Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Culture Wars - final entry for 2004.

What I've been labeling as Culture Wars is mainly the suppression of Christmas in favor of the secular "winter holiday". I want to take a final look at this.

First - yes, Christmas does have a religious connection. So do other widely celebrated holidays: Easter, Valentine's Day, and Halloween. Easter is the most religious of these since the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ are the central parts of Christianity. However, Easter eggs and the Easter bunny are pagan and are as much a part of Easter as the religious portion.

Easter is not officially recognized any longer however, the secular spring break that schools take just happens to coincide with Easter. A strange coincidence since Easter is the most mobile holiday.

Valetine's day gets the least official notice. I don't know of anyone that gets it off. The religious aspects are lost, also. I don't know if the Catholics still celebrate Saint Valentine and no one else ever did.

Halloween is interesting. Also know as All Hallows Eve, it is the night before All Saints Day which is still celebrated by Catholics. No one gets Halloween off but there are government-sponsored activities.

Christmas has taken many forms. It may celebrate the birth of Christ but nearly all of it is pagan or secular. The date comes from the Roman Saturnalia. This was a 12 day festival. The early Christians were flexible and incorporated many pagan festivals and traditions into Christianity. The 12 days of Satunalia became the birth of Christ and the time it took for the wise men to find him.

Other winter solstice activities were added - things like holly and miseltoe and the Yule log.

In the 1640, the Puritans took over the English government. They decided that Christmas was too Catholic and too pagan for their tastes and the banned it.

When Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, Christmas was celebrated much like today's Thanksgiving without the football. People got a day off and had a feast - turkey if they could afford it and goose if they could not.

In America, it wasn't even a holiday. It was most often celebrated by wassaling - going from house to house in search of spiked punch.

Nearly everything that we think of as Christmas was added or invented in the last 200 years.

One aspect of this was the religious one. By the end of the 19th century, people thought that they should do something religious for Christmas but the Catholics were the only ones who recognized it as a religious occasion. Protestants started going to Christmas mass in large numbers. The protestant churches started opening on Christmas eve because of the competition.

This was never the main point of Christmas in America, though.

Today, much of our economy depends on Christmas. Cities started putting up Christmas trees and decorations to attract people downtown and help the merchants.

And that's where the culture wars start. Wishing someone a Merry Christmas should not be an insult even if that person isn't Christian. Anyone who is offended by this is looking for an excuse to be offended. Christmas has too much non-Christian baggage. Yes, a nativity scene on public property is probably going too far but renaming the lighted tree is overcompensating.

Then there are the merchants. Macy's shouldn't pretend that Hanukkah and Kwanza keeps them in business. They are selling Christmas gifts. Go ahead and admit it.

Christmas doesn't threaten non-Christian countries. The Japanese cooking show Iron Chef filmed some Christmas episodes with the set decorated with pointsettias and other Christmas items. This from a country where Christianity is a tiny percentage of the population.

All of this counts as culture wars because some elements of our society feel that they have to suppress the majority in case it might make the minorities feel bad. This is the same group that is against teaching English to immigrants.

They are also offended by outward displays of patriotism.

You can embrace American culture or you can be ashamed of it. I prefer to embrace it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

More on culture wars. Florida's Bay Harbor Island has been allowed to put its nativity scene back. Previously the town had been ordered to remove the nativity scene although a menorah was allowed to stay.

Over at Media Matters, the left-wing media watchers, they are upset over the coverage. Why? because: "FOX News failed to report that a Christmas tree had also been allowed in the holiday display." I'm not quite sure what their point is. I think that they are saying that a Christmas tree is equivalent to a nativity scene.

I've been writing a lot about Olbermann but that's nothing. There is a whole blog devoted to watching him. A recent entry has an email exchange between Olbermann and an other reporter, Tom Sileo. It is interesting the attiduted that Olbermann lets slip. Sileo quotes his grandfather about how the press treated FDR during WWII. Olbermann's response,

I'm not sure of your grandfather's point in referencing Roosevelt. The narrowest of his four victories came in 1944, by a percentage margin of 53-46, and an electoral margin of 432-99. Is he comparing World War II with the fighting in Iraq? Given that the country was virtually unanimous in support of that war, and is still pretty evenly split about this conflict, the comparison seems like apples and oranges
Later in the exchange Olbermann says,

But it's a political judgement to compare these wars -- and to buy into the concept that Iraq is even part of a war on terrorism. If you've made your mind up about that, and start with an assumption that that's just TRUE -- a starting point -- then you've already made a political judgement about the incumbent president.
If you assume that it's just FALSE then you have also made a political judgement.

Granted Saddam's tied with al Qaeda are murky but his ties with other terrorist groups are well-documented. To me, that made him part of the war on terror (plus we had been in a continual state of hostilities since the end of the Gulf War).


I've been hammering Olbermann over his election coverage. He knows that a significant portion of the population was not going to accept that Bush won. That should make him careful about his sources. You don't start crying election fraud until you have some actual proof.

This didn't stop Olbermann. He quoted left-wing message boards about counties where people registered Democrat but vote Republican. He quoted grad students who came up with impressive-sounding statistics. He seized onto the story of the Triad who "patched" the computer without bothering to get the facts and as recently as yesterday he was still confusing the technician having access to the vote counting machine (Triad was contracted to do this) with having access to the ballots. He accepts Jesse Jackson at face value. Along the way he showed his absolute contempt for Ohio Secretary of State Blackwell and anyone else who suggests that the election was above board.

The complaint about bloggers is that some guy sitting around in his pajamas can say just anything while the major news organizations have layers of researchers and fact-checkers. I don't see any of that here. The Daily Kos and the Democratic Underground do not count as a fact-checkers.

Olbermann is on a prime-time cable news show yet he is allowed to persue a personal vendetta, often breaking a story before he knows the facts.

He also makes the same error as Eric Alterman in assuming that, just because the MSM is not as far to the left as he is, that they must be conservative.

Good thing that his ratings are dismal or he could be dangerous.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Culture Wars. has some comments on Christmas.

Here is a jew defending Christmas.
For starters, it seems that a school in Como has edited out the name "Gesu" (Jesus) and replaced it with the word "virtu" (virtue) in its choir's renditions of Christmas hymns. Which rhymes and everything, but falls flat. Also, the province of Vicenza has canceled its annual contest for the best nativity scene in the schools of the province. Then there's the elementary school in the northern Italian city of Treviso that has decided to nix its traditional Christmas pageant depicting the birth of Christ in order to present a dramatic, um, Virtumas presentation of the adventures of Little Red Riding Hood.


I don't get it -- and I'm Jewish. If "taking offense" is the issue, isn't eradicating the commemoration of Christ's birth -- and the universal ideal of peace on earth -- equally as likely to make Italian Catholics take offense?


"It is the perfect example of how not to respect the presence of different people, in this case our Muslim brothers, by annihilating our own identity," said Bishop Agostino Marchetto, head of the Vatican's department for migrants. "Are we losing our minds?" asked government Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli. "Do we want to erase our identity for the love of Allah?"
Here's another jew who likes Christmas:

I enjoy Christmas decorations -- and Christmas music, and the upbeat Christmastime mood -- and I say that as a practicing Jew for whom Dec. 25 has no theological significance at all. I have never celebrated Christmas, but I like seeing my Christian neighbors celebrate it. I like living in a society that makes a big deal out of religious holidays. Far from feeling threatened when the sights and sounds of Christmas surround me each December, I find them reassuring. They reaffirm the importance of the Judeo-Christian culture that has made America so exceptional -- and such a safe and tolerant haven for a religious minority like mine.


But there is nothing inclusive about silencing the 90 percent of Americans who celebrate the birth of Jesus. Christians, after all, have freedom of religion, too -- and that freedom shelters my faith no less than it does theirs. Christmas is a blessing for all Americans. May yours be filled with joy.
Plus Charles Krathammer:

The attempts to de-Christianize Christmas are as absurd as they are relentless. The United States today is the most tolerant and diverse society in history. It celebrates all faiths with an open heart and open-mindedness that, compared to even the most advanced countries in Europe, are unique.

Yet more than 80 percent of Americans are Christian and probably 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. Christmas Day is an official federal holiday, the only day of the entire year when, for example, the Smithsonian museums are closed. Are we to pretend that Christmas is nothing but an orgy of commerce in celebration of ... what? The winter solstice?

I personally like Christmas because, as a day that for me is otherwise ordinary, I get to do nice things, such as covering for as many gentile colleagues as I could when I was a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital. I will admit that my generosity had its rewards: I collected enough chits on Christmas Day to get reciprocal coverage not just for Yom Kippur, but for both days of Rosh Hashana and my other major holiday, Opening Day at Fenway.

But is seems that none of this assault on Christmas is real. It is just a fascist plot cooked up but evil conservatives:

They said liberals are out to destroy Christmas. Cobbling together a few anecdotes (unsupportable attacks are always anecdote-based), they managed to imply a vast anti-Christian conspiracy bubbling just under the belly of America, and pushed that frightening implication into the minds of millions of Americans just in time for the holiday season.
Conservatives must constantly attack others (and focus on "morality") to keep hidden their own true agenda, which is no less than a return to the world of Scrooge & Marley, Inc. They're working to bring about a return to Robber Baron feudalism, with a stable, rich, and powerful ruling class, and an impoverished, frightened, and politically impotent working class.
I don't think that this is an anti-Christian conspiracy but there are several factors at work. One of them is the ACLU. This organization used to understand that it was possible for the government to acknowledge religion without advancing it. Currently though, they are on an anti-religion bent. Their web site lists these items under Religious Liberty:

ACLU Applauds Appeals Court Decision Striking Down Florida School Voucher Program (11/12/2004)
MIAMI – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today hailed a federal court ruling that the state’s school voucher program is unconstitutional because it allows tax dollars to be spent on religious schools.
Most private schools are affiliated with churches in some way. As long as the vouchers allow you to decide which school (including secular ones) will get your money there should be no conflict.

Pentagon Agrees to End Direct Sponsorship of Boy Scout Troops in Response to Religious Discrimination Charge (11/15/2004)
CHICAGO – In response to a religious discrimination lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, the Defense Department today agreed to end direct sponsorship of hundreds of Boy Scout units, which require members to swear religious oaths, on military facilities across the United States and overseas.
The religious aspect is the same as the Oath of Allegiance - there are a few references to God. The scouts themselves are not a religious organization by any measure. Also, as long as other groups are allowed to meet on military facilities there should be no conflict.

Pennsylvania Parents File First-Ever Challenge to “Intelligent Design” Instruction in Public Schools (12/14/2004)
HARRISBURG, PA—The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and attorneys with Pepper Hamilton LLP filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of 11 parents who say that presenting “intelligent design” in public school science classrooms violates their religious liberty by promoting particular religious beliefs to their children under the guise of science education.
Ok, this one I agree with. I have read a lot of Intelligent Design literature and it is the worst kind of junk science.

Anyway, the ACLU is openly hostile to any form of religion anywhere near the government. They represent a small minority but it has a cascading effect. Officials fear lawsuits so they make pre-emptive strikes against Christmas. Worse, they go beyond what is required.

It has been established that Christmas Trees are legal on government property. There is no actual religious significance. No problem there except for the name which is why they are now "Holiday" trees or "Giving" trees.

Even that isn't enough for some activists.

The holiday season also heralds the annual return of Scrooge and the Grinch. Or, as they're known in Bellevue, Wash., these days, Sidney and Jennifer Stock.

The Stocks are atheists who want Bellevue's city council to remove the Christmas tree from the lobby of City Hall. Since "it is impossible for everybody's religious belief to be displayed and non-religious belief to be displayed," Sidney Stock told reporters last week, "no religious beliefs [should] be displayed."
People like these give atheists a bad name. They also scare public officials.

So a few angry activists are part of the problem.

The other part of the problem is well-meaning liberals. They don't hate religion but it makes them nervous and they don't think much of the religious. Look at the post election map with the red states forming "Jesusland". For that matter, look at how often American fundamentalists are compared with the Taliban.

Not only is this group nervous about Christmas but they assume that a lot of other people are also (jews, Moslems, pagans, atheists, etc.). To be fair to this group, they try to bury Christmas as far as they can.

Adding to this are retailers. No one wants bad publicity or controversy (except maybe Virgin Mobil) so they go with the blandist ads they can. There is no ill-will here, just a desire to reach the widest audience that they can.

BTW, if you wanted to celebrate Chrismahanukwanzakah, it's too late, it was December 13.

Keith Olbermann reappears. It seems that he is on vacation again but, unlike his November vacation when he was updating his blog daily, this time he hasn't been making any entries. Like a groundhog in February, he stuck his nose out long enough to check current voter fraud allegations then went back to hibernating.

Probably the reason he hasn't been diligent about updating his blog is that the news is bad - at least for conspiracy buffs. He admits that there is nothing to the Hocking County, Ohio story (I wrote about this yesterday). He does tack on a lame attempt to show problems in Ohio:

But the real impact in Hocking is the simple fact that a computer technician had access to the voting equipment in violation of the Ohio Secretary of State’s controversial extension of the “canvassing period.” Simply put, according to Kenneth Blackwell, nobody should’ve been allowed to dust the machine, let alone replace a battery or parts, except under extremely controlled circumstances.

Thus the evidence of a “fix” in Hocking is almost nil. The evidence of holes in the security of the voting system big enough to drive a full-sized scandal through, is conclusive.

No it isn't. This appears to be the only place where a technician had unsupervised access, this access was to the machine that counts the votes, not to the ballots, the machine was tested at least twice before being used, and there was still an uproar over it. Find a second instance before you cry scandal, Keith.

Olbermann also briefly covers the case of the Florida programmer who said that he had been hired to write a program to change vote totals. Skipping over the fact that this guy was never near a real voting machine, Olbermann admits that he qualifies as a disgruntled employee - he has threatened his former employer in writing before.

Olbermann has several other points in his column. I will cover a few:

Fascists are Leftists:
[...]For anybody else just joining us here in the real world, here’s the story so far: the Fascists started in Italy, with Benito Mussolini. They— and the Germans that followed them - were an ultra-conservative political party that opposed (and later jailed and killed) leftists. The German ones even went to war against a Communist state, suggesting that the use of the term “Socialism” in their official party name was almost ironic in intention.[...]

Fascisism as practiced by Mussolini included government take-over of major industries - an action still known as socializing an industry. Socialism and communism are often equated but they were distinct in the 1930s and 1940s. There is often conflict between two related philosophies. Just look at the religious wars following the reformation. Also, both the fascist and communist movements were accompanied by expanding territorial interests that were a major factor in the war.

And this one:

The American media has a liberal bias:

I think we can pretty much put this one to bed.

The mainstream media has so tiptoed around the voting irregularities stories that it’s deflated any reasonable belief that there are swarms of reporters bypassing facts to substitute their own agendas. Instead of a circus, the Conyers “voting forums” have received tepid coverage.

Had there been a reversal of the poles in this political equation, of course, the impenetrable Sean Hannity would be in his 49th consecutive day of broadcasting without sleep, and by now would’ve already announced that Democrats from Outer Space had stolen the election.

This guy has a prime time news show on a cable news channel. He uses it to publicize these conspiracy theories plus he posts them to He is allowed to do all of this but his bosses aren't liberal?

This is where the liberal media story always gets confused. An overwhelming majority of the press dislikes George Bush and wishes that he had lost. This leads them to slant stories. It does not obligate them to cover stories when there are no facts. So far the whole case for voter fraud comes down to the insistence that the exit polls must have been correct therefore the vote was fixed. Here is the Ohio lawsuit. You can see it for yourself. There are no facts here.

Olbermann himself has quoted Zogby as saying that 20% of the population would not accept the result of the election no matter which way it went. Given that, why does Olbermann listen to the 20%? Is it because he is one himself?

For a little balance, see what Joe Scarborough has to say.

First, it's time we face up to the ugly truth about the mainstream media outlets covering this war.

The fact is that newsrooms across America and Europe are filled with reporters and editors who loathe George Bush that they would rather see him lose in Iraq than see America win.


Since when did promoting Jeffersonian democracy equate to the spread of American hegemony?

Since George Bush launched this war instead of, say, Bill Clinton.

Isn't it remarkable that we never heard terms like “American imperialism” or “US hegemony” or “unilateral war” when former President Bill Clinton launched military strikes against Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sudan, or Iraq?

Can you remember 'The New York Times' or CBS News or any other mainstream media outlet taking President Clinton to task for his wars in the Balkans?

Speaking of Haiti, Maxine Waters who I mentioned yesterday is one of the members of the Black Congressional Caucus who bothers me with their inconsistency. In the 1980s, Greneda was taken over by a military junta backed by Cuba and the USSR. Reagan invaded and restored democracy. In the 1990s, Haiti's elected government was overthrown and Clinton invaded to restore it. Earlier this year, rebels took over Haiti again and Bush did not invade.

Given all of this, either it is alright to invade a neighboring country to restore its democratically elected government or it is not. If it is ok then Reagan and Clinton did the right thing. If it is not ok then Bush did the right thing.

So which way did the CBC go? Both ways. It was wrong for Reagan to invade, it was correct for Clinton to invade, and Bush should have invaded.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Rep Maxine Waters (D-cal) has been a frequent critic of President Bush. Two years ago she wrote an op-ed piece that began:

President Bush must stop strangling our nation by implementing short-sighted, ineffectual programs that benefit his friends and are intended to get him re-elected in 2004.

Now it turns out that what she meant is that Bush should implement short-sighted ineffectual programs that benifit her friends. At least that is the implication after you find out that her daughter and son have made $1,000,000 working for her political allies.

As reported last week by Keith Olbermann, the Green party thought that they had found their smoking gun. Olbermann's account reads like this:

Ms. Eaton’s story has been circulating around the Internet for days, and was presented to Conyers at the first stop of his “Voting Forum” road tour in Columbus on Monday, to his apparent shock and awe. Her affidavit contends that last Friday, in advance of the recount, a representative of the manufacturer of the vote-counting software used in her county’s vote November 2, made several adjustments to the Hocking County tabulator.

The employee of Triad Governmental Systems then asked, according to Ms. Eaton’s statement, which of Hocking’s voting precincts would be selected as the “sample” for the small hand-count required in each of Ohio’s 88 counties. She claims that when informed, the Triad man, as the Times’ Tom Zeller put it, “made further adjustments to the machine.”

The Times quotes Conyers as saying “This is pretty outrageous. We want to pursue it as vigorously as we can.” But the reporter also reached the president of the Triad company, Brett Rapp, who calmly welcomed any investigation, and added that, in correspondent Zeller’s words, “preparing the machines for a recount was standard procedure and was done in all 41 counties where Triad handles votes,” insomuch as the company not only supplies the tabulating software, but is also contractually obligated to maintain it. Mr. Rapp did acknowledge to the newspaper that it would be atypical for an employee to have asked about a specific voting precinct.

But... Wired has a full account of what happened. Unlike Olbermann, they bothered to read the affidavit and talk with the election employee in question.

It turns out that:

  1. Since the recount was for the presidential election only, every machine involved needed to be switched to ignore the other races. This is standard procedure.
  2. The computer in question was a 14-year-old PC that was broken because the battery that holds its configuration had died. Modern PCs self-detect this but on one 14 years old, you have to enter disk configuration by hand.
  3. The technician asked which precinct was involved in the recount so that he could make sure that the officials, who had never done a recount before, knew what they were recounting.
  4. Tests were run by both the technician and the election officials after the work to be certain that the count was coming out correctly.
It sure sounds a lot less ominous when you put it that way.

BTW, what happened to Olbermann? He updated his blog three times on December 15 about this story then stopped writing? He had been updating his blog daily, even while on vacation. Could it be that his election fraud story is falling apart and he doesn't want to talk about it any longer?

The Left is asking for Rumsfeld's head. An honest answer to an un-screened question is being taken out of context to try to force an effective man out of office.

First, Rumsfed gave a quick answer to a complicated situation. When we invaded Iraq it was assumed that Saddam's army would stand and fight and either be captured or defeated. Instead they melted away and, along with foreign fanatics, started a guerrilla campaign.

The original assumption was that the front line troops would take all the fire so they would need the armor. As it turned out, supply lines are also targets. This means retro-fitting the military which takes time.

It isn't that we went to war without properly equipped troops, it is that the requirements for the equipment is different than anticipated.

Not that this explanation would satisfy the Left. Any admission of a mistake turns into a charge of incompetence.

Besides, it turns out that this isn't really an issue. According to Powerline, the kid who asked the question was from a unit that was mainly armored and was completely armored the next day.

Why does this only come out in blogs?

For as long as they can keep it in the news cycle, the Left will insist that Rumsfeld left the troops exposed. I'm not sure that they really care about troops, only about making Bush look bad.

Speaking of which, a lawyer filing a brief on behalf of Saddam receives funding from George Soros. Little Green Footballs dug up this little nugget.

I know the old maxim that the enemy of my enemy is my friend but this is rediculous. Soros's Open Society Institute is supposed to be promoting "an open society that is fair and accountable to all of its members".

How is this goal helped by supporting a murderous tyrant?

Yes, Saddam should get a fair trial but... are the people helping him because "it is the right thing to do" or because they want to make Bush look bad?

Friday, December 17, 2004

Arresting children. A 10 year old girl was arrested, handcuffed, and taken to police headquarters because she had scissors in her bag. The police said that she hadn't done anything and let her go.

A 5 year old boy was handcuffed, put in a police car and driven around the block in order to calm his unruly behavior.

Outlawing every vestage of Christmas. A Texas public school district is being sued for being hostile to religion, particularly Christmas. Among other complaints:

-- Traditional Christmas colors -- such as green and red -- were banned from this year's holiday party. The party, according to Shackelford, is called a "winter party."

"They asked [parents] to bring white napkins, white paper plates and white icing," he said. "… Then they said, 'All other items shouldn't be brought because it would violate the school policy against distribution of things without school approval."
Do I have to say how stupid all of this is? School policies are runing amok.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Keith Olbermann of MSNBC keeps writing about election fraud and I keep writing about him. His current column gives an indication of how closely he looks at the news vs. how much he takes from questionable source.

Part way down he is talking about the value of a sworn affidavit:
One need only remember the flurry of paperwork that accompanied last summer’s Swift Boat advertisements and book— and in particular the one Vietnam vet who changed his story faster than a sportswriter providing a running round-by-round description of a championship boxing match— to recall that today’s absolute truth can be followed by a statement like “I probably shouldn’t have signed that.”
The incident in question involved George Elliot who had given the Swift Boat Vets a signed affidavit criticizing Kerry's Silver Star. A pro-Kerry reporter for the Boston Globe printed a piece quoting Elliot as saying:
“It was a terrible mistake probably for me to sign the affidavit with those words. I'm the one in trouble here.” The affidavit states that the incident for which Kerry received the medal was actually shooting “a wounded, fleeing Viet Cong in the back.” Elliott said he felt “time pressure” to sign the affidavit “That's no excuse,” Elliott said, “I knew it was wrong. … In a hurry I signed it and faxed it back. That was a mistake.”
This got a lot of press coverage. The next day Elliot announced that he had been misquoted in the Boston Globe article, and reaffirmed his original statement with another affidavit. Afterwards Elliot refused to talk to any more reporters.

Most likely, either Elliot was bullied by the Globe reporter into changing his story and regretted it later or the Globe misquoted him. Given an experience like that I would refuse to talk to reporters. Regardless, Olbermann's characterization of the incident is pretty shoddy.

The heart of Olbermann's story is that a congressman, John Conyers, has gotten involved in the Ohio election by asking the FBI to investigate. For some reason, Olbermann breaks journalism style rules and only identifies Conyers as being from Michigan without mentioning party affiliation (Democrat). Olbermann says of Conyers, "John Conyers is clearly not a tin-foil-hatter."

The tin-foil-hat status is is doubt. A quick look at Conyers' list of correspondence shows that he writes a lot of letters to a lot of officials. He wrote 145 letters during the last two years, many involving suspected election fraud or voter intimidation in other states. In October he wrote a letter the FCC about Sinclair Broadcasting's intention to air an anti-Kerry documentary alleging that "it sets a precedent that endangers our very democracy." (The special turned out to be rather pro-Kerry.) On September 19, 2001, Conyers wanted a special White House/Congressional meeting with Arab Americans and South Asian Americans about hate crimes.

Anyway, Conyers seems to take every allegation of election fraud as seriously as Olbermann. This does not mean anything. You can find congressmen with all sorts of strange ideas. Olbermann should know this.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

They are still complaining about the Ohio vote. Now it is Ohio ballots where Bush scored better on optical mark cards. Is there anything to this?
Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, defended the election results. For the challengers' accusations to be true, he said, officials in both parties would have had to conspire to throw the election.

"That's simply a ridiculous assertion," he said.

Voter fraud is nothing new so Ohio's system was designed to make it very difficult and to require the cooperation of lots of officials from the opposing side.

Give it up folks. You are just making it harder for any candidate to have legitimacy. The Republicans will remember this the next time a Democrat wins and cause the same fuss.

When it was announced that Condoleezza Rice was the nominee for Secretary of State, the left howled. They either made racist jokes or insisted that this was rewarding incompetence. That makes this paragraph from an analysis of Iraq by Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria really jump out.

Six months ago America was headed for disaster in Iraq, with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani threatening to call for active Shia opposition. At this point, Iraq policy was taken out of the Pentagon and run out of the White House, under Condoleezza Rice and her associate Robert Blackwill. Then began the reversals. Washington finally asked the United Nations to step in and arrange a transition that would junk the U.S.-appointed (and highly unpopular) Governing Council. The new, Interim Government, which came into being in June, was chosen by the United Nations and blessed by Sistani. De-Baathification ended. Military operations became much more conscious of their political effects, beginning with a carefully executed one in Najaf. And while vowing that it didn't need more troops, the administration has slowly increased troop strength so that by January 2005 the force will be 30 percent larger than it was a year ago.
So any successes we are currently having in Iraq are because of Condi's direct intervention. Maybe Bush should reward a good job, possibly by making her Secretary of State.

I have felt for the last four years that too many Bush-haters react without thinking. No matter what he does it must be wrong, therefore it is wrong.

Along those lines, Zakaria also says what London's Guardian thinks of elections in Afghanistan.

Its op-ed page had a somewhat different interpretation. It carried a huge, lurid cartoon of Dick Cheney, surrounded by Bush, Rumsfeld and Karzai, all looking drunk or mad or both, and singing, "Ashghanistan! Ashghanistan! From Sea to Shining Sea!!!"
If something goes wrong it's Bush's fault. If it goes right then it didn't really matter, anyway.

Not that the Guardian respects democracy anyway. That's the paper that ran a headline asking how 59 million voters could be so stupid.

More on culture wars. It seems that Santa Claus represents red states and should be avoided by blue-staters. After pointing out how many Christmas movies have the message that it is important to believe, the writer moves on to this conclusion:

Unfortunately, “believing in things when common sense tells you not to” is now part of the Republican agenda as well. What to make of the fact that words used to describe Jesus and Santa are helping elect the President of the United States? I don’t know, but it can’t be good.
So what should a blue-stater do?

First, avoid Santa movies. That suit’s red for a reason.

Second, take heart that the most famous Christmas story of all, Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” is essentially a blue-state story. A cold-hearted, stingy bastard realizes, with the help of some spirits (or a guilty conscience and an undigested bit of beef), that, link by link, he’s forging chains in life that he’ll have to drag around throughout eternity. Its basic message is liberal: spreading wealth good; hoarding wealth, not so much. Plus it’s not hard — and kind of fun, actually — to imagine Vice-President Cheney, with his bald pate and perpetual scowl, as Ebenezer Scrooge. Or Jacob Marley? “In life, my spirit never rose beyond the limits of our money-changing holes! Now I am doomed to wander without rest or peace, incessant torture and REMORSE!” Yeah, Jacob Marley.

I don't know that a Christmas Carol is all that blue. For one thing, it is a "Christmas Carol", not a "Winter Holiday Carol".

One of the lessons that Scrooge learns is not to rely on poor houses and orphanages, state-run institutions for helping the poor. A good liberal is supposed to believe that bigger government is the solution to everything. In fact, miserly or generous, Scrooge remains a bad man since he is rich. The proper resolution would be for the government to confiscate Scrooge's riches and distribute them to the poor.

Then there is the matter of Scrooge's conversion itself. In the space of one night he goes from a morally bad man to a good one on the basis of a personal revelation. Isn't that what happened to George Bush?

Finally, for Democrats everywhere, I’d recommend those Christmas movies whose message is more cynical than simply putting aside common sense to have faith in Santa Claus. In “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey wishes he’d never been born; in “A Christmas Story,” Ralphie wishes for an official Red Ryder range-model air rifle; in “Home Alone,” Kevin wishes his family would just disappear. Each gets their wish. Each doesn’t like the results.

I've been avoiding "Home Alone" and the annoying kid for year so I will let that one pass. Capra was often pointing out the corruption in politics at a time when Democrats were solidly in charge so I would advise blue-staters to tread carefully there.

And he got it totally wrong with "A Christmas Story". True, Ralphie almost shot his eye out but the movie ends with him sleeping with his gun, the best gift he would ever receive, and dreaming about getting off spectacular shots. Sleeping with a gun? That's the height of red-statism.

Maybe the Blue States should stick with "A Nightmare Before Christmas" where the moral is "Stick to your own holiday."

Here's a good piece on the annual assault on Christmas.

The closest thing to a smoking gun in the election - a programmer who wrote some code that would change votes. Except he was never near any real voting machine software and everyone agrees that it would e easier to write something from scratch than to adapt his code. The fact that people are paying atention to this guy shows how desparate they are. I wrote about him a while ago but Wired has a clearer story than what was available at the time.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Slate has a breakdown of the different pollsters and how well they predicted the election. One point near the end talks about the effect of using automated polls vs. live pollsters.
How did the robots largely beat the humans? For starters, they aren't robots. They're recordings of human voices. Pollsters who use this technology argue that the uniformity achieved by automation—every respondent hears the questions read exactly the same way—outweighs any distortions caused by people hanging up or lying to the recordings. They also argue that the interviewers who read questions and record answers in "human" polls are all too human. A human poll may bear the name of a major newspaper or television network, but the interviews are usually "outsourced" to a company you've never heard of and conducted by whoever is willing to make the phone calls—which sound a lot like telemarketing—for modest wages.
Robots have one additional advantage in this particular election. People are less likely to lie to a robot than a human. I have said before that there was probably a lot of people who voted for Bush but didn't want to admit it, even to an anonymous pollster.

Further evidence that I was right can be found in the article.

Historically, last-minute undecideds have broken decisively for the presidential challenger. Based on this pattern, Gallup allocated 90 percent of its undecideds to Kerry, lifting him into a tie with Bush at 49 percent. TIPP made a similar bet on the 4.4 percent of voters in its final survey who said they were still "not sure" whom to vote for. TIPP allocated 61 percent of this group to Kerry and only 34 percent to Bush.

Oops! According to exit polls, Bush got 46 percent of those who made up their minds in the last week of the campaign and 44 percent of those who made up their minds in the final three days. TIPP got it wrong, Gallup got it very wrong, and Slate's vote-share formula got it very, very wrong. Who got it right? Pew again. In its final report, Pew predicted that undecideds "may break only slightly in Kerry's favor." With 6 percent of voters undecided in the week before the election, Pew added 3 percent to Bush's total and 3 percent to Kerry's.
I'm guessing that a lot of these "undecideds" knew that they were going to vote for Bush but didn't want to admit it.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

This article ties in with my last post on why they hate us. Consider this quote:

The union of Mosque and State in theocracy is what bin Laden is pointed toward. First, his radical world vision is to unify the Arab World, destroy Israel, expel the United States from the Middle East, then to unify all of Islam, then to unify all of the world that had once been under Islam, such as what they call Andalucia, namely Spain, and then finally the world as a whole.

Now, this may seem like a crazy vision to those of us in the West, who are not part of this tradition. But it’s no crazier than Hitler’s 1,000-year Reich or the dream of world communism. Totalitarian movements have these kinds of heaven-on-earth dreams.
Or this:

I went on the Web the night before and, through the Mideast Media Research Institute Web site, downloaded the main themes that the Saudi Religious Ministry had sent out the previous week, drawn from the Saudi imams’ sermons in the kingdom the Friday before. And the Saudi Religious Ministry, every week, takes these, consolidates, develops the major themes that it likes and wants the Wahhabi mosques, whether in Los Angeles or in Rawalpindi, to emphasize in the following week.

This week these three themes were a) that all Jews are pigs and monkeys, b) that it is the obligation of all true Muslims to hate and, where possible, to kill Christians and Jews, and c) American women routinely sleep with their fathers and brothers. Incest is a common way of life in the United States, and that just shows how rotten the Americans are.

Now, this is not some one military officer or some one minister who has happened here saying something like Christianity is better than Islam, and everybody says oh, no, no, no, you can’t say that. No, no. This is not an individual; this is the Saudi government’s planned dissemination of doctrine for Wahhabi ministers, imams around the world, to emphasize the following week. This garbage has been going on for a quarter of a century.

So, if you wonder why sometimes the young men in the streets of Cairo or Fallujah are particularly angry as the news comes from Al-Jazeera, their imam is saying these sorts of things at the mosque. It’s not too hard to figure out where the money is coming from for that, and why it is happening.

That's a lot different from it being our own fault. So, they hate us. Why attack us?

Well, if that’s who we are at war with, why? Why did they decide to come after us? I think there are two reasons. One is the same reason that Hitler probably would have given in December of ’41, when after Pearl Harbor he declared war on us, even though he really didn’t have to. He knew. He knew that at some point we were going to get into the fight, that we would be his biggest problem, so he might as well come after us while he thought that we were weak

[...] We are hated by the Wahhabis, by the Islamists, for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, open economies, equal treatment of women – well, almost equal treatment of women, better than they do, anyway. That’s why we’re hated, indeed cordially loathed

I wrote something similar just before reading this. And I'm not a consultant to the Pentagon.

It's a long article but I suggest reading it. In the meantime, I'll sum up the rest quickly. Three different groups have been in a low-level war with the US and the west for years. These groups are the Baathists which is an openly fascist group and two militant Islamic groups - bin Laden's and Iran's. They have been striking against us since 1979, attacking embassies and sponsoring terrorists but, until 9/11, our response amounted to minor arrests, cruise missile attacks, and outright surrender.

Bin Laden's October tape was the first one that didn't include a rant about what cowards Americans are. Iraq is the first time since Viet Nam that we have shown resolve. Until then we had a long track record of trying to fight wars with no American casualties and of leaving at any sign of trouble.

They hate us because we are different. They have attacked us because they think that we are weak and will allow it. To insist that it all comes down to American policies (Israel and oil) is stupidly simplistic.

How can you tell if an elephant has been in your refridgerator? Look for his footprints in the Jello.

I was reminded of this joke by an article on Alternet, The Elephant in the Room. No, Alternet isn't reviving elephant jokes. It's just that neither stands up to any sort of scrutiny.

The elephant Alternet is talking about is the "real" cause for why they hate us.

The mosquitoes of terrorism were dissected and examined as carefully as biology students once did drosophila, but typing the generic DNA of terrorism proved more elusive. Worse, no attention was given to the swamp in which terrorists breed.
[...] Directly contradicting the president, a panel of the Defense Science Board gave voice to what virtually all in that ornate Senate Caucus Room knew, but were afraid to say. It named the elephants.

“Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,' but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf States.

Do they hate us for our freedom or for our policies. It's an important question. If they hate us for our freedoms then we are engaged in a war of civilizations. If they hate us for our policies, then maybe we can tweak something and all will be well between us.

So what policies enrage the Moslem world and can they be changed?

First there is Israel. This is unquestionably a sore spot. The US is Israel's strongest supporter and they receive more foreign aid than any other country.

What can be changed? Will a two-state solution fix things? No. Al Qaeda may hate Israel but they don't care a bit about Palestinians. They never gave any aid to them, either financial or manpower. At the time that 9/11 plans were beginning, a two-state solution seemed inevitable. In fact, prospects of peace and long-term stability for Israel acts as a stimulus for terrorist action. They hope that if they keep things stirred up long enough, Israel will collapse. That's why there is a new wave of bombings any time peace talks get serious.

The only thing that will make the terrorists happy is the complete destruction of Israel. That is unacceptable to a majority of the US.

Ok, we will keep supporting Israel. Maybe we can make it up to the terrorists by supporting the Arab world also? No. Israel may be at the head of the line for foreign aid but Egypt is next. This is interpreted as supporting tyrannies. This puts us in a real damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.

Would it help if we overthrew a couple of those tyrannies? Say, the Taliban and Saddam? Nope. It didn't help during the Gulf War either when we freed one Arab country from another's aggression.

Maybe if we supported an Islamic uprising against a secular government? Jimmy Carter tried this in Iran in 1979. That didn't win us any friends either. A few months later they invaded the US embassy and held the staff hostage.

In 2003, President Bush did start an initiative to force reform on the Arab governments. It has not produced any noticeable results at this point. If it does then we might get somewhere with public relations.

Note - bin Laden used to out the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia, the Moslem holy lands. The US presence there has been greatly reduced but this doesn't seem to have helped.

What about the freedom argument? Are there points of friction between our cultures?

Just look in the jello in the refridgerator.

First, there is the whole issue of religion. Islam is the state religion of the Arab countries plus some Asian ones and northern Africa. Other religions are, at best, tolerated. In some cases such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, they are outright outlawed.

This extends to freedom of speech. A couple of weeks ago I saw someone wearing a t-shirt with a cross in a circle with a line through it and the caption "bad religion". Had this man worn a shirt making a similar statement about Islam, he would be stoned to death in several Moslem countries. Really. We can say almost anything we want no matter how offensive. In much of the Moslem world this right does not exist and most people think that this is great.

I will not even get into the treatment of women except to point out that in the US, women have equal rights. In the Moslem world they do not, sometimes to a shocking degree.

Tying these last two points together is the murder of a Dutch film maker who was critical of Moslem treatment of women. Not only was he brutally killed but his death was tied to a plot to assassinate two members of the Dutch Parliament.

And here is the real problem with the "policies" argument - other countries are having their own problems with Islamic terrorists. I mentioned the Dutch problems. Spain changed governments and pulled out of Iraq but there was still a terrorist plot to assassinate some Spanish judges.

France has been targeted before, also. In the mid-1990s an Islamic terrorist group from Egyptian tried to hijack an airplane and crash it into the Eiffel Tower.

What is really happening really is a clash of civilizations, not militarily, but socially. The west is pressuring the Moslem world into assimilating into western society. This involves a whole new mindset. Consider the stereotypical European - cosmopolitan, agnostic, cynical , and critical of historical values. Contrast this with the Taliban or Iran.

The points of conflict are not political policies, they are pressures being exerted on the Moslem world by media and expanding western culture.

The 9/11 hijackers were all people who had spent considerable time in the west and felt alienated by it. They went to a strip show but worried that a woman might touch their dead bodies.

If they were only aggrieved by US policies then they would only have attacked the Pentagon and the White House. Instead they included a center of western commerce (which they also attacked in 1993). Yes, they hate the US government, but they hate western culture as much or more.

Bin Laden is quite happy living in caves. He wants a world where men can be arrested for trimming their beards, women have to stay inside or cover themselves, and children can be stoned for eating during the day during Ramadan. On the other hand, the west sees all of this as massive human rights violations and wants it changed.

Asia is combining their culture with western culture, producing a new culture at the expense of some ancient traditions. This is what the terrorists are fighting against. This is why there will be no simple peace.

When the progressives over at Alternet say otherwise it is because they want things to be simple. They want to believe that all of the world's problems are the result of US imperial ambitions, they want to be able to blame the US.

They want to be able to fit an elephant in their refridgerator without getting footprints in the Jello.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Culture Wars. Sometime in the mid-1990s, they had a big production on the Ohio State House grounds. I think that it was sponsored by downtown merchants who wanted to draw Christmas shoppers. The production was very elaborate. It had skaters including a giant skating candle. It taught a little message - something about self-esteem. For the finale they projected a moving train onto the State House with candles on the pillars. This was all very impressive.

After it was over I realized that they had not used the word "Christmas" once. After that I noticed that the Governor only talked about the "Winter Holiday". This was following the lead of the school system. Around a decade ago my daughter came home with a carol asserting, "Christmas and Hanukkah, just the same, both the Winter Holiday."

Columbus city government is following in this tradition. Here is the press release for this year's tree lighting:

Warm up your holiday season at the

City Hall Tree Lighting Ceremony

On Tuesday, December 7, Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman, City Councilman Kevin Boyce and Recreation and Parks Executive Director Wayne A. Roberts will be joined by youth from the Kids In Government program to host Columbus' official holiday tree lighting ceremony at City Hall. The ceremony will take place on the South Plaza, starting at 5 p.m.

This year's honorary tree is a 40-foot Norway Spruce donated by Don Fritch who is a resident from the west side of Columbus. The tree is decorated with sparkling white lights, glistening garland, silver bells, dazzling stars, bright red bows and festive candy canes.

The annual tree lighting tradition will feature performances by the Columbus Children's Choir, the Glo-ettes dance troupe, and a special visit from Santa to make the festivities complete. Delicious holiday treats will be provided courtesy of Keebler and Starbucks Coffee.

Notice that it has become an "honorary tree"?

Things weren't always that way. In the 1960s, the state out a nativity scene on the State House grounds (later it moved to City Hall). Obviously this was going way past constitutional limits. When Nixon asked people to limit Christmas displays during the gas shortage of 1973, the State stopped decorating except for some red and green spotlights.

In the 1980s, cities still put on Christmas displays. The ACLU took some cities to court and the courts upheld the use of "Christmas" and even the inclusion of a small acknowledgement of the religious roots of the holiday.

What really spoiled things was the KKK. After Ohio allowed a menorah on the State House grounds, the KKK sued to be able to put up a cross. They won on the grounds that once you let a group put up a religious display you have to let anyone put up religious displays. Since then the State has banned any mention of any religion.

Sidebar: the state should have countered that a white cross with KKK slogans is not accepted by anyone as a religious object and therefore would be banned. There is also a long history of the KKK using crosses for non-religious messages. For some reason the State didn't pursue this argument.

So here we are.

However, even with Winter Holiday trees, it is possible to offend some people. In fact, the City of Lancing, Michigan managed to offend nearly everyone. They decorated their Winter Holiday tree with red, white, and blue lights. This offends the Christians who don't like mixing religion with patriotism, it offends the anti-Bush crowd because it implied supporting the President, and if offends at least some atheists because, no matter what they call it, it is a Christmas tree.

Then there is the Virgin Mobile Phone ad that refers to "Christmahanukwanzakah." This not only hits you over the head with the idea that all December holidays are the same, it rolls them into one for you.

I wonder how it is doing. If it offends me...

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

More post-election news. Wired has a couple of articles. First, it seems that there has been a falling out between the Democratic Underground and Bev Harris. Most of the theories about voter fraud started with Bev.

In a written statement, site administrators said Friday that they barred Bev Harris, founder of Black Box Voting, because her postings on the site "have made positive discussion of verified voting increasingly difficult'

Democratic Underground said Harris' postings have been belligerent at times to other members of the forum and that she used the website to threaten its operators with lawsuits.

"We no longer believe that it is productive to allow her to use DU as a platform to promote herself while simultaneously trashing us, our moderators and others who have been previously supportive of her cause," site administrators wrote in the statement.

Remember that MSNBC's Olbermann also stopped getting along with Bev last week.

The other Wired article is about the Berkley study showing that Bush got too many votes on electronic voting machines. It turns out that the study was done by grad students who had no idea what they were doing.

"What they did with their model is wrong, and their results are flawed," McCullough said. "They claim those results have some meaning, but I don't know how they can do that."

McCullough said they focused on one statistical model to conduct their analysis while ignoring other statistical models that would have produced opposite results.

"They either overlooked or did not bother to find a much better-fitting (statistical) regression model that showed that e-voting didn't account (for the voting anomalies)," McCullough said.

In other election news:

An exhaustive investigation has turned up a link between current Florida Republican Representative Tom Feeney, a customized Windows-based program to suppress Democratic votes on touch screen voting machines, a Florida computer services company with whom Feeney worked as a general counsel and registered lobbyist while he was Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, and top level officials of the Bush administration
According to Curtis, Feeney and other top brass at Yang Enterprises, a company located in a three-story building in Oviedo, Florida, wanted the prototype written in Visual Basic 5 (VB.5) in Microsoft Windows and the end-product designed to be portable across different Unix-based vote tabulation systems and to be "undetectable" to voters and election supervisors.
This is wild enough that even Bev Harris doesn't believe it. Among other things, programming in Visual Basic is nothing like programming in Unix. (BTW, Bev Harris's original issue with voting software was that it runs on Windows.)

The story is lacking links between the programmer and any voting machine companies (who could certainly write their own programs). The biggest bit of proof is a fake check (really).

Yet another fake conspiracy story is related by Dave Shuster, MSNBC's hardblogger:

Today, I was presented with an e-mail bouncing all over the Internet from somebody identifying himself/herself as Brad Menfil. Menfil writes, "I work for the RNC. I fear reprisals if I'm found out." Menfil alleges that "Florida and Ohio had to go for Bush in order for him to win the election... in reality, he lost both states. In fact, he did not even win the popular vote. He lost the national popular vote by at least 1,750,000. This shows you the scale of the fraud."
After deconstructing the facts presented, Shuster ends with:

The fact is, Brad Menfil, or whatever his/her real name is... is a self absorbed and sick punk. Menfil only seems to care about making an argument, not about proving one. There are some thoughtful discussions and honest investigations into the troubling election "irregularities." Let's not allow those to get shoved aside or replaced because of quacks like this.

Olbermann continues to flog the recount story. How much longer will MSNBC let him keep up this story before they make him wear a tin foil hat?

What do Ohio's newspapers think about possible election fraud?

"We have written a lot about it, but we have found very little evidence that anything has happened in the election that didn't happen in every other [Ohio] election," said Ben Marrison, editor of The Columbus Dispatch. "Every rock we have turned over, we've found nothing."

He cited the state's biggest election problem being too few voting machines. "But our analysis shows they had waits everywhere," he adds, "in Democratic and Republican precincts."

Why is the left so convinced that Republicans stole the election? Maybe it is because they are not above doing it themselves. There is an on-line poll for the best blog and someone at the Daily Kos posted a program for cheating. Rather than removing it or condemning it, they think that this is great.

Hugh Hewitt has some thoughts about how this reflects on their character:

That there is no great consequence from their cheating does not mean that the cheating is without significance. In fact, I think it is a great piece of evidence to put forward in the case of why center-right activists fear "recounts" like those underway in Washington State and those conducted by Gore-Lieberman forces in Florida in 2000.
The Captains Quarters has worse to say:

It's the equivalent of bringing a marked deck to a poker game with matchsticks for stakes. It reveals Moulitsas' character more than anything he writes for his site. Isn't it odd that the same people who claim that Republicans and conservatives spend their time ginning up new and creative ways to cheat in elections have no qualms about screwing Kevin out of an opportunity to do something fun for the entire blogosphere? If not odd, their ease and pride in cheating is certainly instructive.
Powerline Blog also weighs in:

This is sickening, but typical. Kevin Aylward of Wizbang goes to a lot of trouble to set up a competition that is intended to recognize as many blogs as possible and introduce people to blogs they don't already know. It's done in a spirit of fun, and relies on a modicum of good faith among the participants. But liberals don't seem to be able to do anything honestly, to follow the most minimal standards of sportsmanship, or to do anything in a spirit of good will and good humor. Since Kevin hasn't designed the competition using national security-level safeguards against cheating, the liberals think it's OK to ruin the contest for everyone else by writing code that racks up thousands of fictitious votes for "their" blogs. Not only do they see nothing wrong with this, they brag about it openly.
All of this is nothing new. With each debate, the Democrats organized a massive effort to skew on-line polls on who won. They were also so successful at orchestrating letters to the editor that a few letters arrived before the debates.

So, are we to trust the country to people who think cheating is right is their cause is just?

and don't tell me that Bush lied. Saddam lied and everyone, Democrats and Republicans, believed him.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Yesterday I wrote about the contrast Media Research Center and MediaMatters for America. One thing I probably didn't make clear is the difference in what the organizations see as their mission. Media Research Center documents bias in the main stream media (MSM). MediaMatters documents "lies" by conservatives. This means that Media Research spends most of their time quoting the MSM, allowing their words to speak for themselves. In contrast MediaMatters often editorializes about their subjects.

To see how each site handles the same event, look at an ad created by the United Church of Christ. The ad shows black-clad bouncers refusing entrance to a church. Some people are refused, either because of skin color or because they look too gay. A white family is allowed in. The then says that everyone is welcome at the United Church of Christ.

The big three networks have refused to run the ad. ABC has a long-running policy against religious ads. CBS and NBC declined to run it because it looked controversial. CBS specifically mentioned the gay angle.

MediaMatters complains about the rejection, pointing to past ads that CBS and NBC have run. In CBS's case it was an anti-drug ad during the 2003 Superbowl. In NBC's case, it was selling 30 minute blocks of time to Ross Perot in 1993.

Media Research did not cover the ad directly. They reported on ABC's coverage. The entire report is transcribed and Media Research provides a link to the UCC's web site where you can see the ad for yourself. MediaMatters does not link to the ad, only to UCC's press release about it.

Go look at the ad yourself. Personally I find the ad very offensive. It is making a blanket slam on all other churches. I have always been offended anytime anyone makes light of someone else's religion.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

We are living in a Bizarro world. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann has been keeping the voter fraud issue alive for weeks. His blog has nearly daily entries on it. I've mentioned him several times before.

So what does a champion conspiracy theorist think about the election? See if you can guess who this quote came from:

"I think Bush got more votes." [audience cheers]
"I think that the, I think the people don't want to change Presidents during a time of war. We've never done that. People were afraid, we were attacked, you know, he promised that he would -- you know, the Republicans, I'll give them this, they had a story to tell, and the Democrats oftentimes aren't very good at telling a story. But the Republicans tell really good stories. And his story was very powerful."

..."I think he's very good at telling that story, and the story was, 'Out of the ashes of September 11th rose one man, and he stood on the rubble of lower Manhattan with a bullhorn, and he said, "I will protect you." And he did. And we were never attacked again.' [light applause]

"And that's a powerful story to tell. It has nothing to do as to whether or not we will be attacked again or whether we're really safer now as a result of his actions. But when you ask people, 'Now, tell me the Democrats' story. What was the thing they were trying to tell the American people? And you start to flummox all around trying to figure out what exactly, you know, was that."

Who said it? Michael Moore to Jay Leno. (transcribed by Media Research Center)

In the meantime, Olbermann has been getting a lot of his information directly or indirectly from a woman named Bev Harris who runs a web site called Black Box Voting.

By now, even Olbermann is getting a little suspicious of Harris.

What Ms. Harris has left herself open to is a charge that as much as any interest she has in the justifiable public concern over our most precious right - the right to a reliable, honest election - she may also have an interest in making her own documentary, on her own schedule, for her own purposes.

What Ms. Harris has also left herself - and by extension anybody who is advocating investigation, or merely covering the story - open to,is the charge of grandstanding, of tin-foil hatting, of being somebody who bursts in to a room and screams at public officials, videotape running all the time, artificially creating news.

Ms Harris denies everything and blames Olbermann.

I mentioned Media Research Center above. It is a conservative web site that documents liberal bias in the media. It has a liberal counterpart, Media Matters, which documents conservative bias.

So which is it, does the MSM have a liberal or conservative bias? It is instructive to look at what each site covers. Here are today's points from Media Research:
  1. ABC's Sawyer Frets Ridge Departure "Makes Us More Vulnerable"
  2. Tom Brokaw: "I Reflect the Sensibilities" of Red & Blue States
  3. MSNBC's Olbermann Insists: "I'm Not Political. I Don't Vote" (If you don't know who Olbermann is, go back to the top of this post.)
  4. Kalb Admires Rather's "Inner Strength" to Denounce Conservatives ("in a Los Angeles Times op-ed on Wednesday, Marvin Kalb, a former correspondent for CBS News and NBC News, saw the threat to journalism as coming from the right and praised Rather for assailing conservatives")
Two involve major network anchors, the third is the host of a prime-time cable news show, and the fourth has been a correspondent for two major networks.

And here are the points from Media Matters:
  1. Coulter quoted Donna Brazile out of context; mocked her as "liberals' idea of a 'competent' black woman"
  2. Horowitz's "racist" habit
  3. Coulter: Canada is "lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent"; Carlson: "Without the U.S., Canada is essentially Honduras"
  4. FOX's Jonathan Hunt trafficked in innuendo, vague allegations in oil-for-food coverage
  5. founder back on Scarborough to falsely slam Kinsey
  6. Discredited Swift Boat Vet seeking conservative handouts
  7. Proven liar Horowitz said Media Matters ignores the facts
  8. CBS, NBC rejected United Church of Christ ad as "too controversial," despite networks' past airing of advocacy ads
  9. O'Reilly to Kerry: "You're a sissy"
  10., Chicago Sun-Times deleted connection between Ohio official, Bush campaign from AP story

Four (#1, 2, 3 & 7) of these involve two conservative columnists (Horowitz and Coulter). O'Reilly (#9) is a known conservative host. #6 makes an assessment of someone rather than simply repeating what was said. Scarborough County (#5) is a conservative show. Networks have refused to air inflammatory ads before (#9) and the fact that they have aired non-inflammatory ads from other parties is irrelevant.

#10 is a valid point although they are guilty themselves. They describe Blackwell as "co-chairman of Bush's reelection campaign". His post was actually, "honorary co-chairman."

So to summarize a typical day on both sites, the Media Research Center relies mainly on quotes from the nightly news and prime-time news shows. Media Matters relies mainly on quotes from conservative columnists and talk cable shows. Media Research does not have to quote liberal columnists and Media Matters cannot find quotes from MSM prime time shows.

And they wonder why we think that the media is liberal.
The Clinton Legacy. Remember Marc Rich? Clinton granted him a presidential pardon just before his term ended. It was widely believed that Rich's ex-wife bought the pardon through contributions to the Clinton Presidential Library.

The ink on Rich's pardon was still wet when he got into the middle of the oil-for-food scandal.

Former American fugitive Marc Rich was a middleman for several of Iraq's suspect oil deals in February 2001, just one month after his pardon from President Clinton, according to oil industry shipping records obtained by ABC News.

"Without that kind of middleman, the system would not work because the major oil companies did not want to deal with Iraq because there was a mandated kickback," said human rights investigator John Fawcett.

Monday, November 29, 2004

It has been nearly four weeks since the election but some Democrats are still fighting a lost cause. Now Jesse Jackson brought his rhymes to Ohio.

"We must use litigation, legislation, and demonstration. We must not stop until every vote counts. This is not about whether the Democrats or [John] Kerry will stand up. It's about you. It's about your dignity," Mr. Jackson told about 350 who gathered yesterday afternoon at Mount Hermon Baptist Church.
Jackson does bring something new to the discussion. The proxy for voter fraud this time is Ohio Supreme Court candidate C. Ellen Connally. It seems that she ran better than Kerry in some counties despite being a black woman and despite her opponents being better funded.

Does this prove anything? Yes. It proves that people who would normally vote a straight Democratic ticket might change their vote for the person at the top. It means that the presidential campaign is not only about turning out the vote but also about convincing people from the other party to vote for you.

Four time Ohio governor, Jim Rhodes is supposed to have said that Republicans alone are not enough to elect a governor. You need Democrats' votes, also.

That means split tickets. It means that winning candidates will get a higher percentage of the vote than losing candidates did.

All of these conspiracy theories are based on mathematical analysis of the vote. None are based on actually counting ballots. The one place that this has been tried, the election night count was accurate.

BTW, Connally lost. Jackson and company are only looking at selected counties. If they looked at the state as a whole they would conclude that Kerry got too many votes.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

There's a new rumor going around the Internet that the election was fixed. Actually the new part is that they came up with specifics. Lots and lots of specifics.

It seems that Bush used $26 million in Enron money laundered through the Saudis to bribe a bunch of voting machine technicians. Claiming to be FBI and Homeland Security agents, the technicians went to polling places were they ordered lockdown and altered the totals. But, Karl Rove didn't pay up so some of the technicians are going public.

This story has everything including gaping holes. To start with, the only time the low-level functionaries know all of the details is in bad movies. In real life, you would never bother to tell people where the bribe money was coming from. Nationwide, only one place was locked down and with all the publicity hat one got, any other lock-downs would have made national news long ago. Since when did Bush get access to Enron money? Heck, since when is there any left?

And ignoring everything else, why renig on paying the technicians when they know too much?

Even MSNBC's Keith Olbermann who has been repeating every other rumor doesn't believe this one.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Setting the record straight on some issues.

Smoking will kill you, even if someone else is doing the smoking, right?
No. Call it what you will - passive smoking, second hand smoke, whatever - it isn't dangerous. Think about it. Smokers are drawing the smoke directly into their lungs. Anything that others get has been diffusing into the air. For more information, see here.

Even if the results are accepted at face value, the impressive-sounding risk figures for lung cancer and heart disease imply that passive smoking accounts annually for one extra death in every 10,000.

This article puts the whole thing in perspective.

Habitual, lifelong smokers face a 30 to 40-fold higher risk of contracting lung cancer than non-smokers. That sounds massive and many smokers are persuaded to quit because they believe it is. But, since the risk of lung cancer in non-smokers is minuscule, it does not amount to an objectively high risk.

Sandford admits: "Smokers are more likely to die of heart disease than lung cancer." And pro-smoking campaigner Joe Jackson argues: "Even if you're a heavy smoker, your chances of not getting lung cancer are still more than 99 percent.
And my favorite quote:

Dr Ken Denson of the Thame Thrombosis and Haemostasis Research Foundation says: "I simply do not know where they conjure up their statistics. The statistics for passive smoking in particular would not be published or even considered in any other scientific discipline.

BTW, Shaken Baby Syndrome doesn't exist, either.
A new study found that an adult man or woman cannot shake a baby hard enough to cause internal damage. If a baby is shaken it will damage the neck, not the brain.

And the arctic is not warming.

"Antarctica has been cooling for the last 50 years. Most of the Arctic has not warmed over long time scales," she told the news service. "Temperatures (have) always changed in the past and (they) always will. . . . We don't have enough understanding of natural variability and we don't see enormous amounts of temperature change to be alarmed about," she explained.
And this:
Naurzbaev, et al (2002) created a proxy temperature data set spanning nearly 2,500 years for the Taimyr Peninsula of northern Russia, all of which is poleward of 70° N. The authors studied tree rings-widths of living and deceased larch trees. They reported that "the warmest periods over the last two millennia in this region were clearly in the third, tenth to twelfth and during the twentieth centuries." The first two, they claim, were warmer than those of the last century. Twentieth century temperatures appeared to peak around 1940.

The ACIA appears to be guilty of selective use of data. Many of the trends described in the document begin in the 1960s or 1970s -- cool decades in much of the world -- and end in the warmer 1990s or early 2000s. So, for example, temperatures have warmed in the last 40 years, and the implication, "if present trends continue," is that massive warming will occur in the next century. Yet data are readily available for the 1930s and early 1940s, when temperatures were comparable to (and probably higher than) those observed today. Why not start the trend there? Because there is no net warming over the last 65 years?

For that matter, can't we dispense with the use of linear trends for cyclical time series which have a cyclical nature? My college statistics prof would have been very upset at this practice, because the character of a trend line in a data set like the one shown in Figure 3 is largely a function of the starting and ending points selected.

I also looked closely at many of the charts and saw misleading information. For example, the chart on global sea level rise goes back only 10 years but shows a steep increase. Then I read the y-axis -- a total rise of about one inch! Since we don't know where the data originated (the caption says "from a satellite launched in 1992") we can only wonder whether the measurement accuracy is sufficient to even measure a one inch change (or whether such a change even matters!).

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Dan Rather is retiring. It's about time. When your credibility has become a punchline for both Jay Leno and Dave Barry you have overstayed your welcome. He's not leaving for months, yet so there is still time to get some digs in. Here's one.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Someone over at the Democratic Underground figured it out. Maybe they've been reading my blog (actually, I hope not, these guys drip venom instead of spit).

I'm about as pissed off as anybody about * winning. The Red-Blue crap is largely useless; especially talks about a boycott! Here is why:

(1) We need the Red states in 2006 and 2008. What a perfect softball for Rove to hit in those states -- see what these elitists really think of you.

(2) We don't campaign in the Red states, advertise much, or pay much attention to them. How the F are they going to get the message about our commitment to their issues? I wondered why we didn't do massive local radio advertising; great medium and lots of people listen while they drive all over the place.

(3) California elected Reagan twice and Deukmejian (R) twice. What a great move that would have been back then; boycott California. Give me a break.

(4) Are you comfortable adopting the same strategy that Nixon used to screw us; except this time we're screwing ourselves. Nixon's Southern strategy was to pit middle and lower class whites against blacks on the race issue, thus getting the white vote while not representing their interests. We're not screwing ourselves. Pit Red and Blue states against each other on location, religion, etc. when the real issues pertain to war, economic justice, racial-ethnic justice.

(5) I'm in very Blue part of a Red state, Northern Virginia. We have a Democratic Governor. I don't even think about Red-Blue (raided in CA, lived in NYC before here). Guess what we produce that you will boycott -- the f'ing internet. Telenet was the first public data network (Reston, VA); MCI set up the internet backbone (Arlington, VA); UUNET was the backbone integrator (Fairfax, VA). Go right ahead and boycott VA but be sure to use one of the other "internets."

Venting time is over. Lets be both tactically and strategically smart. If you want to see what's up, look at Montana state-wide elections, look at Colorado, look at Virginia's governor and potential in 2008.
Pretty rational post from a site that speculated that Bush (43) tried to kill his father (Bush 41) in a plane crash.

Speaking of venom, one of the most venomist cartoonists, Ted Rall, was dropped from the Washington Post. Why? Because he said that President Reagan is rasting in Hell? No. Because he said that Pat Tillman, the football player who enlisted in the army to fight terrorism deserved to die? No. Because he compared allowing Republicans to vote is like mainsteaming retarded kids? Yes, but only because he offended parents of retarded kids.