly how I treat these. I label them as spam in gmail. Gmail remembers that and also uses that to classify your item as spam by other readers.

Send me your off-topic press release plugging a political candidate or political position. This is particularly effective when you can read my blog and tell pretty quickly that I find that particular candidate to be a shit head and that particular position to be retarded.
And from the Insurance Journal, of all places, comes some very serious advice:
With legal trouble and the resulting expenses potentially just one mouse click away, individuals and business entities creating, sanctioning and/or hosting blogs should apply basic risk management to the posting of a blog. Following are a few questions that every blogger should ask of the content contained in their blog:

• Do readers consider the blog a credible source of information and depend on it for up-to-date information (a matter of opinion that can be judged based on analytics and comments)?
• Is information in the blog accurate or is the blog rife with mistakes and misstatements?
• Have facts been checked (as required by due diligence standards) or have they simply been accepted as heard or read elsewhere without further verification?
• Have facts been attributed to the original sources?
• Are information sources reliable?
• Are rumors and gossip printed as fact?
• Are opinions labeled as such?
• Are comments in news and opinion pieces fair and based in fact or could they be considered malicious, libelous or defamatory?
• Is the information original work or plagiarized from another person or entity?
• Has permission been secured to include content or photos found online (leads to the possible charges of copyright infringement)?
• Are paid advertisements clearly separate from news and editorial content?
• Are procedures in place to allow quick response if someone demands correction, retraction or removal of information?
• Is the source of the blog clearly decipherable or is it written anonymously (hiding behind anonymity brings the veracity and intent of the blog into question)?
Read and heed.
Hurry! Right Now! Go Go Go!

Hulu is, for some reason probably having to do with its popularity, again streaming Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog for free, today only. Go here. Otherwise you have to pay for iTunes or wait for the DVD.

If you are a Joss Whedon fan, or like comic books, you need to see this. Highly recommended. My previous rave is here.

Also, more stories may be coming. Whee!

And yes, I promised a deeper review of Dr. Horrible; I hope to have that in the next couple of days. The past week has been strange and busy for Mr. Mike.

Go! Watch! Enjoy!
OK, A Moo

Fun with sedation dentistry, via James Lileks. With addlepated photos!

Favorite line: Nature may abhor a vacuum, but it loves a gradient.
You Know It Won't Happen

Via BoingBoing, a link to Radley Balko's "A Few Questions for Barack Obama." Read them! Here's one example:
In your autobiography, you admit to using marijuana and cocaine in high school and college. Yet you largely support the federal drug war — a change from several years ago when you said you'd be open to decriminalizing marijuana. Would Barack Obama be where he is today if he had been arrested in college for using drugs? Doesn't the fact that you and our current president (who has all but admitted to prior drug use) have risen to such high stature suggest that the worst thing about illicit drugs is not the drugs themselves, but what the government will do to you if you're caught?
I hold no hope these questions, or their pale imitations, will ever be presented to Obama, especially in any debates. The networks have already been caught being used and abused by the Democrats with planted questions.

They are already sympathetic to Obama. Look at this report of his reception by a group of reporters. The Commercial Appeal's Wendi Thomas was there and this is what she had to say:
Yes, many of us are journalists who try to keep secret our political leanings. But many in the room were students. Or PR professionals. Or invited guests from Chicago with no ties to the media.

You’ll hear no scrutiny of how many white journalists applaud when McCain shows up (he was invited but did not attend UNITY). Still, the UNITY president, Karen Lincoln Michel, felt it necessary to deliver a warning.

“This is a live event on CNN,” Michel told the audience just before Obama took the stage, “The whole world is watching.”

Watching to see if we’d applaud, and if we did, if we’d do so too enthusiastically. As if our silence is proof of our professional pledge of objectivity and clapping means we’re Obamaniacs.

Thing is, I can be quiet on the outside and jumping for joy on the inside. Most black folk who work in corporate America have mastered what W.E.B. DuBois called “two-ness,” this deft dance between who we are and who white America wants us to be.

“I would ask that I am treated like other candidates in terms of expectations,” Obama said, and with that, summed up the trials and tribulations of many of us who labor to represent our communities accurately in predominately white newsrooms — even in predominately black cities.

So no, I didn’t clap. On the outside. I know how to be two in one, how to deal with the double-consciousness of which DuBois wrote.

But on the inside, I was beaming. And no number of lectures can dampen my pride, if only at the historic essence of the moment.
After all, donations that can be identified as coming from media workers favor Democrats 100 to 1!

So, no, I don't expect those folks to behave indifferently and even-handedly. How can they? And I don't expect those great questions -- and their counterparts for McCain -- to be asked. Ain't gonna happen.

By the way, read the comments in the BoingBoing post. It's amusing to no end to watch the lefties who make up a majority of BB's readership tie themselves up in knots over this. Great questions ... but, but, but....

INSTANT UPDATE: But wait! There's more.

Dana Milbank has a piece in yesterday's Washington Post where he expresses some of the peeve of the reporting classes that Obama isn't treating them with the proper intimacy:
Another reason for Obama's confidence -- the press -- is also an unfaithful partner. The Project for Excellence in Journalism reported yesterday that Obama dominated the news media's attention for a seventh straight week. But there are signs that the Obama campaign's arrogance has begun to anger reporters.

In the latest issue of the New Republic, Gabriel Sherman found reporters complaining that Obama's campaign was "acting like the Prom Queen" and being more secretive than Bush. The magazine quoted the New York Times' Adam Nagourney's reaction to the Obama campaign's memo attacking one of his stories: "I've never had an experience like this, with this campaign or others." Then came Obama's overseas trip and the campaign's selection of which news organizations could come aboard. Among those excluded: the New Yorker magazine, which had just published a satirical cover about Obama that offended the campaign.

Even Bush hasn't tried that. But then again, Obama has been outdoing the president in ruffles and flourishes lately. As Bush held quiet signing ceremonies in the White House yesterday morning, Obama was involved in a more visible display of executive authority a block away, when he met with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani at the Willard. A full block of F Street was shut down for the prime minister and the would-be president, and some 40 security and motorcade vehicles filled the street.
It's a cult of personality.

Don't take that article as a sign that the media will turn on Obama. All it takes are some small adjustments from the campaign and they'll swoon even more.
Fresh from his presidential-style world tour, during which foreign leaders and American generals lined up to show him affection, Obama settled down to some presidential-style business in Washington yesterday. He ordered up a teleconference with the (current president's) Treasury secretary, granted an audience to the Pakistani prime minister and had his staff arrange for the chairman of the Federal Reserve to give him a briefing. Then, he went up to Capitol Hill to be adored by House Democrats in a presidential-style pep rally.

Along the way, he traveled in a bubble more insulating than the actual president's. Traffic was shut down for him as he zoomed about town in a long, presidential-style motorcade, while the public and most of the press were kept in the dark about his activities, which included a fundraiser at the Mayflower where donors paid $10,000 or more to have photos taken with him. His schedule for the day, announced Monday night, would have made Dick Cheney envious:

11:00 a.m.: En route TBA.

12:05 p.m.: En route TBA.

1:45 p.m.: En route TBA.

2:55 p.m.: En route TBA.

5:20 p.m.: En route TBA.

The 5:20 TBA turned out to be his adoration session with lawmakers in the Cannon Caucus Room, where even committee chairmen arrived early, as if for the State of the Union. Capitol Police cleared the halls -- just as they do for the actual president. The Secret Service hustled him in through a side door -- just as they do for the actual president.
Milbank explains it all for you, if you read carefully. It's all about making Obama look presidential now so that he feels presidential to voters by Election Day. Never mind that he's not got the experience, track record, or rising level of accomplishments; he seems presidential on television. The media treat him as presidential and that will help sell him to American voters.
Don't Talk to the Police

These two videos, a paired lecture to a Virginia law class, have been out there a while now, but there's a recent resurgence of interest in them that makes this a good time to post them here. The professor and the police officer offer compelling reasons why you should never talk to the police without first obtaining counsel, if you are the subject (or potenially will become the subject) of an investigation.

In the post's comments, there are the usual Internet dolts who take the advice literally -- that you should never, ever talk to the police, not even to report a crime or to provide a witness statement. Of course, they are dolts.

However, if you are involved, you should heed the videos' advice. Remember, the job of the cops is not to find and arrest the guilty. Their job is to identify likely candidates and close the case. From their point of view, it's the job of prosecutors to produce convictions. The police have a job to do, which they do day in and day out. It's work, often hard, dirty and demoralising, not a mission of sustaining constitutional principles.

And thanks to the Drug War, the deck is often stacked against you in very dangerous ways.

Suppose you're out with some folks and y'all smoke that joint in your pocket. You're in a safe part of town, but have to cross through a Blue CRUSH© monitored neighborhood to get to your destination, something not-uncommon in the patchwork that is Memphis. Cops catch you and pull you over. All you've got is the half-smoked joint, so you're clear, yes?

Maybe not. What if someone with you has crack in the bottom of their backpack, or a large bag of weed or you're with a musician who has her heroin Muse with her? If it's enough -- and how would you know? -- you cross into the land where you become an accomplice to a felony and will have your vehicle and laptop and all the cash on you seized. The presumption these days is that seizure can happen right fucking now and then you have to go through a long -- and usually unsuccessful -- process to get it back, even if you are innocent!

Cops have a motivation to seize, since they get to sell the seized items and keep that money. They have a motivation to close the case, since more cases are constantly piling up.

So, you see why getting a lawyer involved in your protection from the start is almost always a good idea.
The RAND Research Report and the GWOT

The just-released RAND Research report on "How Terrorist Groups End" is getting a lot of play today for allegedly saying that the way to end Al Qaeda is to stop the War in Iraq. (PDF Download) But read the abstract again:
How do terrorist groups end? The evidence since 1968 indicates that terrorist groups rarely cease to exist as a result of winning or losing a military campaign. Rather, most groups end because of operations carried out by local police or intelligence agencies or because they join the political process. This suggests that the United States should pursue a counterterrorism strategy against al Qa'ida that emphasizes policing and intelligence gathering rather than a “war on terrorism” approach that relies heavily on military force.
And these paragraphs from the introduction to the report:
A recent RAND research effort sheds light on this issue by investigating how terrorist groups have ended in the past. By analyzing a comprehensive roster of terrorist groups that existed worldwide between 1968 and 2006, the authors found that most groups ended because of operations carried out by local police or intelligence agencies or because they negotiated a settlement with their governments. Military force was rarely the primary reason a terrorist group ended, and few groups within this time frame achieved victory.

These findings suggest that the U.S. approach to countering al Qa'ida has focused far too much on the use of military force. Instead, policing and intelligence should be the backbone of U.S. efforts.
And this:
religiously motivated terrorist groups took longer to eliminate than other groups but rarely achieved their objectives; no religiously motivated group achieved victory during the period studied.
And this:
What does this mean for counterterrorism efforts against al Qa'ida? After September 11, 2001, U.S. strategy against al Qa'ida concentrated on the use of military force. Although the United States has employed nonmilitary instruments — cutting off terrorist financing or providing foreign assistance, for example — U.S. policymakers continue to refer to the strategy as a “war on terrorism.”

But military force has not undermined al Qa'ida. As of 2008, al Qa'ida has remained a strong and competent organization. Its goal is intact: to establish a pan-Islamic caliphate in the Middle East by uniting Muslims to fight infidels and overthrow West-friendly regimes. It continues to employ terrorism and has been involved in more terrorist attacks around the world in the years since September 11, 2001, than in prior years, though engaging in no successful attacks of a comparable magnitude to the attacks on New York and Washington.

Al Qa'ida's resilience should trigger a fundamental rethinking of U.S. strategy. Its goal of a pan-Islamic caliphate leaves little room for a negotiated political settlement with governments in the Middle East. A more effective U.S. approach would involve a two-front strategy:

* Make policing and intelligence the backbone of U.S. efforts. Al Qa'ida consists of a network of individuals who need to be tracked and arrested. This requires careful involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as their cooperation with foreign police and intelligence agencies.
Part of the problem here -- I've read the abstract and the summary but haven't completed the actual 253 page report yet -- is some seeming confusion within the report itself.

Most of the terrorist groups studied are nationally internal groups, ie. groups of terrorists defined within a nation. The IRA (get England out of Ireland) and the Salafists (get France out of Algeria) would be two examples. Al Qaeda is, by definition, trans-national and malleable to any number of local variations to their central theme of a pan-Islamic Caliphate. The report talks about national efforts, specifically mentioning the US and Britain among others, but since they aren't an international, unitary effort that cooperation isn't seen within the report's scope.

The other problem is the way the report seems to miss the obvious. Reread this section again:
This suggests that the United States should pursue a counterterrorism strategy against al Qa'ida that emphasizes policing and intelligence gathering....
Well, correct me if I'm wrong here, but that's exactly what we are doing inside the United States! The FBI, CIA, state and local authorities, the theater of the absurd that is airport security, and Homeland Security are doing that every day. FISA, wiretapping, surveillance, all the things the Left is in such arms about are part of the very strategy RAND espouses. Why don't the recognise that?

Now, in Iraq specifically? That's a different animal. Could we have gone to Saddam Hussein back before 2003 and said, "Hey, dude, we want you to find and arrest all those Al Qaeda n00bs. Cool?" Of course not. It's laughable to even think it.

What about Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan? Tougher answers. Saudi Arabia is the source of much of the money and brain-power for Al Qaeda. But America, by dint of the Bush family relationship with the Saud family and our increased dependence on Saudi goodwill to keep the oil flowing, can't really do anything against Saudi Arabia nor do we have leverage to make them do anything.

The Saudis may have broken that by allowing the price of oil to rise to $140/barrel. It's angered enough Americans to begin to pay attention and ask questions. It's spurred demand for new, American-controlled sources of oil, meaning taking a hard, clear look at why we've increased our dependence on foreign oil since the gas crisis of the Seventies. People are wondering who created the situation we're in that seems seems tailor-made to have made things even worse. It's also pushed Americans to move to smaller, more gas-efficient vehicles; pushed manufacturers to produce those vehicles; and given alternatively-powered auto manufacturers a foot in the door to the American auto market. It's all been upside for the US and bad news for OPEC.

Back to the report. We invade Afghanistan and have broken Al Qaeda there. Problem now is that they simply retreated into "Waziristan," or Al Qaeda-controlled western Pakistan. Why haven't we just pushed into Pakistan, as Barack Obama has suggested? Because, unlike dictator-controlled Iraq and Al Qaeda's theocratic dictatorship in Afghanistan, Pakistan is a democratic, elected, republic; it has a nominally credible government. It's true that the government is thoroughly corrupted, and the military (which is also corrupted) seeks to install itself as the dictatorship with Al Qaeda's help and money in exchange for the Waziristani lands. It may be teetering on the edge of viability and stability, but it's hanging in there.

There is also the problem of India. If America decided to push ahead into Pakistan, without discussing it with India, we alienate a powerful and necessary and welcome ally. We can't negotiate with India on this because they don't want Pakistani and Al Qaeda terrorists fleeing into their country, using India as a proxy battlefield for their fight with the US or as an actual battlefield; nor do the Indians want to be drawn into a war with Pakistan. There are the nuclear weapons in the area to consider.

So, in working out the calculus on how to fight Al Qaeda, the Bush administration decided to attempt to bottle up Al Qaeda into Pakistan. Remove them from Afghanistan and then deny them their western escape route and back-up base in Iraq. Once in Pakistan, as they are now, with a secured Iraq and a cowed Iran, we can then begin to work on them there. We had the necessary preconditions in Iraq, thanks to Hussein's constant evasions and escapades with the UN and the IAEA. (Remember that years-long farce?)

Hussein was playing them for fools because they were willing to be played. Everyone made money and kept their jobs, the situation was ugly but stable, so it was all good. Until the US and the Bush administration decided to not dance any more and not accept the status quo. Was it for an ulterior motive? Sure; we wanted to invade as part of the plan against Al Qaeda, to force them to move east into Pakistan.

I was never a big supporter of this plan for the simple reason that President Bush pointed out himself: it was the work of nations and generations. It's a risky adventure to commit the world to that path. Look at what happened with the United Nations, after all. Once a way for the developed nations of Europe, North America and the Anglosphere to dominate and guide the rest of the world, under cover of "world peace," it is now a money hose from the rich to the greedy, a bulwark for petty despots and Communist regimes to hide behind, and finally a lost battalion for Eurocrats and socialist-utopian one-worlders.

In other words, the Global War on Terror was doomed to diversion and perversion, never mind the question that the RAND report asks. If everyone signed on. And of course that wasn't going to happen because President Bush had an army of people who would oppose anything he did simply because it was him asking it to be done.

Never mind that Democratic President Woodrow Wilson had done pretty much the same thing a century earlier. Wilsonian internationalism had a long vogue among Democrats, until they got serious about Civil Rights and "discovered" what a monstrous racist Wilson was. Then down the memory hole with him and his ideas! Around the same time (the late Seventies) the Democrats became a haven for American isolationists. Away with strong-on-American-defense Democrats like John Kennedy and Scoop Jackson. (I'm still not sure why or how that happened and welcome anyone who can explain it.)

I still respect those Congressional and leadership Democrats who opposed the war on principled argument, who questioned sending America into the path outlined above with reason. There are precious few of them, but some are out there. I respect folks like former Democrat Joe Lieberman (a Kenndy/Jackson-style holdover) who supported the war and withstood the abuse from fellow Democrats. I utterly despise those who voted "for" the war only to about-face afterwards to oppose it, and have since nickel and dimed the war effort itself, all in the name of craven office-keeping.

And so it was necessary to reconstitute Iraq into a sovereign, democratically ruled nation with its own trustworthy and effective police and intelligence agencies so it could do as the RAND report suggests: effectively fight Al Qaeda. And the evidence is very strong indeed that we're doing that right now. That's why we went there.

Like I said, I didn't really support this grand plan, for the reasons I just outlined. But I haven't been an anti-war critic either. Our nation was committed to a huge understaking and the time to stop it was in the offing; now that we are there in Iraq we have an obligation to our soldiers and to the Iraqis to complete the task. When we reach the planning point for the next stage, that's the time to re-examine things and maybe find a new direction. Until then, we fight the hardest and most uncompromising fight we can. And then we hand off the sovereignty of Iraq to the Iraqi and let them take up the duties of nationhood, and their role in the larger fight if they want one. Then we decide which way to go next.

It's a similar plan for nations like Iran and North Korea in the near future, too, possibly. That's what the Axis of Evil warning was all about -- setting up markers for the next fronts and warning Al Qaeda where not to go. When a new political generation comes along, without ties to Saudi Arabia like the Bushes', I believe we'll see action against them, too, and a new energy policy that is serious about American energy independence. We've needed that since the Seventies.

So, folks will focus on the part of the report that says, to them, "leave Iraq" while passing right over the part that shows we're doing precisely what the report argues we should be doing!

Predictable and a shame.

Now, a related observation. I'm very surprised that so many people seem to have forgotten America's recent war with Serbia, barely a decade ago. American troops are still there to this day! No exit strategy either, not from the Clinton and Bush administrations, and certainly not from the Clintons today.

So why wasn't Hillary Clinton ever asked about Serbia/Yugoslavia during the primary season? Why has everyone, Democrat and Republican, seemed to bury this one?

Even when the world's newest nation of Kosovo was recently created from Serbia, no one in the media that I saw even mentioned our continued presence and the anti-war goofballs didn't try to pin any of that on Hillary.

What am I missing?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Nikki Tinker, Call Your Attorney

Sometimes, they don't even try. They just throw it right past you and dare you to call them on it. They know you're too busy to pay close attention and they hope their point will be made without your being aware of it.

This article from a recent Commercial Appeal is nothing more than a campaign donation to Steve Cohen:
All you insomniacs and public policy wonks can take heart. U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., wrote to ask Comcast on Thursday to restore C-SPAN2 coverage of U.S. Senate debates and other programming when the Senate's not in session.

But the company has a better idea.

You can switch to its digital basic service and see it for the same price as the basic analog service from which C-SPAN2 was removed on May 22, said Sena Fitzmaurice, a government affairs spokesman for the company in Washington.
There might be a story in why Comcast (hack*spit*ptui*ptui) removed CSPAN2 from basic analog cable, or in what's the difference between "analog" and "digital" cable, but the hook is Steve Cohen.

I looked at the byline and sure enough -- Bart Sullivan! If that guy were any more biased for Democrats and against Republicans, he'd bleed blue. Sullivan's work since taking over the Washington "bureau" has been notable for its use to basically hammer Republicans.

Seriously, if I were Tinker I'd use this within the black community as proof of what many believe anyway, that Sullivan -- and through him, the CA -- is deeply in the pocket of Cohen.

Speaking of Comcast ... dear god but they suck. It's like Time-Warner level service taken down two notches. They've eliminated all the weather services. Channel 75 used to be nothing but current conditions and weather radar; and now News Channel 3 Anytime has removed their real-time weather info. They added a bunch of Arkansas stations to the basic service for some reason, but not West Tennessee ones. (Which is why CSPAN2 went away.) There are more "Signal Quality" warnings and drop-outs than every before. I thought you only got those with dish antennas and that was the selling point for cable television?

And there's my personal gripe: sound levels. Used to be that most channels were levelled off to roughly the same volume in the production studio before being sent to subscribers. That way you didn't get blasted by a different channel when you were switching around, say, very late at night.

Not any more. Not only is every channel at a different volume -- some very loud indeed -- but now whenever Comcast inserts one of their own ads within a channel, it's at a different volume as well -- sometimes very loud indeed.

It's annoying and amateurish.

JULY 30 UPDATE: Comcast's channel 20 (NC3A with real-time weather and radar) seems to have gone back to "normal" in the past day or so. So ... yay?
It's In The Paper, It Must Be True!

Here's an example of some really sloppy thinking and writing that I truly deplore in newspapers:
What many locals long suspected is now official. Memphis is one of the least-walkable cities in the nation, according to

Memphis ranked 35th out of 40 big cities on its America's Most Walkable Neighborhoods list released earlier this month. Unswayed by Marc Cohn's anthem "Walking in Memphis," the Web site found that 71 percent of Bluff City residents live in "car-dependent neighborhoods."
Some website with a press release said it, it must be "official." Gah.

Newspapers (and television) are forever taking whatever press release is sent out and shoving it at readers (and viewers) as though what's contained within it is true, is good science, and is unblemished by ulterior motive.

But almost immediately, if we bother to read past that opening headline and graf, we learn that the "results" are skewed by the website's owners' biases and their methodology is completely hopeless:
"We did not visit the cities as part of the ranking," said Walk Score executive Matt Lerner.

The findings were based on maps of how close residents lived to parks, stores and jobs. Street designs where compact grids were favored over winding roads. And the reported availability of public transportation, bike lanes, sidewalks and sophisticated crosswalks....

Lerner said one reason the South didn't fare well is because our cities are characterized by sprawl.

Lerner and friends Mike Mathieu and Jesse Kocher started the Seattle-based company last year to promote mixed-use communities.

Walk Score celebrated Downtown, Midtown and East Memphis as the most pedestrian-friendly local neighborhoods, because of residents' proximity to a plethora of businesses.
So, a more correct intro would be something like, "Advocacy group thinks we're a badly designed and laid-out city."

But that's not as zippy as "It's official! We suck!" Is it?

And what in the hell does a pop song have to do with reaching conclusions about a city's walkability? It's not just a non sequitur but a meaningless diversion to boot.

In the newer, smaller CA, where Editor-in-Sleep Chris Peck tells us the competition for space is tighter and the editing of stories is more important than ever, is this an example of how the same old-same old will continue to be ladled out?
Why Do Europeans Love Obama?

Victor Davis Hanson makes some salient points:
Let us count the ways:

1) Obama’s tax code, support of big government programs and redistribution of income, and subservience to UN directives delight the European masses—especially at a time when their own governments are trying to cut taxes, government, seek closer relations with the US, and ask a petulant, pampered public to grow up.

2) He offers Euros a sort of cheap assuagement of guilt—in classic liberal style. When Obama says falsely that he does not look like other Americans who have addressed Germans (cf. Colin Powell or Condoleeza Rice who have represented US foreign policy abroad the last 7 years), Europeans feel especially progressive—and therefore need not worry that no one of African ancestry would ever become a European Prime- or Foreign-Minister.

3) Europe is weak militarily and won’t invest in its own defense. But with Obama, they believe the US will subject its enormous military strength to international organizations—usually run by utopian Europeans. So they will play a thinking-man’s Athens to our muscular Rome. They especially lap up Obama’s historical revisionism in which he lectures about the world’s effort to feed Berlin or tear down the communist wall, never the solitary, lonely efforts of a Harry Truman or Ronald Reagan to confront the evils of communism when almost everyone else preferred not to.

4) Style, style, style. Remember socialist Europe is where we get our designer eyeglass frames, Gucci bags, and French fashions. Instead of a strutting, Bible-quoting Texan, replete with southern accent and ‘smoke-em’ out lingo, they get an athletic, young, JFK-ish metrosexual, whose rhetoric is as empty as it is soothing. The English-only Obama lectures America on its need to emulate polyglot Europe; while a Spanish-speaking George Bush is hopelessly cast as a Texas yokel.

5) Obama reassures Europeans that they, not American right-wingers, “won” the classical debates of the 1990s over economics, foreign policy, and government. He is a world citizen, who buys into human-created massive global warming, wind and solar over nuclear and clean coal, high taxes, and cradle-to-grave entitlements, and resentments of the rich. There is a certain European “We told you so” that comes with his election. In short, we elect a world citizen with a European view, and put behind us the embarrassments of a Texan or cowboy actor.

The final irony?

The hated George Bush is still around; Chirac, Schroeder, Villapin et al. are history. Iraq is secure. Iran is becoming isolated. North Korea supposedly is denuked. And America is reassuring a jittery Europe that we will stick by them in a world of bullying Russians and Chinese.

A Modest Prediction

In 5 years, Europeans will prefer George Bush to a “We are right behind you” Obama.
VDH seems to assume (possibly rhetorically?) that Obama will win. I'm not so sure.

My rule of thumb right now (for lack of better data) is that any national poll is deeply suspect and likely to be off, in favor of Obama, by about 5%. Maybe more; it's hard to say.

The reasons? There are at least two. Don't just take headlines about poll results at face value. Some recent polls claimed that Obama was up over McCain, but were based on "registered" voters. New polling from the same source (Gallup) this week now shows McCain up. But this poll was derived from "likely" voters. That's a better pool to draw from, but it's not as good as "previous" voters, folks who actually have voted before. Those are your most reliable pollable voters.

There is a problem with using "previous" voters in this election: the strong evidence that among Democrats Obama is bringing in plenty of young, new voters. Democrats were setting voting records all through the primary season and you saw lots of young, fresh faces at his rallies. How well that will hold up through November is another open question. Past evidence says that young people just don't vote in strong numbers. Will two elections worth of frustration over not taking the Presidency finally drive that trend another way?

The other reason is something I've mentioned here before: the Bradley Effect. In the new, PC (politically correct, not personal computer) age lots of white voters feel pressured, when asked by pollsters and media how they will vote, to claim they will support a black candidate they in fact don't vote for.

The name comes from Tom Bradley's run for mayor of Los Angeles. All the polling showed him clearly ahead right up through election day. And yet he lost. A lot of folks lied about their vote and voting preference. It's since showed up in a lot of other campaigns and professional polling organisations are still trying to figure out how to factor for it.

I think this was part of the reason why so many were so vociferous for Hillary Clinton to get out of the race. Notice how, toward the end, in a lot of blue collar and rural states she was racking up some surprising margins against Obama. Big ones. And that was in the Democratic primary. It exposed a weakness in Obama that will only become more apparent when you're talking about independents and "Reagan Democrats."

I think there's still a lot of folks out there who just won't vote for a black candidate no matter what. It's ugly but it's true and it must be addressed. Not by media hacks who will examine it from a "what's wrong with those people?" approach, but from a truly disinterested analyst. I wonder if Obama's famous Pennsylvania slip will disappear down the media's memory hole?
"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
No sense reminding those voters what Obama thinks about them, right? It will only make things worse for him!

The media seems to have blown right past any adjustments, or lack thereof, that might have to be made in voters to having a real live viable-ish black candidate out there. Pretending racism or racial discomfort is "over" is what the media usually do, so they can feel good about themselves and demonstrate their PC bona fides, but it's wrong. As the Bradley Effect shows, race is still out there and being unexamined as a factor.

I'd also allow that the media's excitement over the flood of new and excited Democratic voters led them to push the more problematic issue of missing voters -- and the unhappy voters who went to Hillary Clinton -- off to the side. I do know there's been some examination of Clinton's supporters, but mostly in a bitter, "game's over; deal with it" sort of light.

If someone knows of any studies of the Democratic primary results with respect to how people said they would vote and how they actually voted, I'd like to hear of them.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Test Your News IQ

The Pew Research Center has an online questionnaire to test your knowledge of current events. I scored 91%, missing only one question. Maybe it's just me, but the questions seemed almost absurdly simple. Though when you look at how many folks got so many wrong answers, it's a bit disheartening.

Or maybe it just shows how many folks don't pay attention to the media? Or maybe it shows what a crappy job the media does in educating folks. Like the question about Islam. Have you ever seen a media story that explained the general history of Islam and its denominations/sects? Certainly the construction of the quiz -- in the choice of questions and topics -- reflects what the media thinks it is important for you to know! I find that rather interesting of itself.

The questions tilt heavily to the Democratic for some reason. And the least correctly answered question (only 24% got it right at the time I took the quiz over the weekend) was a source of great bemusement for me.

Unfortunately, I can't discuss that without blowing the quiz for you. Ah well....