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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Hugh Hewitt weighs in - if you haven't read his comments on the debate, you should. I thought his point about our special forces guys at Tora Bora was excellent.

The Kerry Fallacy

(I posted some of this as a comment on QandO, but I will post this here for the record. In the unlikly event anyone ever reads it, maybe it will do some good.)

I don't disagree that Kerry did well, compared to his normal presentation of himself in tonight's debate.

But how can anyone take Kerry's objectives seriously, when they're analyzed? It's potato chip diplomacy - each bite tastes good, but the long-term results of such a diet are malnutrition and quite possibly a heart attack.

A summit, a summit, my kingdom for a summit? What on earth will a summit change? The European countries Kerry so wishes to align with are afraid to come out and be identified with the US. They won't change any of their behavior if Kerry is elected. We need to talk to the Arab countries, and Bush has been effective there. France and Germany will never support this phase of the war on terrorism.

The BBC tells me Clinton was the most popular American president abroad. Well, during his presidency France was excoriating us in the UN for the sanctions against Iraq. I remember it well. Both Germany and France were profiting by their behavior then, and they have even less reason now to support anything we do in the middle east.

As a result of this debate I am more certain than ever that Kerry is lost in a fantasy world. I sympathize greatly with him; I think his Vietnam experiences really were searing, and that his mind simply freezes now when he thinks about engaging in this type of war. He can't stomach this reality. But the reality we face now cannot be spun, twisted, ignored or alleviated diplomatically. Those who wish to attack us cannot be approached diplomatically - and the net result of what Kerry insists he wants to do is to wait for the next blow as a popular fellow. The popularity, I'm afraid, would be Kerry's, and the blow would fall on the population of the US.

There is a sort of genius in Bush's tactics. He was faced with an amorphous enemy that forms and dissipates like a cloud, and trying to strike at it with bombing raids as Clinton did was about as effective as trying to clear a fog by shooting at the densest parts of it. Bush created a vortex into which the water vapor is sucked. That vortex is Iraq.

This works because the terrorists are operating from an extreme ideology based on a very militant interpretation of Islam. They say they are defending Islam as Muhammed commanded. They swear jihad and martyrdom for Allah - but by their own ideology, they must go to Iraq to defend Islam, or be discredited in the Moslem world. It is that Moslem world that feeds them with money, refuge, and admiration. They cannot afford to be discredited.

The Bush administration picked the ground on which to fight and is now controlling the conditions. Who knows? Maybe Colin Powell reads Sun Tzu every night to go to sleep. Maybe GW does. Someone knows what they are doing. I am sure Kerry does not.

This policy may seem astonishingly cynical, but I heard many muttering about nuking the middle east in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. In the months after 9/11, no person I respect believed we could stop another, more deadly, terrorist attack. If such an attack were to occur, I can guarantee that the population of the US would support extreme measures. All desperate people are dangerous. We have the weapons, and sooner or later some president would use them.

The Bush administration's approach is actually a moderate approach. I know that there have been civilian casualties in Iraq - far too many. I know we have sustained casualities - far too many. But neither category is remotely as large as what we expected to happen, and the net result for Iraq (unless we flee without finishing) is that tens of thousands will live who would have died over the next decade. That estimate is good if one only counts those who would have been murdered by Saddam's thugs, and those who would have died of the disease of poverty as the result of the sanctions. Poverty is a disease that kills.

I can't say I contemplate all of this with a light or easy heart, but reality is sometimes terribly cruel. It is only wisdom and human compassion that alleviates nature's cruelty. When I read stories such as the Beslan massacre, I cannot convince myself that the terrorist Islamic ideology retains any tinge of wisdom or human compassion. When I read moderate Arab newspapers and see that the "moderates" cannot bring themselves to fully condemn the actions in Beslan, I can't convince myself that Bush is wrong. The extremists must be killed - they wish to force us to extreme actions, and they will succeed if the initiative is not taken.

I support all of those serving in Iraq, and thank them. I pray for the families of those wounded and killed. I hope Kerry does not get elected - because I think the long-term result of his election would be another Hiroshima, and another. We must avoid this, if we can. It is a terribly bitter mouthful of reality to swallow, but we must choke it down. I would gleefully and joyfully accept any real alternative to the Bush strategy, but Kerry is not offering me one. Kerry is only offering me the chance to pretend that this reality does not exist for a few short years. Thank you, Senator, but I'll decline..

So You Say

Another excellent and informative post by Ann Althouse, regarding the story that Bush volunteered to fly in Vietnam. I agree with Ann that this is not important to me - but I do find it fascinating that the "everybody knows" truth about strings being pulled in order to get Bush into the Guard and keep him away from Vietnam has turned out to be false.

Every once in a while the national press will cover a story about which I truly know a great deal. Overwhelmingly I have found that the stories are misleading at best. To some extent I had dismissed it as chance, but all the evidence I can collect is adding up to one basic conclusion. The press is lazy and uninformed, relying on an interview with some college professor or a pundit, rather than speaking to people on the ground who know what's actually occurring. They also tend to turn to a very short list of professional resources, which tends to further narrow their perspectives.

This isn't a good thing for our country; we need the press to help us form a consensus about issues. I wonder if the rise of blogging hasn't been generated by the decline of the national press. The real story, after all, isn't that people are blogging. It's that so many people are reading the blogs.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Three Black Writers

If I am ever falsely accused of crime and stand trial for it, I would want three black people on the jury. I think the experience of being black in America has led to a skeptical attitude which would be highly useful. My three black jurors would be more likely to listen to what the prosecutor said without the innate belief that the prosecutor and the police must be right, and would listen to my testimony fairly.

If I were guilty of the crime, I'd want all whites on the jury, preferably rich ones from Massachusetts. They'd be most apt to listen to my excuses for why I did it.

I'd also want a good defense lawyer, of course.

The reason this came to my mind is that I do read the Washington Post pretty regularly, and I have noticed that several of their black columnists seem to speak with a more independent and skeptical voice. This may be coincidence, or it may be the effects of fighting color prejudice in America. Perhaps the experience of having to overcome the insidious effects of hundreds of years of denigration and discrimination has induced a habit of fixing one's mind on objective fact. Perhaps these two men have a deeply embedded trait of lifting their eyes away from the present tide of opinion and orienting themselves by focusing on a horizon of fact.

William Raspberry wrote this column about Michael Moore's film. Mr. Raspberry actually does live up to those standards of journalism to which Mr. Broder referred. Mr. Raspberry identifies his own stance, and takes care to distinguish fact from opinion, and propaganda from skeptical reporting. It's opinion, but it's fair opinion:

"I thought from the beginning that the Bush administration was wrong to launch its unprovoked war on Iraq. "Fahrenheit" makes it easier to believe that the war was not simply a horrible mistake based on over-extrapolation from slim evidence. I've long had my doubts about the president's intellectual gifts. Moore tempts me to doubt his basic competency."

"And it is an overwrought piece of propaganda -- a 110-minute hatchet job that doesn't even bother to pretend to be fair."

Mr. Raspberry also asks a very intelligent question:

"But why did the mostly liberal crowd at last week's Washington premiere -- people who like to think of themselves as thoughtful and fair-minded -- applaud so unrestrainedly?"

I will leave you to read his column to find his answer, which seems to me to have been made even more relevant by recent events. If I am accused of a crime I didn't do, I would very, very much like Mr. Raspberry on the trial jury, even if I disagree with him about the identity of the devil.

Mr. Raspberry's columns are worth reading. Mr. Raspberry has worn out a little shoe leather recently trying to figure out what can be done with the schools; I recommend that series particularly.

Colbert King writes on many topics. Contrast this column on Zell Miller's convention speech to Cohen's, and you will see the difference between propaganda and perspective. Before you read Mr. King's column you should know that Zell Miller was accused of being a racist after his speech; accusations of racism are routinely leveled at politicians from the south who do not agree with politicians from the north.

I will not quote from Mr. King's column because I would not want to adulterate your reading pleasure. This is one of the cleverest columns I have read in a long while; do not deprive yourself of it. Read it three times, and each time you will uncover another layer of irony.

I admire this man. Not only would I want to have him on the jury deciding my case, if I were ever stuck on one of these sequestered juries I would want him to be on it as well. He'd be good company.

Thomas Sowell doesn't write for the Washington Post. You can read his columns at Townhall. Try this one, for starters. He has written a number of books, and is one of the few people in America who could actually make me want to take a college economics course. He is a professor of economics, and in his hands economics changes from a dismal science to a lens through which to contemplate the sweep of history. I suspect I'd flunk if I took one of his courses, but it would be a character building exercise.

This coolly intellectual man is one of the most fascinating thinkers writing today. There is something about the way he looks at the world that causes him to see things that other people do not, and perceive patterns of human behavior that are rarely observed. You will get the best of him through his books; he is a careful and measured thinker.

If I were on trial for my life, and innocent, I would pray to have this man on the jury. If I were guilty, I'd fire my attorney unless he could keep Mr. Sowell off the jury. Once I were stuck with him on the jury I'd just give up and plead guilty. No appeal to emotion would sway this man.

Ranting Partisans

I have been reading political columns with a growing sense of disbelief. David Broder writes about the series of recent scandals in journalism in this column. I believe that he feels shame and embarrassment over them, but I disagree with his reasoning as to how this has come about.

He seems to blame the internet for some of it:

"When the Internet opened the door to scores of "journalists" who had no allegiance at all to the skeptical and self-disciplined ethic of professional news gathering, the bars were already down in many old-line media organizations. That is how it happened that old pros such as Dan Rather and former New York Times editor Howell Raines got caught up in this fevered atmosphere and let their standards slip."

This is like blaming a hurricane victim for trying to salvage something from the wreckage of his house. The bloggers who have been commenting on outright lies and stunning falsities put forth in the press are reacting to journalism's failures, not causing them. David Broder is still more reasonable than most in the print media, who complain about the invective and denigrate the values of those who are blogging. Broder comments:

"We need to be asking why this collapse has taken place. My suspicion is that it stems from a widespread loss of confidence in both the values of journalism and the economic viability of the news business. The first symptom of wavering confidence that I spotted came when news organizations -- television particularly, but print as well -- began offering their most prestigious and visible jobs not to people deeply imbued with the culture and values of newsrooms, but to stars imported from the political world."

The star system of journalism is probably bad, because it devalues raw achievement and favors name recognition. However, the star system of journalism has been in place for a long time - at least back to the days of Walter Cronkite. Thus the rathermandering of television. Broder seems to feel that these "outsiders" from the political world are ruining journalism, because they do not share the lofty values essential to good journalism when he writes:

"Journalists learn to be skeptical -- of sources and of their own biases as well."

But can Broder's reasoning explain this column reacting to the Republican convention by Richard Cohen, which also appeared in The Washington Post just a few weeks earlier?

"Outside my high school one distant but memorable day, a crowd gathered to watch a fight between a particularly nasty punk and someone he had bullied. To my immense satisfaction, the fight soon went against the punk. He went down and the good guy got on top of him for the coup de grace. Suddenly, a friend of the punk stepped from the crowd and stomped the good guy -- once, twice and it was over. That guy, I'm sure, is now a Republican."

Nice poetic intro there. The whole column is good (for laughs), as Cohen continues to demonstrate his profound journalistic skepticism of his own biases:

"The willingness to fight hard and fight dirty is something I both admire and loathe -- and I apologize in advance for my ambivalence."

For a while I was thinking that Cohen was discussing the Washington Post's campaign to elect Kerry or his own attitudes when he wrote:

"The campaign is engaged in hand-to-hand combat for just enough votes -- a mandate of one, if need be. It is infused with such a sense of righteousness that, like the Crusaders of old, it can commit atrocity after atrocity on the way to Jerusalem. All that matters is the goal. God understands."

But no, Cohen is referring to the Bush campaign. No invective here at all. I love the reasoned arguments which continue in this passage:

"What's more, they were followed by a string of misrepresentations spit from the mouth of Zell Miller, as mad an eruption of hate as I have witnessed in politics. Some time back, Kerry must have dissed Miller. This was personal."

Yeah, it was. Zell is personally offended. The reason Zell's so infuriated is that in 2000 Zell was part of the Democratic team that was down in Florida to prevent Jeb Bush from stealing the election for his older brother. Zell, obviously believing that he was there to ensure that every vote was counted, gave a public press conference decrying the massive Democratic effort to have the military ballots thrown out.

Oops! That earned Zell the deep displeasure of the Democratic politburo. I can only imagine just how much that same politburo hates the news organizations that funded the several independent recounts of the ballots that showed Bush won. Oops! Anyway, Zell is indignant that people risking their lives in service to this country would be treated this way, which is why he went on and on in his speech about the military defending the rights of the people in this country, instead of the lawyers and the journalists.

I strongly suspect that an awful lot of people in Florida were also personally offended, because the Republicans pretty much swept the 2002 elections in Florida. There was a high turnout, Jeb Bush was reelected in a landslide, and quite a few long-term Democratic state officeholders were swept out to sea in Terry McAuliffe's tidal wave of indignation. McAuliffe's a heavy hitter all right. The only problem is that he keeps running the ball into his own team's end zone, and then running out and screaming in indignation at the unfairness of it all.

Anyway, Cohen sums up the Republican convention with admirable journalistic integrity by writing:

"It was a loathsome affair, suffused with lies and anger, but also beautiful to watch, like a nature show about some wild animal, amoral and intent only on survival."

That pretty much speaks for itself, and I think it also could serve as an apt description of the motivations of television and print journalists who decry the rise of the blogger so bitterly.

I am not accusing Mr. Broder of being a hypocrite. For all I know Mr. Broder exerts his influence to moderate such exercises of journalistic ethics as Cohen's article. I do believe Mr. Broder is deluded.

I think the problem with the press is a combination of laziness and elitism. Laziness, because what has driven many to the bloggers is the search for fact, instead of the regurgitated press releases served up in so many "news items". And elitism, because many of the "journalists" have not hit the pavements and talked to real people about real facts for a very long time. If they had, they would have noticed that they were lying to the American people, and I assume they have not.

The problem is not that the blogging outsiders are ranting partisans and that mainstream journalism no longer has the ethics and integrity to withstand their pressure. The problem is that Dan Rather is a liar, and believed he could get away with his lie by insisting that it was true. The problem, Mr. Broder, is that he would have succeeded if not for the bloggers, because the established press was not going to report the story.

It's the big lie. The lie that is so big that any challenge to it can be dismissed as the partisan ranting of conspiracy theorists. The problem, Mr. Broder, is that propaganda is far more respected in the established press than reporting. An additional problem is that this big lie was trotted out for very little reason. The underlying story would have had relatively little effect on the election even if it had been true. This big lie was uttered for bragging rights within a relatively small circle. I attribute this to elitism.

The bloggers reported the forgery story. The bloggers dug. The bloggers keep digging. The bloggers have forced AP to change several stories recently by reporting their inaccuracies. The bloggers are talking to the people who were there. The people who know. The jig is up.

Mr. Broder writes "We've wandered a long way from safe ground in the news business. Sometimes I wonder if we can find our way back." Of course you can, Mr. Broder. All it would take is mentally wandering out of the ink-splotched journalistic bunker, and talking to the sources. News is not reported by talking to other journalists. News is reported by talking to sources and then checking their stories against established facts. You can do it. I know you can.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

No Wife, Built Castle

::: Welcome to Coral Castle :::

This gentlemen built himself a castle out of coral. It's a real place, and you can go and take tours. Much like Wally, he did it all alone. This is worth seeing, btw.

Guys Will Do Anything But Clean

The Forgotten Technology

Here's a guy who decided to build his own Stonehenge, and says he knows how the pyramids are built. Plus, he and his son moved a pole barn by themselves and without any heavy equipment.

Need to move the world? Can't find Archimedes? Here's your man!

Monday, September 27, 2004

You trust CNN?

Over at Polipundit, there was some concern about a story from CNN that 250,000 new democrats had registered in Ohio, vs 25,000 new Republicans.

I did a little research and posted about this, but I'm going to expand a bit here, because I'm still mad at CNN.

First, some others must remember CNN covering the parades of children's coffins through the streets of Bagdad. At that time it was alleged that some 50,000 children were dying a year as a result of the coalition sanctions. Well, lalala, this intrepid computer programmer was concerned enough to do some quick research at that time. A quick check of population figures and age brackets and a mental calculation proved to me that this could not be true. I will not bore you with the details, since this allegation has now been proven false.

After the invasion of Saddam Hussein's glorious people's republic, the truth regarding that emerged. In addition, remember that one of their editors came out and gave some details of what else they had not reported. Atrocities, that's what.

So these people were knowingly serving as Saddam Hussein's PR bureau, and that at a time when France, among other countries, was trumpeting these figures in the UN as a club to force the US to loosen the restrictions. We know now why, having learned about the Oil For Food scandals. If you haven't picked up on this story, google it. It will make you sick. I can't even bring myself to type in the details of the atrocity the CNN editor discussed, but that also will make you sick.

So, I checked into the Ohio situation. These are talking point numbers, not real ones.

First, in Ohio voters don’t register by party. The numbers being bandied about are based on zipcodes and how people in those zipcodes have historically voted.


Second, in 2001 and 2002 about 1.2 million voters were dropped from the rolls. There is pretty much an automatic purge function. Since there is a very heavy registration effort in Ohio, the effect is that a lot of people are registered to vote, never do, and are dropped years later, only to be reregistered. As a wild guess, I would suspect that many of these are from lower income areas (a more transitional population and a younger population).


In 2002, about 47% of the registered voters actually voted in the governor’s race, which was won by the Republican candidate.


There is a lot of fraud, true. They are investigating it. If you register by mail, you have to show ID the first time you vote, I believe. A lot of the registrations are done for money, and these people will never appear:



Further comments at Polipundit here.

Political Jokes!

A Slip Of The Tongue:

Bush wins the election. He and Cheney are having lunch at a diner near the White House. Cheney orders the "Heart-Healthy" salad. Bush leans over to the waitress and says "Honey, could I have a quickie?"
She's horrified! She says, "Mr. President, I thought your administration would bring a new era of moral rectitude to the White House. Now I see I was wrong and I'm sorry I voted for you," and she marches off.
Cheney leans over and says, "George, I think it's pronounced 'QUICHE.'"

Doin' My Level Best:

Cheney gets a call from his "boss", George. "I've got a problem," says George.
"What's the matter?" asks Cheney.
"Well, you told me to keep busy in the Oval Office, so, I got a jigsaw puzzle, but it's too hard. None of the pieces fit together and I can't find any edges."
"What's it a picture of?" asks Cheney.
"A big rooster," replies George.
"All right," sighs Cheney, "I'll come over and have a look." So he leaves his office and heads over to the Oval Office. George points at the jigsaw on his desk. Cheney looks at the desk and then turns to George and says, "For crying out loud, Georgie - put the corn flakes back in the box."

How Dare You!

How can you Repugs say that John Kerry has no record to run on? He said he'll work to keep nuclear weapons out of the world's most dangerous and volatile hands, and he did just that when he beat Howard Dean for the Democratic nomination!

No Regrets:

In the name of bipartisanship, Bill Clinton invited John Kerry and George W. Bush out for an evening at his club. A very beautiful girl in a very short skirt arrived at their table to take their drink orders, smiling warmly.

Bill sighed deeply and said, "Honey, if I'd met you before I'd won the election, I'd never have looked twice at Monica. I'll have a whisky sour."

John sighed deeply and said, "Cherie, if I'd met you before I met Teresa, I wouldn't be the Democratic nominee for president today. Bring me your wine list, please."

George smiled back at her and said, "Darlin', you're almost as beautiful as my wife, and that's saying something! Could you let me have a glass of water?"

Kerry's In A Big Hole

Ann Althouse might be able to explain why. This is exactly the type of person whose support Kerry needed to gain, and apparently has lost. She is one of these legal bloggers, and is from Wisconsin. I liked both her willingness to explain her thought process and her honesty.

I also thought the latest Battleground poll looked very bad indeed for Kerry. This is a good one because it shows a history of results over weeks. The numbers look bad indeed if you are a Democrat; the relatively high level of consistent support for Bush means that all the pressure is upon Kerry. Most disturbing for the local parties is that the D/R preference in other races is now converging, meaning Bush may well develop coattails.

I will watch the debates. I hope Kerry can give a better account of himself than he has lately. Even though I know I'm voting for Bush, I am very unhappy that real issues and the direction of the country are not being discussed. This is what the elections are for, and Kerry has not done a good job of putting forth solid proposals in such a way that the population believes in his agenda. It would be wonderful if the entire country could have the same health insurance benefits that federal employees get, for instance, but I fail to see how we could possibly pay for it.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Important update on men

First, see my earlier post.

If anyone still feels skeptical about my belief that there is a fundamental and provable distinction between men and women, my brother has helpfully provided more ammunition. He sent me these links without knowing that I was betraying male secrets in this fashion. I have two brothers, both of whom are highly useful.

These links came from brother # 2, who found them inspirational. If you are a man, you probably will too. If you are a married woman, you should follow these links so that you know that your husband is being acutely and reasonably guyish instead of neurotically insane. (If you have a story to top either of these, please send it to me.) If you are about to get pregnant for the first time, or are pregnant for the first time, you really, really should click on the bunker link and see the explanation below.

If you are a single woman, you should click on these links before saying I do, and keep them in mind throughout your married life. Don't bother with the pre-nup, honey - the only agreement you really need is the one where you promise yourself that you will let the man you married be a man. He doesn't have a choice about it, after all. They don't cover these important topics in school, and you certainly won't get them in Women's Studies, but due to the power of the internet, this public service announcement is being brought to you at no charge.

Brother #2 recently bought a house with excellent facilities for his collection of precious rusty things (it also has a small living space, which he is rumored to occupy when he's not admiring his rusty things). In any case, #2 is now thinking of building a bunker to add to the ambiance and general liveability. I am also sure #2 will find a useful way to adapt the awesome power of the jet propelled beer cooler to his purposes.

I think the beer cooler needs no explanation whatsoever, although I would like to remind everyone that the tip about PVC is important. Safety above all else should be your motto when you are working with jet engines.

However, it is likely that even the bunker-builder does not understand exactly what happened to him. True, any normal man would like to have a bunker in his backyard - but most haven't built one. The clue here is the fat, pregnant wife, which is guy talk for "look! my beautiful wife is having my baby!" When a man talks like this he is boasting and celebrating.

What happened to this guy is that his wife got pregnant, and instinct took over. Find a safe, easily defensible place, instinct said. Make sure you can secure game. Fortify it, so that the woman can be safely left in this place while she is vulnerable. Do it now!

He did it in the back yard, probably because his wife discouraged him from remodeling the house. Speaking as someone who has done more than a little digging, I know that this was backbreaking labor, and I'm sure he worked at it with great dedication. Chipping concrete is not easy either. Note that the bunker was completed, and then he attempted to induce his pregnant wife to move in. She, of course, refused, and for some benighted reason which escaped him insisted upon giving birth in the hospital. But she did come out and admire the hole as he was digging it, and I'm sure she was complimentary.

However, the story ends happily, because the child was born. Somewhere in this man's heart he has the confused knowledge that the bunker had something to do with his pregnant wife, and that is why he ended the saga of the bunker with pictures of his wife and the child, and of course the proof that he indeed killed and ate his game, and could have killed enough to feed four or five kids. No one can claim he is not taking his duties as a husband and a father seriously.

Note also that when the bunker filled with water, he was not concerned. If the bunker had filled with water while his wife was still pregnant, I can guarantee you he would have rigged up something like a jet-propelled water pump to ensure that it was safely dry. Later, of course, the pump could have been converted to use as a beer cooler. Technology is never wasted.

Now some might claim that this bunker is a ridiculous object. I think it is a love poem that this man built for his wife and child. I think the bunker is a fascinating tribute to this man's commitment to his family, and one of the most endearing and typically male things I have ever seen. Forget the Taj Mahal - this was useful!

Notice also that the man rigged an internet connection to the bunker - you need to keep your supply lines open. I rest my case.

Methods of polling sampling

PoliPundit.com � Poll Methodology - A 2004 Guide

This is a superb guide to polling methodologies of the current election cycle. It lists very important details of the methods used to report the sample, by polling company and contractor.

Most people must be confused about the very different results different polls are publicizing. There are two factors here - one is sample size, which determines degrees of deviation, and one is sampling methodology.

One reason for our confusion is that different pollsters are using very different ways to select and report their samples. If you take a very large sample size you can be sure that your numbers reflect the real opinions of the population. The correct sample size is, of course, the one that votes on election day, but no one's going to spend the money to call that many people, and in any case the opinions of the electorate will change between the polling period and the election.

When one takes small samplings of a large population, an inherent inaccuracy will be present. The "target population" of 1000 throws of a six-sided die is 166.66~ * 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. If you throw the die once, you will get a number in the range of 1 to 6, but whatever result you get will not predict what will happen the next time the die is thrown. If you throw the die a hundred times, you're in much safer territory. If you throw it a thousand times, you're going to get darned accurate results, although they will not be totally accurate. You may get 169 1's, for example, but you certainly won't get 166.66~ 1's.

Inaccuracy in a phone poll is also uncontrollable due to the method. That uncertainty can be as simple as the fact that older voters may be at home and answer the phone more than younger voters, so one may end up with a sampling skewed toward older voters. Some households only have cell phones, and they aren't called at all. Plus, a person has to make an effort to vote, whereas a telephone poll is passive and therefore samples a very significant number of persons who will not be present in the target population. In order to "fix" such a problem, pollsters often adjust their samples to get a correct demographic spread, which is why a good poll will ask all those annoying extra questions.

One of the demographic factors some pollsters adjust for is party identification. They measure how many people are R vs. D, and then throw out the extra samples for the overrepresented population. This is not a bad method, except that you have to know the correct ratio in the population first.

But you don't, and using exit polling from 4 years ago to determine what party identification is now is an extremely dangerous thing to do, and even more dangerous than normal given that our national situation has changed so greatly, which changes the electorate's priorities. And then there is the coattail effect, which is that a good democratic candidate will always raise the number of people identifying themselves as Democratic, and a good Republican candidate will always raise the number of people identifying themselves as Republican.

Any reasonably intelligent person who has a feel for numbers can mentally correct for some of this error in a poll if the underlying raw sample and the assumptions are disclosed. Suppose a pollster is correcting the sample for party identification based on the 2000 vote, and you see many other polls show that 15% of democrats intend to vote republican, but only 8% of republicans intend to vote democrat. Such a result tends to indicate that the pollster who is "balancing" the sample to achieve a democratic/republican ratio of 2000 is going to overreport the democratic vote and underreport the republican vote. These percentages suggest that more of the voters who have historically identified themselves as democrats will be voting republican this year.

The link above will give you, the poll consumer, the information you need to figure out which polls to watch.

All of the above is a perplexing puzzle that occupies the minds of pollsters who are striving for accuracy - but there are also many pollsters who exist to create spin in the minds of the electorate. If, for example, results look bad for one party, you can be sure that pollsters will be contracted to generate poll results to look better for that party, just to encourage their base to go to the polls and to continue to work for the party.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

This is funny

The people at Democratic Underground are working on anti-Bush zingers for the first debate, while the crowd at Polipundit works on anti-Kerry zingers.

There are similar numbers, so this unofficial poll doesn't give us a clear leader, but I did notice that the general tone of the Pundits seemed higher. Less cuss words. I wonder if a lot of very young people are hanging out at Democratic Underground?

I was searching for information on the first debate, which is supposed to be 9/30 in Florida. Hurricane Jeanne is now supposed to hit as a category three, so you have to wonder about power. Florida's ability to cope is strained to the max.

A blast from Betsy

Bush volunteered to go to Nam - or so an officer says. Somehow I don't think the national press is going to find this newsworthy, and so I send you to Betsy's Page for the scoop.

Personally, I don't care what happened all those years ago. But I do find it significant that what is quoted as gospel in most newspapers (that Bush was evading Vietnam by joining the guard and didn't do his duty in the guard) may not be factually true.

Send Terry to France, please!

I can't believe the farce of a campaign that Kerry is running. I don't think he truly represents the Democratic party - I think the problem is a small group of people who are currently running that national party. Obviously this small group has no concept of what the mass of voters really care about.

By many people's standards I seem to be pretty liberal. I'm voting for Bush. I am quite unhappy about aspects of the Patriot Act, but I have and will contact my congressional representatives to take care of it. I can't, in good conscience, vote for a man who was fantasizing about escorting a secret agent into Cambodia. I really don't understand how anyone can vote for a man is so involved in his fantasy that he took out a cap and waved it in front of a reporter's face as window dressing for his Walter Mitty moment. This guy must have inhaled so deeply that he hasn't come down yet. These are serious times, and we need a serious candidate.

I do blame the mainstream press for not vetting Kerry more closely. I don't think that Kerry would have won the nomination if the primary voters had known more about him; the mainstream press was not doing its job. There were and are plenty of people in the democratic ranks who could have been far more credible candidates. Instead of screaming about the bloggers, the press should be staring in the mirror. They have reelected Bush.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Comments Already?!

Whoa, baby. I was surprised to find a comment in response to my post about men. A very sensible one, too.

Lumberjack Eric couldn't sleep and took me to task:
"Interesting post on Men and Dan Rather. I have to politely disagree with your main point though, about men lacking perspective in lieu of tractors/type machines/etc. Although I agree that there are a lot of guys like this out there, there are an equal number of women who forgo perspective in obsessing over 'female' obsessions--clothes, jewelry, other stereotypically feminine items, etc."

This is a very logical reply, but after thinking it over I think it basically proves my point. When you average it out, there is something different about men and women. I'm not talking about disfunctional people now - no statement really holds true for those who are mentally orbiting the planet. Both my original post and this one refer to persons who inhabit the vast space of the normal and have some contact with planet earth.

Plenty of women have hobbies. Plenty of women shop for things. Women will go to extremes, such as Imelda's collection of shoes. However, most women seem to acquire things while still maintaining a concept of the rest of their world (i.e. do I have a place to put this in?), while men, when possessed by the acquisitive fury, don't even seem to know there is a rest of the world. Their world has narrowed down to the pursuit of that one entrancing object.

A women, for instance, might not need that tenth little black dress. If she buys it, though, it will end up hanging in a closet. There's almost an instinct to place it in the context of her life. If she gets a new oven or dishwasher, she will have the delivery guy take the old one with him. Not a guy. No, he will probably keep the old dishwasher, for some reason which escapes me.

If she assembles a collection of several hundred earrings, they will be arranged in jewelry boxes in her closet or bureau. A man will acquire a large hunk of rusty metal and deposit it in the middle of the living room to contemplate its glory, where it will rest in its place of honor until some women removes it, or the landlord evicts him, or it is covered over by the succeeding layers of acquisitive frenzy. Many such men have found themselves wandering in a sea of metal, looking for one particularly valuable thing that rests somewhere inside their own archaelogical midden.

These are normal men, too. Better than normal, really. All the people I was thinking about when I posted the original entry are fine, admirable, decent people. The man who has hundreds of tractors sitting on his farm is very intelligent and honorable. He raised his first wife's two boys from a preceding marriage, and has become the guardian for the daughter of his current wife's sister, who died very unexpectedly a few years ago. He was quite successful in business, employing a number of people, and has a well-earned reputation for honesty and integrity. By any reasonable standard, this man has not lived a wasted life.

My point really is that a woman who engaged in the type of behavior these guys show would be somewhat abnormal, whereas these men aren't. They get more and more involved with the objects of their desire, and often end up knowing an astonishing amount about them. There's a depth and quality to their obsessions that is interesting in itself. I guarantee you, for instance, that if somehow some detail about tractors of the 40's or 50's ever becomes nationally important, there will be a few hundred guys who will emerge from the shadows to testify with great authority on the subject - and we all will be able to rely on their testimony.

The draw for men seems to be that the object itself relates to a larger technology. I'm not sure that these types of men don't relate emotionally and cognitively to the larger world through their purchases. If you ask a man about the 39 chain saws in his garage, you'll find that he can tell you masses of information about them, and what year such and such type of engine started to be built, and which manufacturer was responsible for which engineering innovation. For these men, their collections aren't an escape from reality - they are a doorway to it. Buying these items and lovingly preserving them is an attempt to capture that aspect of society or technology, or so it seems to me.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Open Source

From time to time, I'll post the best open source software links I've found.

Today, we have
This is the website for mozilla, an open source browser. I also recommend Firefox. These browsers are more secure than IE, and I find them more useful. Mozilla's Composer is a webpage editor that I like. It comes with Mozilla.

You don't need to pay for Microsoft Office:
This office suite will load all your standard file types. I use it almost exclusively. It includes an option to convert to pdf (Acrobat format).

Open source software is free. The old adage of "You get what you pay for" doesn't apply, however. Look at it this way - there are tens of thousands of programmers out there. If a company with a thousand employees has to pay for MS Office on most workstations, it will cost that company tens of thousands of dollars. It is cheaper for companies to contribute their programmers' time to a joint public license program such as OpenOffice. They get access to the current source code, plus an off the shelf product that works just fine. The usefulness of these products has increased to the point that they are often more useful than the commercial products. We all benefit.

Ya gotta love men

I'm serious. You've gotta love 'em.

Take this Dan Rather thing. Dan the man gets caught with his journalistic pants down by a bunch of sharp-eyed do-it-yourselfers, but not by the crack journalists of the day. Oh no. He gets caught by bloggers who ask questions, by people who pass the questions on, and by enthusiasts with vast collections of knowledge. Ninety-nine percent of them are men. Males. The ones with the dangly bits, but emphatically not metrosexuals.

Who are we talking about? The guy who loves typewriters with such a whole-souled passion that he can supply any want or need you might have relating to IBM typewriters of that era. The software engineer who writes in and supplies all the patent numbers, thereby proving that the particular typeface used on these very clumsy forgeries wasn't available on a typewriter in 1972. The military guys who point out all the discrepancies and irregularities in the formats.

Deep inside the soul of every worthwhile male there lives not a child, but a wacked-out wonk with no sense of perspective whatsoever. These are nice guys, too. I've met quite a few of them.

The guy who fell in love with tractors (the real thing, big hunks of motile metal used to cultivate fields), and now owns hundreds of them. Plus, of course, the large metal buildings he bought to store them in. The man who thought toaster ovens were interesting, and now has a barn full of them. The type of guy that can look at half an old truck in the junkyard and immediately give you the make, model and year. The man who knows everything about railroads, past and present.

Women (of which I am one, and therefore something of an expert on the topic) have a sense of perspective. For the most part, we really, really have to overdose on our medication to develop the type of manias that come naturally to men. We have an innate sense of balance that stops us on the fortieth tractor or so. It's not a bad characteristic, really. Many a man only has a house to live in because his wife seized the checking account and paid the mortgage, even if she broke his manly heart as he watched that truly beautiful, one-of-a-kind, unique and priceless item go to a higher bidder on Ebay. Fortunately, there's always another item to fall in love with on Ebay and time tends to cure these ills.

But the point of this post is that you've got to love 'em. Once they're truly obsessed they just don't give up. They got us to the moon. They figured out how to cut a person up alive and fix the person's heart without killing the person. They figured out how to perform blood transfusions, run cables across entire ocean beds, and they even know how to fix the shower, that is if the internet connection fails. They're awesome, really. And you've got to love them for it, even as you hide money so that you'll be able to pay the bills.

And the best thing about this sort of man is that they have an innate sense of fairness. True, you may have to cut the phone cable running into the house to be able to talk to them about some important subject, but once you present the facts they'll answer your argument or deal with its implications. The reason for this is that in their world, facts are important. It matters - it matters absolutely whether such and such a model was first produced in this year or that year. How one atom combines with another to form a molecule matters.

And that is how and why a bunch of internet guys took down a scam being run on the nation by one of the most prestigious figures of the last century. This century, perhaps, will be the century of your average guy, with 50 trucks in the backyard, or 280 tractors on the farm, or a collection of all the significant high-fidelity records produced by the major labels of the twentieth century. Also, I do believe we're going to Mars. And that, my friends, is because we're running out of room for their collections. But that will be another post.

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