Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Would You Believe It? Media Bias

I'm running out of creative titles for posts on this subject. A blog called Flopping Aces has a story about the use of fake sources for Iraq stories. Naturally these sources have led to stories that indicate the growing "Iraq is already in a civil war" angle that seems to be the push of the week for the mainstream media. This has been linked by more blogs than I can list here--suffice it to say, the word is out. Will anyone care? Unlikely.

This is not an isolated occurrence. The Democracy Project has more (hattip Instapundit).

Are you following the links? Again, unlikely. The more you read, the more you should realize the that news you hear does not reflect reality--it reflects a political agenda.

My exasperation comes from a sinking feeling that there is nothing to be done to stop it. People talk loftily of the "blog revolution" and how it will revolutionize media coverage. While there have been isolated incidents (Dan Rather, for example) I don't think the fake and false coverage is going to stop any time soon. Even friends who read this blog say, "Oh I saw your post, but I didn't follow the links." It is much easier to sit back on your couch and hear Katie Couric tell you that the sky is falling. Reading and investigating the truth buried on the web takes a lot more effort. Time will tell, but I fear that Katie has an unsurmountable advantage in this war between fact and fiction.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Iraq, World War II, and Absurd Statistics

As I flew home from Thanksgiving this past weekend, I noticed the passenger to my left was reading USA Today. At the bottom of the front page was an article about how the U.S. has now spent as much time in Iraq as they did in World War II. You can read it online version here.

This "revelation" of course has been picked up by many people, who are using it as the basis to make all sorts of ridiculous assumptions. Everyone has heard the quote, "There are lies, damn lies, and statistics," but this example is beyond the pale. Just to make the point, let's look at another (in this case morbid) statistical comparison.

USA Today wants to compare WWII and Iraq? OK, let's compare combat fatalities. The current fatality count in Iraq is 2871 (as of today). The WWII fatality count was 407,300. At the current rates, it would take 519.5 years before the Iraq fatality count would equal World War II count. That's right, somewhere in the year 2525.

Obviously making such a statistical comparison is virtually meaningless. So is comparing the number of days spent, as USA Today and now a host of others are doing. If you have opinions on the war in Iraq, make them known; I firmly believe that society benefits from hearing a diverse view on any subject. But leave the mind-numbingly moronic statistics out of the discussion.

Milblogs (hattip Instapundit) illustrates another way in which the comparison is meaningless. Jay Tea, over at Wizbangblog, rips Michael Moore's use of the statistic to shreds.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Global Warming, Hurricanes, And Politics

Captain's Quarters Blog has a very interesting post on global warming and the (lack of) hurricanes this season.

It covers media bias and self-evident contradictions about global warming, two of my favorite subject.

You might want to stay clear of the comments, though; a lot of text there with very little evidence to back anything up (on both sides).

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Top Democrat Wants To Bring Back the Draft

The story that the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Democrat Charles Rangel, wants to bring back has been covered everywhere. My angle? Why CNN's bias of course. They cover the story, front and center, but with the title:
Rangle: Bring back the draft
But how many people know who Rangle is? They don't identify him as a Democrat in the blurb on the front page:
An all volunteer U.S. military is fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that could change if the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has his way. Rep. Charles Rangel wants to bring back the draft.
It's only if you click on the actual article that you see the full headline:
Top Democrat: Bring back the draft
CNN does this hocus pocus with headlines a lot; the headline on the front page rarely matches the headline of the actual article. This often seems to be done for space limitations but often the editing of the text for the front page drastically changes the meaning of the headline. If these changes in meaning are random, then it just shows sloppy editing on the part of CNN. But do the changes in meaning have a political bias?

This brings me to mention an idea I hope to implement some time in the near future. It would be easy enough to record both the short headline and the long headline and compare them when they are different. I, for one, would be fascinated to see if there is a pattern in direction the edits take the headline.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Democratic Leaders Flip-Flop on Kerry's Appearance in Photo-Op

The photographer in me just loves this story. A number of the Democratic leaders in Congress were making a "power walk" photo-op for the press. According to reporters, John Kerry started to walk with them, but was told something by Schumer that made him stop. Powerline comments on the UPI story:
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer appeared to kick Sen. John Kerry out of a Democratic leadership walk in Washington, a reporter who witnessed the event said.

An ABC News reporter said the incident occurred Tuesday outside of the Old Senate Chamber as members of the new Democratic leadership, of which Kerry is not a part, left the chamber en route to the Ohio Clock Corridor to discuss leadership elections, the incoming majority's agenda and Iraq.

The ABC reporter said Kerry left the room behind Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Caucus Secretary Patty Murray, D-Wash.; and Caucus Vice-Chair Schumer, D-N.Y. However, when Schumer noticed Kerry, D-N.Y., walking behind him, he turned and said something to the Massachusetts senator that caused him to stop.

Kerry waited for the Democratic leaders to walk ahead and then ducked between two statues. The ABC reporter speculated that Schumer may have told Kerry to stay clear of the leadership shot.
If you wrote fiction with such an event, editors would reject it as unbelievable. Kerry waited for the Democratic leaders to walk ahead and then ducked between two statues. The before and after pictures are priceless. Here's the before picture. You can actually see Kerry in the background with a what-just-happened look on his face.

The after picture is the effect they were going for (from Wizbang's weekly caption contest).

If you ever needed proof that politics is all about showmanship, here you go.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Writing Your Own News

I grew up near Cincinnati, OH. There's a radio station there, 102.7 WEBN, that use to play these fake commercials by a company called "Brute Force Cybernetics", with the tagline, "The company creates a need and then fills it."

I think CNN could alter that slightly and use it for their own tagline. I suggest:
CNN. The company that creates the news and then covers it.
So yesterday they ran this little story: Bush's Asia trip intensifies Iraq-Vietnam comparisons. The article starts with:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush's recent acknowledgment that the war in Iraq was comparable to the Viet Cong's psychologically devastating Tet Offensive in 1968 was hardly the first time a parallel has been drawn between the Iraq and Vietnam conflicts.

Questions about a "quagmire" have haunted the president's Iraq policy since before a single bomb fell on Baghdad.
Since before a single bomb fell, eh? I wonder who was asking those questions. Could it possible have been CNN?

I stopped reading the article right there. I suppose the author might have redeemed themselves somewhere along the way but quite frankly they didn't deserve any more of my time.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Phased Redeployment Rejected

President Bush has received a lot of criticism lately for his abrupt firing of Rumsfield after the midterm elections. Many have suggested that he is fighting for a positive legacy to his presidency and will drift left to help ensure that. While I can understand that fear, I think it is probably somewhat unrealistic. I'm sure those on the left chortle at the idea of Bush drifting "too far to the left".

This story today on CNN regarding the rejection by Bush of the phased redeployment suggestion from Democrats seems to confirm that.

Does anyone else really hate political B.S. terms such as "phased redeployment"?
Q. Senator, are you calling for a full retreat from Iraq?

A. Of course not.

Q. Then what are you calling for?

A. I'm calling for a phased redeployment of our troops...
Please, call it what it is. If you can't even say it, how can you stand behind it?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Jason Dunham To Receive Medal Of Honor

President Bush announced today that Marine Corporal Jason Dunham will be awarded posthumously the Medal of Honor for heroism in Iraq.
In April 2004, Dunham was leading a patrol in an Iraqi town near the Syrian border when the patrol stopped a convoy of cars leaving the scene of an attack on a Marine convoy, according to military and media accounts of the action.

An occupant of one of the cars attacked Dunham and the two fought hand to hand. As they fought, Dunham yelled to fellow Marines, "No, no watch his hand." The attacker then dropped a grenade and Dunham hurled himself on top of it, using his helmet to try to blunt the force of the blast.
Read that again.

So many things one could say, yet nothing seems worthy of his actions. With that in mind, I will just say this. Thank you Jason Dunham for putting the hero in heroism.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Guiliani Now More Than Ever

I've posted in the past about how I think Guiliani would make an excellent candidate for president. My reasons in the past were threefold.
  1. The man acts with integrity. With all the scandal stories of the past few years, I think he would be a welcome change.
  2. He passed with flying colors the crucible test he was forced into after 9/11 in NYC. Any arguments that he was "just a mayor" are weak in how he acted under extreme pressure.
  3. He is popular in the Northeast. Several hypothetical race polls have him ahead of Hillary Clinton. There are very few, if any, scenarios where a Democrat could win the presidency without New York State.
I think after recent events, there are probably two more reasons.
  1. Many of potential Republican contenders were too damaged by this midterm election to be seriously considered. In all honesty, Senators rarely make good presidential candidates. Senators who couldn't even win reelection for their own senate seat make horrible ones.
  2. The Democrats won back both sides of Congress by running with a very moderate group of candidates in many races. Moonbats such as Pelosi may have the reins but it was moderates that have given her that power. The biggest criticism of Guiliani is that he "isn't conservative enough". In light of the thumpin' (as President Bush termed it) the Republicans just received, and the success of moderates such as Schwarzenegger, I don't think an ultra conservative choice would be a disaster.
Jim Addison seems to agree with me, on reason 4 if nothing else. (Scroll past a rant about Republicans staying home to the bottom of his post.)
That leaves Guiliani. He is already well-known and very popular among all segments of the American electorate. While many have long supposed his liberal social positions would alienate the right, that appears not to be the case. Here in South Carolina, where values are held dear and social conservatism rules, conservatives most often mention Rudy as the candidate they would like to see run in '08.

We need someone who can hold us together in the face of disaster and get us to work rebuilding. Rudy is such a leader. I've seen him do it.
I hope others reach the same conclusions.

What's Next In Iraq?

Kim Priestap at Wizbang has had some interesting posts about what might happen next in Iraq. First off is a post about Pelosi's most recent comments about Iraq:
The point is this isn't a war to win. It's a situation to be solved.
When President Bush said he was open to new directions in Iraq, I don't think this is what he had in mind. So today Priestap had a follow up post concerning an interview with "terrorist leaders":
'There is no chance that the resistance will stop'

Abu Ayman, an Islamic Jihad leader in Jenin, said he is "emboldened" by those in America who compare the war in Iraq to Vietnam.

"(The mujahedeen fighters) brought the Americans to speak for the first time seriously and sincerely that Iraq is becoming a new Vietnam and that they should fix a schedule for their withdrawal from Iraq," boasted Abu Ayman.
Not sure what else there is to say directly other than if you worried about what might happen next, you aren't alone.

On a separate note, does anyone else find it shocking that you can read interviews with people explicitly referred to as "terrorist leaders"? Can you imagine reading a interview during the cold war of someone labeled "secret Soviet assassin"?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Losing With Dignity

It's been interesting for me to read some of the more conservative blogs, to see how the authors are reacting to Democratic takeover of the House, and likely the Senate. As I said a few posts ago, one of the keys to a successful democracy is a respect for the majority view. Captain's Quarters Blog gets it right:
However, in terms of policy at least, the American people have spoken. The majority endorsed these views, and now we have to see them play out. We can certainly criticize it -- and we will -- but we have to respect the voice of the American electorate. They wanted a different direction, and now they have to experience its consequences.
This seems to me to be brutally honest. He's certain that he will be critical of policy choices, but understands that the vote last night was rejection of the status quo (as mid-term elections usually are) and that change of some sort has been endorsed by the American people. Hugh Hewitt, I think, gets it wrong:
And it is a wonderful day for new media, especially talk radio. For two years we have had to defend the Congressional gang that couldn't shoot straight. Now we get to play offense.
What the country doesn't need now is sniping by the right who are stinging from loosing an election for the first time in many years.

It will be interesting (and important) to see how many on the right follow the Captain Ed model, and how many follow the Hewitt model.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Exit Poll Silence

Instapundit has typical short post up linking to an article explaining the mechanics of exit polls. Glenn adds the following theory:
My prediction: If they're bad for the GOP they'll leak early. If they're good for the GOP, they won't.
I just checked all the usual suspects (Drudge, etc.) and can't find any leaked exit polls. It will be interesting to see if Glenn's prediction is accurate.

Why I Hate The Two-Party System

The title of this post is perhaps a little strong. I can't hate a two-party system completely as I've yet to learn of a better system. When I have political discussions with Canadian or Indian friends, for example, about their countries political system, I always come away with a greater respect for the founding fathers. It should be noted, however, that many of the founding fathers were opposed to the idea of political parties.

But I was reminded again of the aspect of the two-party system I don't like the most--the adversarial nature it brings out in people. From a NYTimes editorial:
“Two years ago, winning 14 seats in the House would have been a pipe dream,” said Matt Bennett, a founder of Third Way, a moderate Democratic organization. Now, Mr. Bennett said, failure to win the House, even by one seat, would send Democrats diving under their beds (not to mention what it might do to all the pundits).

“It would be crushing,” he said. “It would be extremely difficult.”

Mr. Cook put it more succinctly. “I think you’d see a Jim Jones situation — it would be a mass suicide,” he said.
Put it succinctly? I would hope Mr. Cook's statement has no basis in reality. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of rooting for "your team" and certainly the energy interjected by the Bush Derangement Syndrome of many involved is only making matters worse. But I wish people would realize that in the end, we are all on the same team.

I've been reminded recently that one of the most important aspects of a democracy is accepting that sometimes your view will be in the minority and respecting the majority view. You may not like it, you may be motivated to change it, but you respect the democratic process enough not to destructively react to it.

The Republicans may hold both sides of Congress today. The Democrats may take one or both sides back. Any outcome is within the realm of possibility. Whatever the final tallies, neither side should be so upset that the only analogy that comes to mind is joking about mass-suicide.

As Ann Althouse said, commenting on the same quote, "Wow, calm down people! It's just politics."

Monday, November 06, 2006

Jay Cost On Election Polls

I remember being an avid read of Jay Cost during the last presidential election. Cost had his own blog and presented analyses of polls from a statistical stand point. He's now writing for Real Clear Politics and has had two very good articles about the upcoming midterm election.

Both deal with predictions about the House, the second with more statistics than the first.

It's hard to summarize a Cost article as he uses a lot of (simple) statistics. The short summary is that he feels that people are overstating the degree to which seats may change parties. If I haven't scared you off with the statistics comments, give his articles a read (especially the second one). They are well worth the read.

The Only Issue This Election Day

I've seen links to this editorial titled "The Only Issue This Election Day" by Orson Scott Card from numerous sites. The background is that Card is a Democrat, but one that feels that the War on Terror trumps all other issues in the coming election. I found it fascinating, which explain the number of links it has received.
I say this as a Democrat, for whom the Republican domination of government threatens many values that I hold to be important to America's role as a light among nations.
It quickly becomes clear why Card isn't happy with the Democratic Party's stance on the War on Terror. Using phrases such as "light among nations" in reference to the United States seems to be the antithesis of Democratic Party's platform. In fact, Card almost states as much when he says:
To all intents and purposes, when the Democratic Party jettisoned Joseph Lieberman over the issue of his support of this war, they kicked me out as well. The party of Harry Truman and Daniel Patrick Moynihan -- the party I joined back in the 1970s -- is dead. Of suicide.
The rest of the piece deals with why he feels the War on Terror is so important--singularly important in his mind. It's an interesting read. His comments on nation building are particularly noteworthy:
Another charge against the Bush administration's conduct of the war is that they are engaged in the hopeless task of "nation-building." And this is true -- except for the word "hopeless."

But what is the alternative? I've heard several, each more disastrous and impossible and even shameful than the one before.
I am not sure I agree, but read the whole editorial to understand the context of the quote.

Election Predictions, 2006

The web seems to be overflowing with election predictions for tomorrow's midterm election. Blogs and online portals of more traditional media are all full of authors making bold predictions on what will happen. I'm not sure anyway can claim to have the background and analytical technique to make such predictions with certainty, but they certainly are interesting reads. Here's a sample of a few, if you are interested:

Quin Hillyer at the American Spectator.

Bull Dog Pundit at anklebitingpundits.

Several at wizbangblog from Alexander McClure, Ed Torres, and Jim Addison.

Are any of them close to the mark? Check back Wednesday to see...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Who Votes, Who Doesn't, and Why

The Pew Research Center has recently released a report concerning the demographics of voters and their voting frequency title, "Who Votes, Who Doesn't, and Why."

Here are some of the more interesting findings. People 18-29 are only 22% likely to be a regular voter, while those 50-64 are 42% likely to vote regularly. (Jim Addison has a post on Rock the Vote over at politics.wizbang and how it always fails to motivate the 18-29 year-old demographic.)

Those that make over $75K a year are 44% likely to vote regularly, compared to only 26% for those making less than $20K. Which group do you think would be more likely to vote for candidates promising lower taxes?

I didn't have time to delve deeply into the statistics of the survey (probably a dangerous thing to skip) but overall found the report worth the read.

Republicans Outnumber Democrats Online

I've seen the results of this study posted several places now. According to a Nielson report, Republicans outnumber Democrats online. From the press release:
Nielsen//NetRatings (NASDAQ: NTRT), a global leader in Internet media and market research, announced today that 36.6 percent of U.S. adults online are Republicans, 30.8 percent are Democrats and 17.3 percent are Independents. With campaign Web sites becoming increasingly important to reaching the electorate, candidates need to keep their fingers on the political pulse of the Internet.
This difference, while interesting in its own right, is more interesting when you consider the party breakdown for most polls. Pollsters almost always assume a numbers advantage to Democrats when polling. Is there really such a difference between online and total demographics? Or is this one more indication that pollsters use questionable statistical methods to bias polling results?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Best Reaction To John Kerry So Far

This just made me smile.

From Drudge via Lorie Byrd.

Breaking News: Media Coverage Of Midterm Elections Favors Democrats

A report by the Center for Media and Public Affairs analyzes the TV news coverage of the midterm election. The high level conclusion was:
88 Percent Bad Press For GOP; Dems Get 77 Percent Good Press.


3 out of 4 (77 percent) on-air evaluations of Democratic candidates and members of Congress were positive during the first seven weeks of the campaign. By contrast only 1 out of 8 assessments (12 percent) were favorable towards their Republican counterparts.
I know you are as shocked as I am.
In the first seven weeks after Labor Day in 2002, network coverage of the mid-term elections totaled only 35 stories. 2006's coverage has been almost five times as heavy, with 167 elections stories.
I guess if you are going to stump for the Democrats, you should get your message out there as much as possible. I found this last data point interesting:
Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) was featured in 10 stories, even though he's not seeking re-election this year.
Grooming him for a 2008 Presidential run, I imagine.