Thursday, December 13, 2007

Chris Matthews and Tucker Carlson

How did these two clowns get major cable shows? It's a rhetorical question, of course. They have shows because NBC and CNN need their own O'Reillys.

I've watched Carlson only a few times, but often enough to have heard him criticize a network for letting Dick Clark do the New Year countdown after he had had a stroke. Carlson thought it was disgusting. (Yes, of course, the disabled should be hidden away from public view so as not to upset delicate constitutions.) Then the other day he said he couldn't wait until every last baby boomer was dead - and emphasized that he meant it when the interviewee suggested he was maybe exaggerating. That's about 75 million people. Of course, Carlson is only parroting the latest Conservative trope: that all of our problems are due to the Boomers. I can't help but wonder at the response had he said the same thing about, oh, say, all evangelical Christians.

Carlson is nothing more than one of those shallow, sophomore frat boys who's never had an original thought - which is no doubt why he supported the Shrub.

Chris Matthews is a blowhard who has absolutely no personal insight. While touting his book, he used the same example over and over to show how he learned the importance of listening: that's how Bill Clinton got girls in college. Now, let's ignore the reason for that particular anecdote (the fact that Hillary is running for President) and focus on the "listening" part. The one thing that Matthews does not do is listen. He shoots rapid-fire questions at the people he "interviews" and, during the few seconds they get to reply, you can see him preparing his next question out. The interviewees are there basically to give him time to get a breath of air, nothing more. He is so used to non-stop talking that when Jon Stewart actually tried to engage him in a conversation about his book, Matthews accused Stewart of making this the worst interview he ever had.

And during this primary campaign season, this self-described "even-handed, get-the-truth-out" Matthews has become so pro-Obama, he should rename his program the "Elect Barack Obama Hour". Obama can do no wrong except when, according to the political expert Matthews, early in the campaign, Obama didn't go on the attack. When he did, Matthews was thrilled. Of course when Clinton issued a few attacks in return, she was being despicable. No sort of slander against Hillary is out of bounds for Matthews or most of his TV and blog and press cohort. He and they apply a double standard as wide as a 10-lane highway when it comes to Clinton and Obama.

My favorite example: some weeks back an NPR reporter ran two stories, one about Hillary's visiting a restaurant, not paying, and not leaving a tip. This got huge, nationawide media attention, all bad. (plus lots of confusion about what really happened.) Nobody reported the guy's other story about a woman at an Obama campaign stop. She asked a question related to health care because her husband had cancer. Obama got off his podium, went down and took her hand. That's fine, shows he cares. Then he went back to the podium, repeated what he'd heard and said "maybe I'll write him a note afterwards" [probably not a direct quote] and he didn't. But the woman excused him because he cared. Can you imagine the media coverage if that had been Hillary? "How does she think a note could help a man suffering from cancer? And then she didn't even have the courtesy to do it."

I like all the Democratic candidates and would be quite happy if one of a particular set of four got the nomination. But I am becoming so fed up with these misogynist attacks on Hillary, that I am beginning to think I should vote for her just to give Matthews, Sullivan, Carlson, et. al. a bad case of heartburn.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Poll Interpretation Hall of Infamy - Margin of Error: today's winner is CNN

We've been using political polls for what, 70 years? Barely a day goes by during the now almost endless political season without one poll or another being announced. But journalists still do not understand what the margin of error means.

For ex., this morning my local news program introduced a CNN report with the statement that the economy was now more important to voters than Iraq. The CNN reporter repeated that, rather breathlessly, as though a major shift, Richter Scale 7 at least, had occurred. She interviewed several "ordinary" people, all of whom explained their fears about the economy.

Then I saw the poll results (for which we should indeed be grateful): 29% ranked the economy first; 28% ranked Iraq second. Not exactly a major difference. And, luckily for me, the chart also indicated the margin of error: 4.5%.

Now, this is pretty basic statistics, sort of Stat 101, first week. The margin of error represents the sampling error, the degree to which the reported percentages may be wrong due to the size of the sample and other polling characteristics.

In short, the relative difference in importance between the economy and Iraq is impossible to determine from this particular sample.

It wouldn't be so bad if this were a one-off reporting error. But it isn't. For decades now, journalists at all levels, continue to cite major shifts of one kind or another based on polls in which the changes are all within the margin of error. What is even worse is that professional pollsters seem to have given up trying to get these thick-headed reporters to understand the MOE and blithely second all the idiotic statements about the significance of this or that "move" in the polling data.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Well, yet again the MSM has managed to miss the most crucial statement in Bush's press conference today.

But let's first go back to Bush's WWIII announcement. That got a lot of coverage, which it should have. But the MSM missed the more critical statement: that is was important to prevent Iran from "gaining the knowledge" [quote marks are mine] of how to make a bomb. Bush was implying that a justification for going to war against Iran or dropping bombs all over the country could be made if that would prevent Iran from learning how to make a bomb. How, exactly, does one stop the acquisition of knowledge? Kill every Iranian with an IQ over 120? It may be possible to prevent a country from getting the physical materials they need to create a bomb, but if Bush wants to prevent anybody anywhere in the world from learning how to make a nuclear bomb, he's going to have kill a sizable portion of the world's population.

Now, to the current NIE. The MSM did latch on to one obvious question: if the previous NIE was wrong, how can we be sure the current NIE is right? This is a reasonable question. But they didn't bother to analyze Bush's follow-up that "well, if they stopped the program once, they could start it again, so they are just as dangerous" [my paraphrase]. So, lets get this straight: if Iran does not do what we tell it to, it is a dangerous country; however, if it does do what we want it to do, it is still just as dangerous. In short, Iran can't win. Whether it tries to build a bomb or decides not to build a bomb, Bush will still want to hurt it, in some way. Catch-22, Bush style.

The depth and danger of this mindset is on full display in an Andrew Sullivan blog entry. Before and after he pretty much analyzes Bush's statement as I just have, he still insists (just like Bush) that Iran is a danger!

Oh, special kudos to Wolf Blitzer who managed to question Bolton (who doesn't believe the current NIE report and announced that 2 agencies disagreed with the conclusion) for about 5 minutes or so without asking him what intelligence reports he is relying on. Does he have his own private CIA?

As with Iraq, this government has Iran Derangement Syndrome. For whatever insane reason, they have decided that Iran is now the most dangerous country in the world. Not North Korea, which has the bomb. Not Pakistan and India, which both have the bomb and have come close to all-out war on more than one occasion. Not Saudi Arabia which continues to export militant Islam. Not China. Not, for that matter, Russia. The United States of America, the country's only Superpower, as the neocons never fail to remind us, least we forget, which fought and defeated Germany and Japan, could, apparently, be destroyed by what country? Iran. Sheeeesh. How low the great have fallen.