Tag Archives: obama

When the only tool you have is a hammer…

One of my favorite sayings is from Abraham Maslow:  “When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail.” In other words, people tend to approach problems in a manner dictated by their own strong points or expertise.

As someone who was once an analyst for a political pollster, I know how powerful the temptation is to try to explain any given thing by taking a survey on it (a temptation shared, I’m sure, by journalists), and there is indeed a broad range of questions that can be answered with the right poll, to a considerable degree of accuracy.  However, with due respect to the polling staff at Stanford U. and AP/Yahoo! News who took this one, the question, “Are people voting the way they are out of racism?” is not one of them.

The strength and pervasiveness of any given person’s or group’s tendency toward racism is unquantifiable, and therefore resistant to statistical analysis.  Directly asking complete strangers about their own attitudes toward race, given how dicey a subject it is, is unreliable.  Doing it in an online poll, the samples of which are by definition self-selecting and thereby not random, makes the findings even more unreliable.  On top of all that, making it a sample of “adults,” the single loosest acceptable methodology in polling (as opposed to “registered voters” or “likely voters”) makes it more unreliable still.  Using a pattern of questioning no one else uses, robbing you of any objective mode of comparison, and you might as well not bother.

Not that any of this ever stopped the AP, the analysts for which looked at the results of this online survey, polling self-selected adults, using techniques that have undergone little if any peer review, about matters that defy efforts to pin them down statistically, and concluded that white racism may well cost Obama the election.

Click on the link above to read the AP’s release.  They have also uploaded a PDF file containing the complete topline of responses, for what little those are worth.  Read also the details of their wackadoo methodology.

Someone please inform the AP that no matter how vast or comprehensive a poll you may think you’re taking, not everything can be measured by a poll.

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So much for “code words”

OK, the good news is that Obama surrogates appear to have abandoned the “devious conspiracy” approach of racist code word warnings.  This means the English language may have a chance to breathe again soon, even when the subject turns to politics.

The bad news is that they’ve done so in favor of a more (ahem!) straightforward approach.  In the absence of any other explanation for Sen. Obama’s failure to dominate this race unquestioned, they’ve resorted to flat-out, blanket accusations of racism against huge swaths of the voting public (and not necessarily Republicans).

Enter the freakshow below the break.

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Senior prom politics

Allrightythen, make it official.  The 2008 presidential election has morphed completely into a really bad episode of “90210”.

Here’s the plotline:  the handsome high-school quarterback dumps his head-cheerleader girlfriend for a pretty new exchange student, who will now be his prom date.  Meanwhile, an earnest, popular fellow student of theirs wants to organize a killer “After-Prom Party” at Mom and Dad’s beach house, and invites everybody who’s anybody.  However, the jilted cheerleader will be damned if she’ll spend one minute in the same house with that tramp from some faraway place she never heard of, and her sizable social circle looks like it may also stay away out of solidarity.  The party organizer, panicked at the possibility of the event collapsing, tries to compromise by inviting other people famous for hating the quarterback’s new love, but it only offers the prospect of more awkwardness, and the cheerleader’s social circle is solidifying its boycott.  The poor would-be host is left with few options but to cancel the party or disinvite everyone involved with this metastasizing spat.

This is the essential storyline of a political catfight involving Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and a scheduled rally on Monday in New York to protest Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to the city to address the U.N. General Assembly.

Like sands in the hourglass, details are below the break.

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DNC member endorses McCain over “elitist”

From CNN’s Political Ticker blog:

Lynn Forester de Rothschild, a prominent Hillary Clinton supporter and member of the Democratic National Committee’s Platform Committee, will endorse John McCain for president on Wednesday, her spokesman tells CNN…

“This is a hard decision for me personally because frankly I don’t like him,” she said of Obama in an interview with CNN’s Joe Johns. “I feel like he is an elitist. I feel like he has not given me reason to trust him.”

“Elitist!” Dang, I left out that recent entry in the list of forbidden racist code words, which apparently is joined by “out-of-touch,” and also “hard-working” (when used to describe voters with whom the aggrieved candidate is allegedly “out-of-touch”).

Lock up your dictionaries somewhere secure, people.  If language isn’t safe, what is?

What’s racist code for “racist code word?” UPDATE: She’s back! (Or is she?)

I’m a few days behind the news curve with this post, so forgive me.  I wasn’t going to post on this subject, but it’s been nagging at me, and it’s just too important to let go this far.  (And I did say at the beginning that I’d be posting on language, didn’t I?  Warts and all, I suppose.)

The McCain campaign released an advertisement recently in response to the Obama-Biden campaign’s reaction to the naming of Sarah Palin to the GOP ticket, focusing on nastiness funneled in her direction since the announcement that she was joining the ticket:

David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo wasted no time posting down his nose at the ad, but his “rebuttal” had nothing to do with Palin.  Instead, what had drawn Kurtz’s sneering disdain was the ad’s use of the word disrespectful to describe the Obama campaign’s behavior toward the Alaska governor.  Kurtz seethed about the “contempt” inherent in the word “disrespectful.”  Now, he’s probably got a point, as far as it goes; I doubt the ad was meant to lionize Sen. Obama.  But then Kurtz takes it a step (or two, or ten, or twenty…) further:  characterizing the use of the word “disrespectful” as:

“The sort of old-fashioned contempt that whites often held blacks in (and obviously still do).”

According to David Kurtz of TPM, “disrespectful” is the latest addition to that infamous glossary known in the grievance trade as racist code words.

Gory details of the most recent incarnations and perversions of this phenomenon below the break.

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Swing states swinging the other way

Rasmussen has released a series of five new polls detailing presidential ballot questions in the five most sought-after swing states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, and Colorado.  The results are not at all good for Obama, but no reason for McCain to take any great joy, either.

The last time these five states were polled, the candidates came away with an equal number of states in their column:  Obama held PA and CO, McCain led in OH and VA, and FL was tied.  This time around, PA and VA have moved into the push column, FL has tipped to McCain, and CO has flipped to McCain, who hasn’t lost any states to Obama in return.  In short, the McCain-Obama-Tossup count among the swing states has gone from 2-2-1 to 3-0-2.

Numbers, trends, and analysis below the break.

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Should be political death. But likely won’t be. UPDATE: Obama camp tries to explain

During the early 1990’s, a conspiracy theory floated to the surface of the political swamp. The theory, nicknamed the “October Surprise,” alleged that representatives of the 1980 Reagan/Bush campaign had struck a secret deal with the newly declared Islamic Republic of Iran to delay the release of 52 American hostages being held by Iranian terrorists in Tehran until after the 1980 election, in order to deny then-President Jimmy Carter a diplomatic victory (and thus a chance to save his faltering re-election campaign).

Now comes a report, this time from a firsthand and much more reliable source (who’s willing to go on the record), detailing a possible attempt at a similar international backroom deal (this time a proposal to keep troops in harm’s way in Iraq for the sake of political haymaking), involving not only the Obama/Biden campaign, but Sen. Obama himself. Who will probably skate nonetheless.

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