Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

12/29/2010 (12:04 pm)

PIPA is At It Again

For the past 7 years or so, conservatives have had to tolerate liberals, Progressives, and assorted pseudo-intellectuals informing them superciliously that it had been “proved” by “research” that Fox News viewers were badly misinformed about current issues. They were usually referring to a horribly-constructed bit of research produced by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland that examined responses to three questions about the run-up to the Iraq war. Somehow, to the left, this proved that Fox was misinforming its viewers about all subjects — and that’s leaving aside glaring concerns about the construction of the questions, and about the utter absence of any attempt to correlate private, personal opinions to particular news reports (I mentioned the report and its flaws briefly here.)

Well, they’re at it again. PIPA, which in the interim has recast itself as World Public Opinion.org, recently produced another amusing bit of research purporting to prove, using more current policy questions, that Fox News viewers are the most misinformed of all news viewers. The actual study can be read here, if you want a lesson in how not to perform genuine research.

The title is a masterpiece of studied neutrality: Misinformation and the 2010 Election. So far, so good. A lot of us have noted the role played by the press in keeping voters ill-informed. It’s a worthwhile topic for research. Funny, though, that they didn’t run this after the 2008 election; I guess these Objective Scholars® considered voting for Obama a well-informed choice, and considered that misinformation is only evident when voters elect Republicans. Examining the minds of Obama voters was left to conservative partisans like John Ziegler, who, in fact, did a much better job of demonstrating that the voters were misinformed than PIPA does here (and Obama voters were the most misinformed of all — but nobody was particularly well-informed). Of course, Ziegler used genuine polling organizations like Zogby and Wilson Research, and there was no disputing the factual nature of his questions. He also did not attempt to blame any particular network, which is a fool’s errand. PIPA, take note.

Why the focus on Fox News? The study introduces itself with a concern about the impact of “corporate funding” on elections in the wake of the Citizens United case, which I wrote about last February. This is a particular concern of Progressives, who went insane predicting a flood of corporate money devastating politics in America (which in fact never materialized,) but not a concern of anybody else. So we know from the start that the researchers are Progressives, and we all know how Progressives feel about Fox. This explains why PIPA is interested in a question like “Are Fox News viewers misinformed” rather than a more neutral question like, say, “Which news reports are more accurate?” Of course, they shrouded their focus on Fox in objective-sounding phrases, but the focus was plainly on Fox.

Be that as it may, the study is a laugh riot of methodological blunders.

In the first place, the study defines “truth” as “agreement with the public statements of a particular government agency.” For example, if you disagree with the Congressional Budget Office in their assessment of the effect of the stimulus, then you are, by this definition, misinformed. That example is particularly egregious: the CBO assessed the effect of the stimulus, not by examining actual results, but by running an economic model using the number of stimulus dollars as input, and applying Keynesian multipliers. In short, if you think the CBO’s model is not a good model, you are misinformed — by definition.

This is genuinely funny. Liberals fancy themselves to be the reservoir of intellectual resistance to the government in America. But as of today, liberals claim that if you disagree with the government, you are wrong, by simple definition. Big Brother knows best. Who knew they’d changed sides?

Next, several questions asked people to opine about what “most economists” think. The study defines “most economists” as “the economists who happen to work for the government agency we chose as our source.” No polling of economists was performed, nor were any such polls consulted. So we know before we start that the study’s “correct” answers to questions involving opinions about what “most economists” think are completely unreliable. They really have not the slightest idea what “most economists” think.

And what is it that people are asked about what these gods of economics think? That’s pretty interesting, too: they’re asked, among other things, whether more economists think the health care reform law will increase the deficit, more think it will reduce the deficit, or whether their views are evenly divided. Or, whether more economists think the economy is getting better or getting worse.

My reaction to that is “What kind of idiot decides where they stand by polling economists to find out which view has 60% support? Who the &@#! cares what ‘most economists’ think?” Why aren’t we examining the actual effects of such laws in other countries, or in various states where they’ve been attempted? Why not examine the history of predictions made by politicians advocating various spending programs (which almost invariably understate costs and overstate revenues?)

But no, to PIPA what matters is whether people know which way the wind was blowing among economists — meaning, of course, which way the particular economists were leaning who were working for the particular branch of the Obama administration they chose by whatever means. And they chose objectively, of course.

How very revealing that these Progressives think truth is determined by agreeing with people they consider important! One scales the heights of intellectual mountains by following the academic herd? Really?

I’m reminded of a wry comment about experts made by John Meier in his analysis of the life of Jesus, A Marginal Jew:

Nothing ages faster than relevance. The “cutting edge” of scholarship at any given moment often turns out to be the sharp cliff of Gerasa, off of which academic lemmings keep hurling themselves.

Choosing sides by polling experts is not always such a good idea.

But here is what I consider the crowning deficiency: the study purports to examine whether a news agency misinforms its viewers — without examining a single news report.

How does that work? The questions about what news source respondents viewed don’t sum to 100%, because most people view multiple sources of news — Fox, CBS, newspapers, various Internet sites, etc. The study does not even include most news purveyors, and makes no attempt to identify which of the various sources it does include was the source of the “misinformation.” Using this method it’s not possible to determine which, or whether any, news organization misinformed anybody.

Ultimately, all the study demonstrates is which set of voters was more likely to agree with the current administration’s talking points. For some reason, I don’t consider that a useful test of accuracy, nor does the failure to swallow ObamaCrap® fill me with foreboding about the future of the republic. Call me picky.

Nobody who knows the first thing about social science research can take this “study” seriously. It’s not a study, it’s a paid, partisan hit piece. The fact that so many liberals accept it uncritically and repeat it as fact, constitutes proof that they’re either not capable of critical thinking, or not willing to engage in it when the target is conservative. The fact that PIPA and other progressive-leaning think tanks continue to produce such transparently nonsensical “research”, constitutes proof that the manipulators of the liberal herd know how to move the cows.

11/08/2010 (1:51 pm)

Climate Alarmists Rise For Battle

The Chicago Tribune’s Washington Bureau correspondent, Neela Banerjee, ran a piece in the Tribune’s Nation section today that began with the following, instructive bit of propaganda:

Climate scientists plan campaign against global warming skeptics

Faced with rising political attacks, hundreds of climate scientists are joining a broad campaign to push back against congressional conservatives who have threatened prominent researchers with investigations and vowed to kill regulations to rein in man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

The still-evolving efforts reveal a shift among climate scientists, many of whom have traditionally stayed out of politics and avoided the news media. Many now say they are willing to go toe-to-toe with their critics, some of whom gained new power after the Republicans won control of the House in Tuesday’s election.

On Monday, the American Geophysical Union, the country’s largest association of climate scientists, plans to announce that 700 climate scientists have agreed to speak out as experts on questions about global warming and the role of man-made air pollution.

John Abraham of St. Thomas University in Minnesota, who last May wrote a widely disseminated response to climate change skeptics, is also pulling together a “climate rapid response team,” which includes scientists prepared to go before what they consider potentially hostile audiences on conservative talk radio and television shows.

Notice the roles cast for the players by the author. The subject group is “climate scientists.” The object of their activism is “global warming skeptics.” These “scientists” are faced with “rising political attacks.” “Prominent researchers” are threatened with investigations. There’s a shift afoot among “climate scientists, “many of whom have traditionally stayed out of politics and avoided the news media.” She even names an organization, the American Geophysical Union, which has plans to announce that 700 “climate scientists” have agreed to speak out as “experts.”

This is a propaganda piece attempting to revive the public’s concern over climate change by puffing air into the activism of habitual climate alarmists. The author is an activist trying to create the appearance of a movement. The real news story here is that a mechanical engineering professor from Minnesota is organizing a speaker’s bureau to try to talk down conservative audiences. This is hardly news.

While some of the participants here are, in fact, climate scientists, they are not the ones who have been reluctant to engage the public. Indeed, the charge most aptly arising from last December’s “Climategate” scandal was that several of the most prominent scientists in the alarmist camp were biased politically and were attempting to promote their political aims by manipulating data, skewing peer review, and bullying opponents. When, at the end of the article, the author gets to naming a few of the intrepid scientists who are now uncharacteristically marching forth to brave the slings and arrows of outrageous conservatives, we’re told that Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) will lead the charge, along with Richard Feely of NOAA and Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton. Trenberth, one of those dishonorably named in the Climategate affair, and Oppenheimer were both lead authors on more than one IPCC report and have been active in promoting climate alarmism for years, while Feely has been active in promoting the scare over ocean acidification. Some “shift.”

Next, the author attempts to make you think that all climate scientists agree to this activism by name-dropping the American Geophysical Union (AGU) as the “country’s largest association of climate scientists.” This particular attempt constitutes journalistic malpractice. The AGU does not specialize in climate science; this is misleading. The organization has announced nothing to date, it simply “plans to announce;” and the plans are not sourced by the author. The author, in effect, is creating a ghost army. Notice, in the article, how the entire American Geophysical Union becomes 700 scientists, then shrinks to 39 Special Forces skeptic-refuters, and finally gets named as three special scientists to engage the public. One wonders exactly which box on what survey those 700 AGU members checked in order to be included in this statistic, and whether they know they’ve been named as willing activists in an unprecedented political putsch. Nor would 700 AGU members constitute as large or authoritative a number as it’s represented to be; the AGU boasts some 58,000 members, and they represent all scientific disciplines, not just climate science.

Likewise, John Abraham of St. Thomas University, named in the article as the organizer of a “rapid response team,” is not specifically a climate scientist, either. He’s a mechanical engineer. That does not mean he is not competent to understand climate science, mind you; it’s just that the alarmists invariably sniff at skeptical scientists whose degrees lack the specific “climate” label. I’m returning the favor, and noting that they know perfectly well that disciplines apart from “climate scientist” are competent to comment on the topic.

The article warns of threatened investigations of “prominent scientists.” If you read further in the article, what’s actually been threatened is an investigation of the activism of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has attempted to implement cap-and-trade and central economic planning without the approval of Congress. Recall my article from 2008 discussing their announced plans. If, in fact, this has been accomplished based on deliberately manipulated data, it would constitute the largest attempted power grab in the history of the nation, something along the lines of a political coup. I can’t imagine a responsible citizen not demanding an investigation of such an attempt.

The author of the piece attempts to deflect the Climategate affair as a non-issue by sniffing at it dishonestly:

Climate change skeptics argued that the sniping in some e-mails showed that scientists suppressed research by skeptics and manipulated data. Five independent panels subsequently cleared the researchers involved and validated the science.

This, again, constitutes journalistic malpractice. It’s far from just skeptics who were incensed at the contents of the emails. What was being complained about was a great deal more serious than mere “sniping,” and generated investigations of possible criminal activity. Most importantly, no panel anywhere has discovered that the science was accurate. Some panels have concluded that no crimes were committed, which is a very different thing. And I’m really curious: since the scurrilous behavior uncovered in the emails included systematic attempts to rig professional panels with co-belligerents who would look kindly on the works of alarmists and not critique their work severely, what measures did these “five independent panels” put in place to guarantee to the public that these were not just another series of rigged juries? Indeed, the review of Prof. Michael Mann’s hockey stick high-jinks by his superiors at Penn State (Michael, as in “Mike’s Nature trick”) consisted of nothing more than reviewing a collection of emails hand-selected and submitted by the defendant himself!

The article constitutes political activism dressed as journalism, to cover political activism dressed as research. Dressing up political activism as something more authoritative is the primary tactic of the progressive movement, which has been using science as its sock puppet to change the culture for at least sixty years. Do not be fooled, and do not relax your guard; they’re aiming to steal your liberty.

Postscript: In a move that indicates the genuine shift that is taking place, the Chicago Carbon Exchange, established in November 2000 solely for the purpose of trading carbon emissions credits, announced on October 21 of this year that they will cease operations this year. The event passed without media notice of any significant sort.

04/08/2010 (7:46 am)

Another Dishonest Democrat Wages Dishonest Race War

Yesterday’s Washington Examiner contained an article from Associated Press reporter Valerie Bauman discussing the presence of blacks among Tea Party groups. The fact of their existence, of course, rebuts one of the favorite memes floated by certain, demented leftist personalities (Olbermann and Garofalo come to mind.) But read through this fascinating report from the AP and see if you can discover that the insults hurled at black Tea Partiers are hurled by Democrats.

They’ve been called Oreos, traitors and Uncle Toms, and are used to having to defend their values. Now black conservatives are really taking heat for their involvement in the mostly white tea party movement — and for having the audacity to oppose the policies of the nation’s first black president.

“I’ve been told I hate myself. I’ve been called an Uncle Tom. I’ve been told I’m a spook at the door,” said Timothy F. Johnson, chairman of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, a group of black conservatives who support free market principles and limited government.

“Black Republicans find themselves always having to prove who they are. Because the assumption is the Republican Party is for whites and the Democratic Party is for blacks,” he said.

Johnson and other black conservatives say they were drawn to the tea party movement because of what they consider its commonsense fiscal values of controlled spending, less taxes and smaller government. The fact that they’re black — or that most tea partyers are white — should have nothing to do with it, they say.

“You have to be honest and true to yourself. What am I supposed to do, vote Democratic just to be popular? Just to fit in?” asked Clifton Bazar, a 45-year-old New Jersey freelance photographer and conservative blogger.

Oops. The reporter just gave us a our first clue — after five paragraphs — where the insults are coming from. Blacks are popular if their tout the Democratic party line. They are unpopular if they tout the Republican line. Who’s calling them “Oreos?” Who’s calling them “traitors?” Did you see the word “Democrats” anywhere?

Bauman continues:

Opponents have branded the tea party as a group of racists hiding behind economic concerns — and reports that some tea partyers were lobbing racist slurs at black congressmen during last month’s heated health care vote give them ammunition.

But these black conservatives don’t consider racism representative of the movement as a whole — or race a reason to support it.

Opponents have branded the tea party as a group of racists. But the racist epithets are being flung by the tea party’s opponents — the same opponents who are calling other people “racist.” Does Valerie venture to mention why the people who are actually calling black people names are not “racists?”

More to the point, does she place this pair of paragraphs where she does deliberately to assist careless readers toward drawing the conclusion that it’s the tea partiers themselves who are calling blacks names? After all, she just spent five paragraphs describing how poorly they’re being treated by somebody unnamed. Then she tells us that somebody has been branded racist. Doesn’t it follow that it must be the people being called “racist” who are calling blacks names? Actually, it doesn’t follow at all, and it isn’t true; but Ms. Bauman (I assume “Valerie” is a female, although the name has been used for males on occasion) is playing the common media game of avoiding any mention of her favored party when their behavior is reprehensible, and is in fact manipulating the reader into thinking it’s the tea partiers who are committing the racial fouls. This is deliberate deception, carefully constructed to permit the defense “We never said tea partiers were calling anybody names.” Valerie Bauman is a clever liar.

“I’ve gotten the statement, ‘How can you not support the brother?'” said David Webb, an organizer of New York City’s Tea Party 365, Inc. movement and a conservative radio personality.

Since Obama’s election, Webb said some black conservatives have even resorted to hiding their political views.

“I know of people who would play the (liberal) role publicly, but have their private opinions,” he said. “They don’t agree with the policy but they have to work, live and exist in the community … Why can’t we speak openly and honestly if we disagree?”

From whom did the statement come? Hiding their views from whom? Why did Ms. Bauman’s editor permit these horribly passive constructions to remain in the piece? Apparently the unnamed editor is guilty along with Ms. Bauman of the deception and the game; never call a Democrat a Democrat when one has done wrong. And by all means, don’t admit that it’s Democrats who are forcing blacks to “pass” these days, ’cause that might lead people to think that racism is alive and well in the Democratic party — where it has always thrived, throughout American political history.

No, we can’t have people telling the truth about Democrats, and saying out loud that the Democratic party is, to this day, the only party in America where racism is common. We can’t acknowledge that Democratics’ love for entitlement programs that deliberately and disproportionately favor blacks is about assuaging their guilt, and not really about actually helping anybody (because, in fact, few things hurt the black community as badly as those hell-inspired entitlement programs).

Because if Democrats don’t continue indefinitely to dupe 85% or more of the black community in to voting Democrat year in and year out, no Democrat will ever be elected to any office, anywhere. And wouldn’t that be just awful?

The Associated Press is not a news reporting organization, it is a propaganda adjunct to the Democratic party. Valerie Bauman and her editor are not reporters, they are propagandists, and they should not have jobs in the news business.

04/05/2010 (1:16 pm)

Democrats Provoke Krystalnacht!

The Democrats’ willing lapdogs in the dying mainstream press treated us to a week of hyperventilating about how how violent, how dangerous were those Tea Party activists… and now we’re seeing vandalism directed against the Republican party.

Charlottesville, Albemarle County, Virginia was the place where some imbecile posted the wrong address for a Democratic US Representative, and some criminal vandal sneaked into the indicated yard and sliced a hose on a barbecue grill. Then on BushBulletMarch 26, bricks were thrown through the window of the GOP headquarters there — thick, double-pane windows, so they were thrown with considerable force. Last week somebody broke into Republican candidate John Koster’s office in Everett, WA, stole two laptops full of donor information and heaved a printer through their window from inside. And now the GOP office in Marion, OH has been vandalized, with a brick wrapped in a piece of notebook paper with “Stop the right wing” scrawled on it.

The Charlottesville incidents were probably related to each other, and neither vandal displayed much intelligence — one got the wrong person, another somehow confused “Tea Party” with the Republican party. But it seems likely that the Charlottesville retaliation was goaded by the press hysteria, there’s little question that the Ohio and Washington incidents were provoked by the fervid news reporting. Or if there is some question, we can safely ignore it, the way the press ignored such questions last week, right?

How many other incidents have gone unreported? These three incidents were only reported in local newspapers, unlike the “Tea Party” hysteria that made national news. The only reason I know about these three incidents is that bloggers and commenters picked up the local reports and repeated them.

There was no violence to speak of at the Tea Party meetings. They were not stirring up acts of hatred; they were expressing outrage at the abuses of power, abandonment of core American principles, and violations of the US Constitution perpetrated by the Democrats in Congress and the White House. The charge that the meetings were stirring up violence was remarkable for its disconnection with reality; hell, the Tea Party movement produced a march in Washington that may have totaled more than a million people back in September, and the city barely even needed to clean up after them. The movement has been remarkable for its restraint and good manners. That would be true even if we could not compare the Tea Party rallies to 8 years of spittle-spewing rage against George W. Bush; when compared to the unhinged vitriol from the left during the first decade of the 21st century, the dishonesty of these press fulminations about Tea Party “violence” becomes that much more shocking.

The title on this post is overblown and provocative, on purpose. I’m mimicking what I saw in the press last week. The only difference is, the press actually did provoke violence, where the various Tea Parties did not. When will the reporters be brought to trial?

On a related note, Michael Moynihan at Reason invokes Godwin’s Law in highly literate fashion on the left’s hysteria, and Jack Cashill produced a clear rebuttal of the faux racial incident from the eve of the health care bill passage. Four minutes, 56 seconds.

03/05/2010 (5:01 pm)

The Cutting and the Crying: Suck It Up

I picked up on two reports today from around the country that highlight citizen complaints in response to government cutbacks, another sign of what we should expect through the coming decade.

In the first, students at universities around the country are protesting the cutting of state funding for education, and apparently doing so in a disruptive fashion, blocking freeways and freeway on-ramps, slugging police officers, pulling fire alarms for no reason, and so forth.

The article reporting this, written by a half-dozen AP reporters, is a prime instance of leftist media bias, in that it carefully masks the political orientation of the protesters. It also avoids producing a hard count of the protesters, although one particular protest at UC Davis apparently produced about 300 people. The writers attempt to make this into a revolt by Everyman:

Students, teachers, parents and school employees rallied and marched Thursday at college campuses, public parks and government buildings in many U.S. cities in what was called the March 4 Day of Action to Defend Public Education.

Of course, this was a nationally-coordinated effort by hard leftists. Check the list of sponsors for the March 4th Strike and Day of Action in defense of public education in California; it reads like an exhaustive list of unions, union organizers, and hard-left action committees. We’re looking here at the classic strategy of neo-Marxists, using growing political instability as a springboard for fomenting revolution.

Imagine how the Tea Parties would have been reported if any of them had produced even a fraction of the deliberate, disruptive action this small protest produced.

The second instance is closer to grass roots. Citizens in Arizona are starting to complain about the state closing down highway rest stops as a cost-cutting measure. It apparently costs the state about $300,000 a year to keep a single rest stop clean and functional. The state closed 13 out of 18 rest stops; this is clearly only one of dozens of measures they’ll be taking to save money, as the Arizona Dept of Transportation is about $100 million in the red.

Frankly, I can appreciate the importance of a stop in the desert as well as the next man, but this highlights the sort of re-adjustment we’re all going to face in the coming years. The simple fact is that we have all gotten used to government activism in any number of public functions, a level of activism that government simply cannot sustain over the long haul. Even in a good economy, government cannot guarantee that your life will be easy, and will go bankrupt if it tries.

In 1997, my wife was incapacitated for about 6 months, and I had to take on the role of Mr. Mom. I had four kids aged from 6 to 16, and we had one television. I attempted to arbitrate the use of it so that each got to watch at least one show they really liked, but so they did not watch too much. That attempt failed, and they were all spending too much time in front of the tube; so one day, in a moment of lucid frustration, I unplugged the damned thing from right in front of the four of them, and carried it out to the curb.

The outcome was remarkable. The kids complained bitterly from the lack of TV for about a month. Then, suddenly, they all discovered reading and board games, and the complaints stopped. Suddenly, they were all using their brains during their leisure time. It was one of the best moves I ever made.

I bring it up because it illustrates what is going to happen as government recedes from our lives by necessity, as we start forcing government to live within its means. We’re not going to like losing what we have to lose. We’re going to feel the pain. We’re going to complain. And then, once we’ve gotten it out of our system, truckers will start carrying their own port-a-potties in the backs of their trucks, and we’ll learn to do without rest stops. Parents will start saving for college educations again instead of counting on the state to provide it for free. We’ll all begin doing for ourselves again.

So, expect to see two types of citizen unrest in the coming years: organized, opportunistic attempts to produce revolution, and sincere, well-intentioned griping about losing important services. Regarding the third type, citizens rebelling against an intrusive and overbearing government, let’s hope we don’t have to produce anything more disruptive than those actions we have already produced.

02/21/2010 (11:27 pm)

Breitbart on New Media (Updated)

Andrew Breitbart began Big Hollywood in January of 2009, and Big Government not long afterward. He’s one of the most forceful voices in what is being called today the New Media, the largely Internet-based reaction to the bias and corruption of the now-failing mainstream press. Here he is speaking at CPAC over the weekend, explaining the demise of the Old Media and the rise of the New Media.

These people create the firewall by which we cannot inform our fellow citizen to be able to make decisions on how we should govern ourselves. This is how they control us. And we have finally figured it out. And the new media is the means by which we can actually not just start to govern ourselves and start telling horrific truths about our political peril and our financial peril, because the press didn’t report on these things, but we can also now change the equation, and we can begin to start changing the narratives.

He discusses at length the Giles/O’Keefe exposé on ACORN and the old media’s reaction to it, and how the supports for the Left’s worldview are now crumbling.

His sincerity is evident, and the clarity of his thinking even more so. Listen and gain hope. Ten minutes for each video.

UPDATE: Glen Reynolds over at Instapundit made this observation about Breitbart’s talk, which I think is correct:

You know, I was telling the Insta-wife last night that I thought Breitbart’s “despicable person” call-out of Zernike marked a sea change in responses to bogus charges of racism. I believe I was right.

He’s talking about the point in the first video, starting at around 6:07, where Breitbart reads the New York Times headline claiming that a CPAC speaker “bashes Obama, in racial tones,” and the opening sentences that end “using racial stereotypes.” Breitbart calls out Kate Zernike, the author of the article, saying “You’re a despicable human being.”

Believe it or not, I hate confrontation in person. However, I think Breitbart’s got the right idea: we need to make a point of saying that baseless charges of racism are morally unacceptable, every time we hear one.

It’s long past due that that sort of talk gets put into the category where it belongs. Leftists who do it are not morally superior, and need to be reminded that they’re not. The left’s certainty that conservatives are really closet racists is itself a form of bigotry, and it arises from a truly pathetic need for the individual to think him- or herself better than others. Their talk about “codes” (e.g., that conservatives talk in “code words” to mask their racism) is their frank admission that there exists no evidence that conservatives are racist — that the entire meme is fabricated out of nothing but the leftist’s fevered hatred.

01/27/2010 (9:12 am)

Fox, the Most Trusted News Source?

FoxWinnerThis is actually not a surprise, but the press will treat it like it is. And the fact that Fox came out on top is not the most relevant result from the survey, but the press is already treating it like it is — which indicates the bias of the press, oddly enough.

Public Policy Polling, identified by Wikipedia as a Democratic-party-affiliated polling firm, published the results of a poll yesterday regarding which news network is most trusted by registered voters, under the headline “Fox the Most Trusted Name in News?” The blog associated with the PPP headed their column “Fox Leads for Trust.”

Far more significant in the data, however, is the evidence that news in America has become polarized, that fewer than 50% of viewers trust the most trusted TV news source, that women trust mainstream TV news sources more than do men, and that distrust of news sources increases as the voter gets older.

Fox News was the only news source in the survey with net positive trust figures — more respondents trust their news than distrust it — with 49% who claim they trust it as a news source, to 37% who do not. Next best was CNN News, with 39% who trust it to 41% who do not. The other three major news networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS, polled with net negatives of between 9 and 15 percentage points.

Although the research itself appears to be objective, the leftward slant of the pollsters themselves appears in their public announcements. At the end of the official press release, we have Dean Debham, the President of PPP, offering us this assessment:

A generation ago you would have expected Americans to place their trust in the most neutral and unbiased conveyors of news…But the media landscape has really changed and now they’re turning more toward the outlets that tell them what they want to hear.

Or perhaps they formerly put their trust in biased sources, but some have begun to find less biased sources. Just a thought.

Tom Jenson, on the PPP blog, steers even further into the specious assessment lane, with this:

A generation ago Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in the country because of his neutrality. Now people trust Fox the most precisely because of its lack of neutrality. It says a lot about where journalism is headed.

Um… where are the questions establishing that the viewers are looking for a lack of neutrality? Isn’t it plausible to Mr. Jenson that more people trust Fox specifically because they find it more neutral? And why doesn’t he consider that perception of neutrality accurate?

Claiming that Walter Cronkite was neutral kinda gives away the game. Yes, in the 1960s people considered Cronkite neutral, because people trusted that journalists strove for neutrality. However, his blatantly dishonest reporting of the Tet Offensive in 1968 is just one data point supporting today’s common perception that he was anything but neutral. That Jenson does not know this says more about Jenson than about anybody else.

PIPAThe left’s perception that Fox is horribly biased is just that — their perception, but it explains why leftists regard it as a surprise and a disgrace that Fox is the most trusted news source. In my experience, political leftists lack the ability to assess their own position as biased in any way, and resist to an incredible degree any suggestion that they lack objectivity.

There is, however, a well-established meme among leftists that Fox has been proved to be more biased than other sources, and that Fox viewers have been proved to be less well informed. This stems from a single, remarkably narrow bit of research conducted a year after the start of the Iraq war by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA). This survey basically asked three questions of respondents in a series of polls regarding the Iraq war: whether Iraq “played a role” in the 9/11 attacks, whether weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, and how “the world” feels about the Iraq war. It doesn’t take a degree in statistics to realize that what is meant by “played a role” will be all over the map, as will be what is meant by “how the world feels.” The research was horribly constructed, and the sum of it was that Fox News viewers were less likely to conform to leftist talking points on those questions. This, the researchers regarded as “obvious misconceptions.” The most telling misconception I can see here is that some people regard this survey as objective science, and think that three, debatable questions on one topic is sufficient basis on which to dismiss an entire news organization forever.

A few quick observations about what’s really important in the data:

  • Even the most trusted TV news source was trusted by fewer than half of respondents.
  • Women tend to trust old-line network TV news a lot more than men do.
  • Distrust of TV news generally increases as voters age.
  • There’s a deep, partisan split between the left and the right, with the left trusting the mainstream sources a lot more and the right trusting Fox a lot more. However, more leftists distrust ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN than rightists distrust Fox.
  • Young people, inexplicably, seem to have a significant preference for NBC News.
  • They didn’t ask about MSNBC. Even worse, they didn’t ask about Comedy Central; I’ll just bet Jon Stewart would have achieved a net positive trust ranking.

11/14/2009 (10:19 am)

The Smear on Palin Continues (Updated)

Among Christians there is a general understanding that when one engages in activity that will be effective in extending the Kingdom of God, the demons put in overtime to harass and discredit that person. If that’s what’s going on here, Sarah Palin might just presage the Second Coming, ’cause the effort the Disappearing Press is putting into discrediting Sarah Palin is truly astounding. I watched the full-court Press against Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and frankly, those pale before the assault on Sarah Palin.

Today’s installment appears in the headline that appears above an AP story in the New York Times:

FACT CHECK: Palin’s Book Goes Rogue on Some Facts

1apunch21Oh, please.

In the first place, can anybody honestly still imagine that the New York Times has enough credibility left to lecture anybody in the universe regarding factual accuracy? Young Pinch Sulzberger has long since turned the Grey Lady into a scandal sheet for the left, and nobody but the left bothers to read it anymore. In addition to a half-dozen real scandals in which award-touting journalists turn out to have concocted their stories out of thin air, the Times has become reliably unreliable on several topics, engaged in borderline treason by publishing illegally-obtained documents during wartime, and utterly squandered a reputation for journalistic integrity. The economic demise of the Times is not just about the Internet: of all papers that could have survived the changing times, the New York Times could have, if only it had maintained the reputation for journalistic integrity that it had earned under previous leadership. The Times sank itself by sinking into partisan mediocrity.

Even the headline by itself might constitute a departure for journalistic integrity: “Fact Check,” capitalized, calls to mind a specific organization which does have a reputation for accuracy, but the organization is not the New York Times, nor is it the Associated Press. Were they fishing for credibility by attempting to identify with the Annenberg Foundation?

In the second place, neither the Times nor the AP has even begun to pay a tenth of the attention to Barack Obama’s past actions, let alone his current foibles, that they routinely spend poring over Palin’s mayoral term in Wasilla, Alaska. These slobbering lapdogs of the progressive left need to stop examining small-town mayors and start doing their damned jobs. They are gaining obscurity, and they deserve it.

And in the third place, the details of the alleged misrepresentations are just too silly to be believed. These guys are insane.

Consider the first complaint:

PALIN: Says she made frugality a point when traveling on state business as Alaska governor, asking ”only” for reasonably priced rooms and not ”often” going for the ”high-end, robe-and-slippers” hotels.

THE FACTS: Although travel records indicate she usually opted for less-pricey hotels while governor, Palin and daughter Bristol stayed five days and four nights at the $707.29-per-night Essex House luxury hotel (robes and slippers come standard) overlooking New York City’s Central Park for a five-hour women’s leadership conference in October 2007.

There’s nothing in “THE FACTS” that falsifies the statement made by Ms. Palin. She says she did not often go for high-priced hotels. They produce one instance where she used a high-priced hotel. Once is not often. The air quotes around the word “often” indicate that the reporter is aware of the tendentious nature of the complaint; he’s fishing, and he knows it.

Consider the second:

PALIN: Boasts that she ran her campaign for governor on small donations, mostly from first-time givers, and turned back large checks from big donors if her campaign perceived a conflict of interest.

THE FACTS: Of the roughly $1.3 million she raised for her primary and general election campaigns for governor, more than half came from people and political action committees giving at least $500, according to an AP analysis of her campaign finance reports. The maximum that individual donors could give was $1,000; $2,000 for a PAC.

This constitutes an incredibly lame attempt to make ordinary campaign metrics seem extraordinary. Why the arbitrary line at $500? Is that an unusually large donation? Isn’t it necessarily the case that a small number of large donations will overshadow the sum of a large number of small donations? How does that falsify Palin’s claim? And why no comparison to other politicians’ campaigns? Did Palin receive larger-than-average donations, average, or smaller-than-average? We’re not told. The AP either does not know, or worse, does know but is omitting the facts because they validate Palin’s point.

wasillaIt gets worse as it goes on. One of the “PALIN/FACT” comparisons takes her to task for not mindlessly swallowing President Obama’s mealy-mouthed retraction of his frank admission that cap-and-trade will bankrupt electric utilities who stick to coal. The AP insists that Palin is playing fast and loose with the facts because she does not buy the faux “research” from leftist think tanks that minimize the cost of cap-and-trade. They claim her reputation for taking down corrupt politicians is jeopardized by the fact — drum roll, wait for it — that she asked for a zoning variance to sell her house, two months before the end of her mayoral term. They try to pretend that the fact that she praised John McCain’s ability to bring disparate parties together to accept the Bush Treasury bailout, means that she can’t object to Barack Obama’s repeated use of nationalization to solve economic problems (notice that she didn’t even say that the Bush bailout was a good idea; she just praised McCain’s negotiating skill.) They claim it tortures the facts for Palin to say “Reagan showed us how to get out of a recession” and then proceed to recommend killing the estate tax, because Reagan did not actually eliminate the estate tax. And so on. It’s drivel.

The only objection in the entire article that can withstand even momentary scrutiny from an objective observer is that Palin apparently said Ronald Reagan faced a worse recession than the one that appears to be ending now. AP argues that the current recession is far worse. I’m inclined to think that the current recession is not ending now, and will prove to be worse. So, AP manages to raise an interesting quibble to a debatable economic assessment, one that does not lend itself easily to claims of fact. Not a very impressive achievement, considering that their headline claim is that Sarah Palin lacks the AP’s concern for facts.

It’s just another slime piece in a year-long deluge of slime pieces, from two organizations — the Associated Press and the New York Times — that have, sadly, given themselves over to hurling slime for their political masters.

UPDATE, 11/18: Incredibly, it turns out that AP actually assigned 11 individuals to fact-check all 432 pages of their advance copy of Palin’s book in order to write their silly diatribe. The level of obsession they demonstrate regarding Ms. Palin has not diminished. All the more reason why this article is genuinely shameful; that many individuals should have been able to come up with much better material, if such good material actually existed. The fact that they devoted so much manpower to the task and came up so incredibly empty, speaks volumes about Palin’s character. One wonders what they might have dug up had they devoted this many staff to finding falsehoods uttered by Joe Biden.

11/03/2009 (11:39 am)

How Democrats Will Spin the IED That's About To Explode In Their Faces

There are three off-year elections occurring today, and all three spell bad news for the Democrats. Brace yourselves for the media flood of misdirection that will follow.

For those who have been asleep, the three races are:

  • Virginia Governor: Democratic Governor Tim Kaine hit a term limit, so the state is choosing between Democrat R. Creigh Deeds and Republican Robert F. McDonnell. This is the race where the Washington Post attempted to “macaca” McDonnell by publicizing a thesis he wrote for Regent University School of Law (founded by Pat Robertson) in 1989 regarding a Republican strategy for strengthening traditional families. Recall that “macaca” became a verb in a Virginia race in 2006, when the Washington Post slandered senatorial candidate George Allen by broadcasting his use of the obscure derogation against a hectoring photographer, and made Democrat Jim Webb the new Senator from Virginia.
  • New Jersey Governor: Democrat Jon Corzine, who is currently governor, is in a fight for his political life against former US attorney Chris Christie. Two years ago, Christie led an investigation that bagged 11 corrupt officials in New Jersey, but which he claims just scratched the surface of the corruption there. As a long-time resident of a city abutting New Jersey, let me assure you that he is not exaggerating; the state is as corrupt as they come, and Corzine is in it up to his eyebrows. The fact that a large proportion of New Jersey’s Democrats still might vote for the sleaze bag Governor says something extremely depressing about the place.
  • Congressman from New York’s 23rd Congressional District: This is the race I wrote about yesterday, in which the national Republican leadership nominated Dede Scozzafava, a woman who was, it turned out, a pure social liberal on abortion and labor, and possibly on other topics as well. Tea Party Republicans in the district rebelled and threw their support behind a staunch conservative named Doug Hoffman, running on the Conservative ticket. The Democrat in the race is Bill Owens.

McDonnell is virtually certain to win in Virginia, and while Scozzafava’s sudden exit from the race this weekend obscures the polling results, Hoffman seems poised to take the Congressional seat in New York. The race between Corzine and Christie is the only one that seems close.

Naturally, Democrats are going to play games with the meanings of these races, which are actually pretty clear. I read the New York Times’ front-page lede and the attached story about the races, and noted that the two, central issues of the races are completely absent:

1) There is no mention of the Tea Party phenomenon, the rebellion of ordinary Americans of all parties against nest-feathering politics and government control. The entire matter is mentioned only as an internecine squabble in the Republican party, and potentially as the “spin” Republicans will put on the race if they win. In a bizarre twisting of the facts, the Times actually portrays McDonnell’s defense of his 1989 thesis as a rejection of the “Palin wing” of the Republican party, and a move toward the moderate center. Hilarious.

In actual fact, this is the key issue. The nation has gotten a quick taste of what Obama intends, and is spitting it out. Take Obama and Pelosi off the table, erase the Tea Parties, make the entire Obamacare fiasco vanish like a bad dream, and these races would all be different. Hoffman would probably not even be running, or would be a minor afterthought. Virginia, which has been trending blue for a decade, would very likely still be trending blue. The election is about Democratic control, Democratic fiscal irresponsibility, and Democratic tyranny. Oh, yes, and this…

2) There is no mention of Democratic corruption. The years-long string of indictments and arrests around the nation that have, as their common denominator, the letter “D”, in the wake of a years-long Democratic campaign against what they hypocritically billed as a “Republican culture of corruption,” is a secondary but indisputable factor in the growing Obama legacy. It’s the only real story in the New Jersey race, and for the Times not to mention it constitutes journalistic malpractice.

It’s a continuation of the 1990s, actually. I felt as though God gave America a test during the 1990s to see how much corruption we would tolerate: He gave us the most narcissistic, most morally inverted, most thoroughly corrupt leader imaginable, and stood back to see whether we had retained enough moral courage to get rid of him. A number of us tried to do the Right Thing, but the nation failed the test; Pretty Boy Clinton finished his term, completed his final round of banal vandalism in the White House, and took his place as an Esteemed Former President among Democrats.

And today, we are facing the consequences of having permitted that sort of corruption to stand. We now have a President and Congress whose arrogance runs to controlling even the tiniest details of life in America, and they’re breaking the national piggy bank and spreading the treasury among their friends.

The Tea Party movement is about restoring accountable self-government. Regardless of the outcome of these three elections, the message is clear, and will continue.

10/26/2009 (8:30 am)

Oh, Boy, Here It Comes

torch-obama1Now that Afghanistan is no longer the “war of necessity” and has become, instead, a ball and chain around President Obama’s leg, we can expect the mainstream press to start broadcasting just how badly we’re hated in Afghanistan, how badly we fit in, how incompetently we have handled the war, and how impossible it is that the war can be won. It’s not about national defense, there’s no anti-Western sentiment throughout the Islamic world that we need to address, nobody is trying to attack America [/sarc] — Obama does not need the trouble implied by all that, so now begins the public relations deluge to convince the American public that President Obama is actually defending America’s interests by withdrawing from Afghanistan.

Consequently, the LA Times published a story noting that “hundreds” of Afghans in the capital city of Kabul protested an alleged burning of the Koran by US troops. A rumor without evidence suggested that US troops had shot and then burned a copy of the Koran in the Wardak province. Demonstrators could not identify when, where, or by whom the Koran was burned. From the description, it was not a major event, barely newsworthy. But Obama has to be rescued from the inconvenient war, so…

It seems as though President Obama’s World Apology Tour has not completely silenced hatred of the US after all. They burned an effigy of Obama.

It’s not that the Afghanistan war is going swimmingly well, it’s just that with such a clear agenda to keep the Great One safe and loved, we cannot trust what the press has to say, and need to find reliable sources for war information. During the heat of the Iraq struggle, I found that independent journalists Michael Yon and Bill Roggio consistently offered the most reliable information, and I’ve been impressed so far with the analyses I’ve read at Stratfor. Your mileage may vary.

What practically nobody has been saying about the Afghan war is that the reason we’re in such a pickle there is that the US followed a strategy suggested by presidential candidate John Kerry during the 2004 election: we turned the effort over to an international organization instead of pursuing our own interests there. NATO was called in to handle the Afghan war. The failure is not a US failure (except insofar as the Bush administration consented to make it NATO’s war), but a failure of nations across Europe to send adequate troops, commit to the effort, establish an effective policy to improve the political or economic stability of the country, and so forth. Our allies send roughly half the forces they’re requested to send, leaving the US to shoulder some 2/3 of the staffing, and they shackle their troops with caveats dictating where they may be deployed and what actions they may take. As a consequence, the British and Dutch troops which occupy the bulk of the southern areas of Afghanistan have been ineffective in stabilizing those regions (by the way, notice how the article at this link, written in 2007, asserts that the effort has been successful so far, but lists all the factors that have since turned the situation sour.) The US has been more effective, but it’s not a US war, and the efforts of some are affected by the efforts of others.

And then there’s Pakistan, where al Qaeda fled when we ejected the Taliban from Afghanistan in 2002. The Pakistanis have been trying for years to push the training camps out of their own regions. Sort of. Maybe. Al Qaeda’s training camps continue to operate there, and a long-advertised effort to push them out of South Waziristan will probably just push them somewhere else for a while.

wrybobAll of which explains why it was so essential for the US administration to maintain a whole-hearted, fully-awake, long-term effort to rid the world of Wahabi terrorists of all stripes. It also explains why we might have been enticed to turn the effort over to NATO, because the effort, addressing a world-wide network of aggressive terrorists, cannot be carried out by one nation, cooperation is required. But NATO is the wrong vehicle; the Europeans, for the most part, lack our resolve and commitment to defending ourselves. We should have kept the leadership in-house, and involved other nations only insofar as their own interests permit them to cooperate, as we did in Iraq.

Nor can it be completed by the beginning of the top-of-the-hour commercial break, which means that people will tire of the war long before it ends. The current administration — like every Democratic administration — lacks the political will to suffer the hit to its ratings that inevitably occur when a President pursues a long-term war and people tire of it. George W. Bush was criticized for his persistence in the face of criticism and difficulty (“Cowboy!” “Lack of imagination!”) but his is the sort of resolve that an effort like this requires. It is not an accident that the escalating, world-wide pattern of attacks against US citizens halted for 7 years. It will not be an accident when it resumes.

So brace yourselves. We’re about to face the same flood we’ve faced in every war since 1970, as Democrats muster the usual ammunition to entice the nation to buy into defeat . We’re the bad guys. There’s no real need. It can’t be won. They hate us. They don’t want us. It has nothing to do with the 2001 attacks. The military is corrupt. We’re only there because of greedy Republican Orcs. We should never have liberated Iraq. Blah blah-blah blah-blah blah blah.

And then, once they’ve weakened our defenses and allowed our enemies to multiply and prosper, they’ll lose an election, and a Republican President will take office — only to be greeted by a successful attack against American interests somewhere on the globe, possibly even here in the US. For which the Democrats will blame the Republicans, just the way they did in 2001, because what they did to embolden and empower the enemy notwithstanding, it happened when the President’s registration said “R,” and history began yesterday. Democrats are predictable.

Which is why the American people cannot trust Democrats with any war. Ever.

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