Public Support for “Fairness” Doctrine Disgusting

August 15, 2008

There’s just not a whole lot to say about it.

41% of Americans believe that the government should “require all radio and television stations to offer equal amounts of conservative and liberal political commentary.” Many even want to extend the doctrine, which would essentially enforce points of view on the listening market rather than letting listeners decide, on the internet, which is even more absurd.

I find this poll result almost as upsetting as the high number of Americans who believe in old-school creationism, or can’t find their own country on a map of the world.

It is hard to know exactly how people interepreted the poll questions. Perhaps they didn’t entirely understand what they were agreeing with: perhaps they only meant that they wished media sources as a whole were more balanced and thoughtful. I’m all for that. But the way to achieve it is by promoting, recommending, and endorsing with your feet those voices that take the time to find reason, evenhandedness, and balance.

Forcing by regulation show by show, site by site balance, on the other hand, is as silly as demanding that two people having an argument in person each give equal time defending the other guys position. The whole point of the liberal scientific method, the whole point of free speech and open debate, is that we hash things out in adversarial contest. It isn’t that we try to artificially create balance: we find it in the midst of neverending debate. It’s a collective, society-wide process.

The other faulty assumption I suspect is at work here is the idea that there needs to be “balance” across every single medium of communication. But there’s nothing wrong with the fact that conservatives happen to prefer radio, and liberals newspapers, and so on. The point is the views expressed and people’s free access to them, not how those views happen to be transmitted.

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Double Standard for SWAT Shootings: Police Need to Address It, Not Just Deny It

August 14, 2008

I’m not sure I approve of the choice of examples, but the basic point made by Stephen Littau in this post is worth making: there’s a huge double standard when it comes to the actions of police officers and ordinary citizens that honest members of law enforcement need to seriously address and explain.

When an officer in the midst of a SWAT-style “dynamic entry” points a gun at an unarmed woman holding a baby and pulls the trigger, killing her, the fear and confusion of the situation alleviate all legal and moral culpability. In fact, they would only face 8 months in jail even if they were to be found culpable. Likewise if an officer fires through a door and hits civilians: it’s okay. Stuff just gets hairy on the job like that.

But when a citizen fires a gun at what they think is an assailant through a door, they not only face the death penalty, but often get it.

It’s true, of course, that every situation is different. Oftentimes the officers are noble people, and the civilians in question are not. But there is an undeniable overall pattern in which the very same mitigating factors are cited to completely exonerate officers in the line of duty, but yet are denied any role at all in the treatment of civilians.

Officers can’t have it both ways: the whole point of their “shock & awe” SWAT warrants is supposedly to surprise people (many of whom are sleeping and never hear the muffled cry of “police” through their walls and closed doors). The inevitable and predictable result is chaos and confusion. The police cannot deliberately and thoughtfully create such a situation and then claim that the chaos justifies anything they (trained professionals) happen to do. And they certainly cannot claim that excuse for themselves, but then at the same time maintain that ordinary citizens who often have no idea what’s going on are fully responsible for everything they do.


Bigfoot Has Heart Attack, Dies En Route to Press Conference

August 14, 2008

Skeptics everywhere are waiting with perfectly normal breath for the imminent press conference: two professional Bigfoot hunters are claiming that they’ve finally bagged a specimen. There’s even a decidedly nasty photo of the find with what looks like an extra from Planet of the Apes stuffed in an ice cream freezer.

The hunters claim several Bigfoots were spotted walking upright in the area the body was found but won’t reveal the location “to protect the creatures”.

The proud caretakers of the alleged Bigfoot body are promising DNA evidence and more convincing documentation soon.

As we know all too well, the follow-up stories will rarely get bigger headlines than the original claims… even if these guys are later exposed as the most blatant of liars. The result is that the idea of Bigfoot will get another cultural “bump” (in internet message-board parlance). The specific content of the “bump” rarely even matters for such things: even the embarrassment of exposed fraud or ridiculous mistake won’t undo the interest generated.

For two guys with a business based around Bigfoot, that’s a pretty hefty motive for shenanigans. They’re going to have quite a burden of proof here.

Update: Looks like we won’t even have to wait. A “legitimate” Bigfoot research outfit makes a pretty open and shut case for “hoax.” All the guys in question have a history of outright hoaxing, and their story here doesn’t hold up either.

They even have a prediction on how everything will go down that sounds right to me:

But instead, here’s what you might expect from the press conference: Biscardi will waltz in with two smiling impostor Russian “scientists” … who will say whatever Biscardi has paid them to say about the “body” that he’ll never allow the press to examine in the flesh.


Charging For Obama/McCain Lawn Signs: Good! Obsessing About Them: Bad!

August 13, 2008

Via Dean’s World comes word of a story on a single disgruntled Obama voter, frustrated over the fact that campaigns are charging money for their candidate’s lawn signs.

Every year this happens, and every year people treat it as if it were something new and outrageous under the sun. If only the grumpy Mr. Norris understood what was going on behind the curtain…

You see, one of the most annoying thing about field campaigns is how overwrought and obsessed people get about big, glossy yard signs. Virtually every study conducted on the issue shows that they have little to no effect in an already media saturated national election, and yet nutty volunteers, activists, and voters not only demand insane amounts of them, but drive the campaign nuts with reports of “enemy” signs, complaints of too few signs at this or that street corner, some signs blocking other signs, pointless outrages about supposedly stolen signs (half of which just blew away), stealing enemy signs themselves in the dead of night, blanketing roadways with signs (often illegally!) and so on.

The median strip of Local Route 11 proudly supports candidate Smith!

In any case, the amount of precious organizing/voter contact time essentially wasted on these silly sign activities is legendary, and worse: it’s done by well-meaning people who passionately believe that they are doing the campaign a huge favor. The norm is that people come into offices and basically want to just take 50 signs, all for free, so they can put them up in the middle of nowhere on a disused highway median and then call the campaign constantly to report what’s going on with them.

The practical reality is, however, that the signs are in VERY short supply during the summer, and are paid for not by the national campaign, but local donations and groups. And most of the time, charges are either for online ordering and shipping, or actually just for any extra taken on top of the first freebie.

Charging people money is less a means of getting revenue than it is limiting people’s overenthusiastic insanity about signs: making them realize that they do cost money (quite a lot, actually) and are not an infinite resource. Because, of course, if the local campaign office ever temporarily runs out of lawn signs, people coming in get just as outraged and indignant about how poorly the campaign is being run.

The fact that people get upset about a few dollars a sign is just more of the same misguided madness.

It’s not for nothing that campaign vets quietly call bumper stickers, signs, and buttons “chum” (i.e. the smelly bait you throw in the water to attract fish). The fact that the stuff drives people come into campaign offices, potentially to volunteer, is far far more important than some guy plastering his Volvo with a thousand bumper stickers.


“Loss of Faith” Headline at CNN misleading

August 8, 2008

Amphiboly is a pretty common problem for newspaper headlines, and given the way in which people form psychological impressions, misleading first interpretations can often color people’s attitudes even after they’ve figured out the correct one. You’d think that headline scribes would be a bit more careful.

Not here: CNN has a headline that reads: “Mega-preacher’s wife sued over loss of faith” The way I immediately read this was that the preacher’s wife had lost her faith, and was perhaps being sued based on various production and marketing contracts that relied on an honest profession of belief.

But, nope, it’s much crazier: the wife of our old pal Osteen apparently elbowed a flight attendant on a plane, and the woman is suing, claiming that, amongst other things, the errant elbow made her lose her faith. And, apparently, that the shove also gave her hemorrhoids.

I’m not sure which is less plausible. Can you really sue for loss of faith? If so, who would I sue?


Obama Must Pick a Woman as VP Before McCain Does!

August 1, 2008

Before I head off for the weekend, let’s play some political “inside baseball!”

Resolved: Republican nominee John McCain would be incredibly silly not to choose a woman as his running mate. One of McCain’s biggest demographic targets this season are disgruntled Hillary voters, still bitter and still grumbling about (largely paranoid and self-serving) allegations of sexism during the primaries. A female running mate not only gives these fence-sitters a reason to vote for McCain, but it could even help to sour and upset them further.

That’s because Democrats are going to have to attack the Republican VP in some fashion. And no matter how fair and above-board these attacks are, they’ll still drudge up every bitter feeling about Hillary’s primary loss (ironically, those most eager to cry “sexism” are generally also those who treat women as so delicate that any attack on their character will be seen as sexist, despite the fact that male politicians rake each other’s character over the coals regularly). It’s a brilliant means of straight jacketing Democrats and dividing them against themselves.

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Obama Still Wrong on Race: McCain’s Smears Of a Different Sort

July 31, 2008

Josh Marshall over at Talkingpoints Memo is having a little spat with Jake Tapper at ABC. The subject? Whether Obama is right to imply that McCain has been pushing xenophobia and racist themes in his recent bout of negative campaigning.

As Obama put it:

“But, since they don’t have any new ideas the only strategy they’ve got in this election is to try to scare you about me. They’re going to try to say that I’m a risky guy, they’re going to try to say, ‘Well, you know, he’s got a funny name and he doesn’t look like all the presidents on the dollar bills and the five dollar bills and, and they’re going to send out nasty emails.

But Tapper has it right here.

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