Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Short Comment About Polls

I will post more later, But there is something that has been bothering me for a while about the way polls are presented.

Numbers don't lie, but numbers can mislead. A non-political example here:

Auto insurance commercials claiming that the 'average person who switched saved' some hundreds of dollars. It's a non-statement. Of course those who switched saved money. Those who called for a quote and found they wouldn't save money didn't switch. It's akin to saying "90 percent of my friends think I'm a decent guy."

This pertains to polls because, again, numbers can be misleading. When you see job approval ratings, they might be close to accurate. When I see a news broadcast covering healthcare, and they ask, "Do you approve of Obama's plan for healthcare," or "Do you agree with Obama's handling of healthcare reform," or any version thereof, it's too ambiguous to mean anything.

There are false negatives, but no false positives to balance the poll. If you think the public option or the broader term 'reform' is a bad idea, you say no to the question. If you think it's a good idea, but still think he's not doing enough to reach the goal, you say no. There are people who want a public option, or want Obama's goal to be reached, that will say no because he's not doing enough. There is no scenario that would make a person opposed to reform or a public option answer 'yes' to that poll question.

Because of those false negatives, with no balancing false positives, I'm skeptical about the common wisdom and the interpretation of these polls.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mika Brzezinski and Inconsistent Righteous Indignation

Over the past few months, I've been watching Morning Joe almost everyday. I almost always appreciate the tone of the show, and the humor they go through the news with is a refreshing bit of wit. Also, I hardly ever agree with Joe Scarborough on anything of substance politically, but almost always agree with him on social things.

Mika Brzezinski is usually a moderating voice, and while I do appreciate how she tries to stick to the issues, it's good to see a fun side to her on-screen persona. I laughed a lot at the black and red shoes she got on Friday's show. Now, I have to bring up my biggest problem with the way she plays devil's advocate at the table.

The way she reacts to women's issues is completely opposite the way she views everything else. It's nice to have a calm head when you aren't directly involved, when you have never experienced it yourself and cannot relate to the group of victims. In some ways, it's even more admirable to be a level headed commentator when you are in the group of victims, or have so many common experiences that their pain is your own.

On the flip side, it's nice to see someone be passionate about things that affect them, but even more inspiring when people are passionate about their fellow humans regardless of background, socail class, or any other defining feature.

On this, she fails miserably in my opinion. She is irrationally passionate on issues she can relate to, and skeptical on any she has never experienced. I'm only talking now of social ills facing the country. On things like the Afghan war, the economy, or political races around the country, I think she strikes the perfect tone. But on social issues, Mika Brzezinski has straddled the fence whenever she sees fit. I'm not sure if it's her, or producers, or whatever, and I am not in the habit of questioning motives. I have no idea what she's thinking, but can only go on what she says.

I have two examples of each sticking in my proverbial craw, the later topic resurfacing just this morning.

For dispassionate indifference, see the way she responded to issues of race with 1.) Henry Gates and James Crowley issue and 2.) Rush vs The World(or at least the part of it he's been attacking for years).

For irrational passion, see the way she reacts to the 1.) Letterman scandal and 2.) payment for breast implants for California's biggest advocate of 'opposite marraige,' which resurfaced on the show this morning as they briefly covered the state wanting the money back.

Where was the sense of 'wait and see' from the Gates/Crowley affair when she was slamming CBS for not investigating and having solved this question just hours after everyone found out about David Letterman's indiscretions? Why should some have to keep quiet on their opinions of Rush Limbaugh joining a league he's insulted so often, in a position of AUTHORITY over the very people he's been slandering, when she doesn't have to shut up about people in a beauty contest trying to look 'better,' whether their definition is correct or not? Why can't David Letterman get the same distinction of crime vs. controversy that Rush Limbaugh got from her?

Unlike those, which I guess are rhetorical, there are some others that just don't have a simple answer, or an answer at all sometimes. Is sexism more or less offensive than racism? Is sexual infidelity more or less harmful than race baiting? Should we let the answer be based on whether we are black or female? What would a black woman say? The outrage, real or fake, righteous or not, isn't helping us find the answer to any of those.

I have been searching for video clips online. I'm not sure the best way to do that, so it will have to wait. I suggest any reading this do the youtube, huffpost, or any other online video crawl.

I have, to date, agreed with only two things Pat Buchanan has ever said on air, but they came in rapid succession. Roman Polanski and David Letterman broke at nearly the same time, and Pat's clear answers to the two situations couldn't have agreed more with mine had they come from my own voicebox. In my opinion, Polanski should be 'under the jail,' and Letterman may be a jerk, but last I checked, plenty of jerks still have jobs. No one is saying he did anything illegal. We should all wait and see, while internal investigations and criminal investigations play themselves out.

Mika's reactions to Pat Buchanan's responses only served to highlight the disparity between her responses to these very similar situations. For anyone who doesn't think they are similar, take a look at how affirmative action affects women and blacks. See how civil rights legistlation continues to improve the way both blacks AND women interact with the majority of America's population.

Just as a side note, I have other stuff I'd like to write about. So much of this blog seems to be about things I don't like these days. I have other posts that I wrote and never posted, many about stuff I found funny or uplifting. Maybe I will one day, but they are handwritten and need to be typed out.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rush Limbaugh is NOT being held down by the new Man

I don't have a famous blog. I don't have some insight that nobody else has. I do, though, still have my belief and my common sense. Today, I want to use that to focus on the 'Rush Limbaugh v. Everyone Else' argument.

Rush is not misunderstood. He is not only controversial. He has crossed lines in a way that only the most blind supporters or the most out-of-step with society can defend. If I say the sky is blue for a reason no one has thought of, I may be controversial. If I say the sky is purple, I am not.

Whether he made comments about slavery or not, he has recently called for segregation of school buses. He has mocked the president, using slurs and everything else in his power, for reasons no one can understand.

I hear defense of his bid and really wish I could laugh at the irony, but it is just too sad. Anyone who tries to block free speech in defense of free speech is an idiot, or at least blinded by the trees so much they can't see the forest. There is no clever defense of Rush Limbaugh saying 'he only used his right to free speech, so you can't use yours to oppose him.' All this shouting down has been from people with similar rights to free speech, and free speech has never, ever been the same as consequence free speech. You can say whatever you want, and I can think you're an idiot for it.

The people so quick to castigate David Letterman are the first to call Al sharpton and others out for their defense of Rush?

Make no mistake. I do NOT hold to the belief that this should be a purely financial decision. Even if it was, though, this would still be a one-sided argument. Please bear with me. Now, I don't have the best terms for the groups I'm trying to describe, but I hope you understand that the greyscale here is more sincere than anything you hear in most of the sound-bite driven media society that permeates the air.

Set aside his absurd statement that he's color-blind. Even Rush Limbaugh would have to admit that the country he lives in and loves is not. Some may be racist, but those that aren't could be shamed by his statements. That will keep some 'socially conscious whites' from giving the NFL as much money. Some are actually racist, and they will stay away because of the very beliefs that Rush Limbaugh wants to foment. Some African-Americans won't give their money to anything associated with Limbaugh. Some people will tune in to see the hubbub, but then tune back away to NASCAR, the NHL, NBA, USTA, or whatever passtime they prefer for three to six hours of their sunday afternoons after deciding the NFL is still not for them. How is this a black-listing of Rush Limbaugh on pure political or social basis?

I don't want to spend much time on the actual morality of what he does in this post, so I'll just say a few things.

1.) There's an expression I'm fond of that states "No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible." If someone could add to that, he or she would probably say that any snowflake that does would never admit to it.

2.) The class clown can never whine justifiably when he is handed the dunce cap and a stool to put in the corner.

Rush Limbaugh is either one of the most cynically calculating men in radio or one of the most racist.