Tales of the Sausage Factory

How Fox News Killed The Bradley Effect

Pundits and talking heads have debated the Bradley Effect (or, as we locals call it, the Wilder Effect) and whether Obama’s current lead in the polls represents false positive. Even before Obama, there existed considerable evidence that the Bradley Effect was fading. Having canvassed this weekend in VA, I have concluded that it has pretty much vanished.

Why? Because conservative talk radio and Fox News have given voters the tools they need to say things that might sound racist, but don’t really make you a racist for saying them. Whatever one may think of this as an argument, it has had the enormous benefit of eliminating the polling problems associated with the embarrassment of being mistaken for a racist when you are simply saying things that only sound racist.

More below . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

I Dabble in Fair Use Parody: What Would Hilary Clinton Do.

Maybe it’s just that I am sick of the endless talking head cycle. Maybe it’s because I’m stuck here in Chicago on my way to the National Conference on Media Reform due to “severe weather” in DC, but I have perhaps rashly indulged myself in a little fair use parody about the sorry coverage of the election. In particular, the endless speculating on what Hillary Clinton will do, when we can all just wait and find out.

What Will Hilary Clinton Do? TTO: What Would Brian Boytano Do from South Park the Movie, below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

D.C. Cir. to Comcast: “Making You Obey The Law Is Not A 'Vendetta.'”

When an industry challenging agency action loses the sympathy of the D.C. Cir., it is a good sign that someone overreached just a tad. In apparent preparation for the The Big Cable Show in New Orleans this week, the D.C. Circuit issued this opinion denying Comcast’s insistence that it deserves a waiver of the FCC’s cable set-top box interoperability rules.

The case actually has an interesting precedential aspect I shall discuss below, but the primary reason I am noting it is because this is the first in a series of cases in which Comcast and the rest of the cable industry have actually pleaded that they should be excused from the law because enforcement is all part of an evil vendetta by Kevin Martin against the cable industry. Really. Because while people may accuse Hilary Clinton of having a “sense of entitlement” about the Democratic Nomination, she has the humility of a saint with zero self-esteem compared with the ravening sense of entitlement of the cable industry.

Mind you, the cable industry won won so much for so long at the FCC that a Chairman willing to enforce the law against the cable industry, with 2 other Commissioners willing to vote with him, is quite the shock to the system. And of course, when you have a paid chorus of wholly owned subsidiaries in Congress and captive industry press (combined, I’m sad to say, with a boatload of easily manipulated public interest groups that should know better but hate Kevin Martin for other reasons), it becomes easy to believe your own press releases. Which is why not merely the cable industry, but their allies as well, have started to put some genuinely stupid and insulting things in their filings that make you shake your head and go “whoa! I can’t believe they actually said that!”

And neither could the D.C. Cir. Not only did the panel hearing the case dryly reprimand the cable industry a few times, but they gave Comcast ‘n friends a very thorough bitchslap in the opinion.

More fun details, and the actual useful legal point, below . . . .

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Econoklastic

Why Obama is Wrong Even When He's Right

It’s amusing to see Hilary Clinton and John McCain blasting Barack Obama for his remarks explaining why despair and bitterness over the way economic elites have marginalised them economically and politically have motivated large portions of the working class to vote for politicians and issues which are utterly contrary to their economic self-interest: “It’s not surprising that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment.”

It’s less amusing to see Obama backtracking now with his claim that “I didn’t say it as well as I should have.”

While Obama got it wrong on free trade — Chicago School free trade fanaticism has been a potent weapon for extracting surplus value from working people internationally by breaking unions and depressing wages, and people are justifiably angered about it — he got it right about the basis on which large elements of the American working class embrace right-wing causes and politicians who serve the interests of the economic elite rather than working people. There are two fundamental explanatory principles here.

First, as an insightful nineteenth-century political economist put it, religion is the opiate of the masses. There is a direct correlation internationally and in the U.S. between the degree of economic pain which globalisation and other forms of primitive accumulation against labour have imposed and the rise in the prevalence of fundamentalist religiosity since the late 1970s. The rise of the Religious Right and their issues in American politics, and their attraction to elements of the working class, are directly tied to this. When it looks like nothing can be done because the system is owned lock, stock, and barrel by an economic elite who profit from gutting your union, shipping your job to a Chinese slave-labour factory, plundering your pension fund, and dropping your health care, people get religion. And right-wing politicians play on this to keep working people from effectively opposing the underlying economic causes by focusing on gay marriage, abortion, and other social issues. It’s called creating false consciousness.

Second, it is a well-known phenomenon that in the absence of a class-conscious, well-organised, effective democratic left the exacerbation of economic oppression will produce support for the Right among working people. It happened in Weimar Germany when German social democracy dithered while working-class voters divided themselves between the Nazis and the KPD. It’s not surprising that the Bush administration’s penchant for corporatist-fascist ideology and the nativist Right’s racialist agenda have confused working people into supporting positions which help the economic elite keep power. We haven’t had a serious democratic left in this country since the Great Depression (some people might argue that we’ve never had a serious democratic left in the way European countries have).

I see nothing in Obama’s original remarks — the reference to ”anti-trade sentiment” aside — which isn’t entirely defensible.

In fact, it would have been refreshing as hell to have heard Obama respond to Clinton that eight years of her and her husband selling out the Democratic Party working-class base, trying to abolish the New Deal, blocking a single-payer national health care system on behalf of their buddies in the insurance industry, and triangulating on making the Gingrich agenda on everything but abortion the DLC agenda, while stuffing corporate cash into their pockets as fast as they could raise it (confirmed by their joint tax returns since leaving office), have led a lot of working people to despair about politics and embrace right-wing social and religious issues.

But that isn’t going to happen, largely because the principal difference between Obama and Clinton is that he hasn’t been around long enough to get his snout into the corporate trough as deeply as the Clintons, but he has hopes with his millionaire fundraisers. So he backtracks.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Of Legitimacy, Paper Trails, and the Power of The Blogosphere: The Clinton/Diebold Episode

I like this because it makes so many useful points about so many important things in this election season. In particularly, I think there are valuable take aways about the importance of asking questions without pre-judging, the value of a paper trail in voting to everyone, and the power of the blogosphere to raise and answer serious concerns.

Yesterday, the progressive bologosphere began to buzz with rumors that Hilary Clinton had “stolen” the NH primary from Barack Obama because of errors by the Diebold optical scanning machines used by some NH polling places. The allegation rests on an observed swing in results between precincts using the Diebold optical scanners and hand count districts. Notably, the Brad Blog posted this piece which stated that “informal statistics” indicated that precincts counted by hand generally favored Obama by 2%, whereas precincts using the Diebold optical scanners generally favored Clinton by 4.5%, creating a 7% swing.

Few circumstantial evidence items appeared to lend credence to the rumor. Ron Paul supporters claimed Diebold shorted him 31 votes in one NH town. Diebold is not generally trusted by progressives, Clinton is not generally trusted by a number of progressives, and the pattern of wild variance between polling data and actual vote turn outs is similar to that seen in 2004, including the apparent consistency of the error. A general failure of the technology should produce a spread of errors, why would the same machine favor one candidate consistently?

This had the capacity to turn quite ugly (and I suppose still could). But the internet breeds the ability to check facts and analysis and discover more plausible explanations. This analysis from “DHinMI” on Daily Kos Diary, for example, shows why these accusations don’t hold up. Most importantly, NH requires a paper trail, so that it is easy to double check results. The variations are not consistent at 4.5% and only for Diebold optical scanners, but follow a geographic variation that more accurately accounts for the differences. The Ron Paul missing votes likewise appears to be a human error on the part of the town clerk certifying the results rather than the count itself.

To this I will add that we need to remember that we are dealing with relatively modest sample sizes. Quite good by the standards of modern statistical analysis but still relatively small so that a few thousand people changing their minds for different reasons out of over a hundred thousand votes cast can produce a statistically significant change.

But I must disagree with DHinMI that “ultimately, there’s tremendous arrogance and/or ignorance at play when people assume that Hillary Clinton’s victory in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary is or might be explained by election fraud.” It is a responsibility of citizens to hold their elected leaders accountable, to question results that raise legitimate questions, but — ultimately — to accept answers supported by the evidence. Certainly anyone leaping to the conclusion that Clinton conspired with Diebold on the basis of an initial question went way too far, and should accept the lesson in caution. But the investigation and retention of paper ballots will hopefully do what such investigations do when the subject is innocent: provide a definitive answer that lays the matter to rest and proves once again the integrity of the process, providing needed legitimacy.

I expect many people will shake their heads at those irresponsible internet nuts and their vile rumors, and will take the wrong message that the internet is full of whacko progressives who degenerate to conspiracy theories rather than face unpleasant realities. But I prefer to see this as an excellent example of the system working, just as a mild cold is a symptom of my functioning immune system driving out a virus. It emphasizes the need for paper ballots and mechanisms for confirming results, the importance of getting questions about legitimacy answered rather than having them fester, and the importance of the internet in letting people debate the facts and squash “whisper campaigns” one way or the other.

In Kenya, we have seen what happens when an election loses legitimacy because of widespread mistrust and efforts to suppress inquiry. I rejoice to live in a country where citizens feel free to exercise their responsibility to investigate and question election circumstances that raise questions, and equally rejoice that NH and the internet provide the means to answer those questions. It is neither arrogance nor lunacy to want to double check elections — especially in light of the suspicions raised in the past. Nor is it conspiracy or arrogance to provide answers that sustain the result. Indeed, if there is one lesson we can all take from this, it is the value of treating all those who take their duties as citizens seriously enough to participate with the respect due to a fellow and comrade rather than the hostility of an enemy combatant.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in How Democracy Works, Or Doesn't, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Snowe & Dorgan ReIntroduce Net Neutrality Bill — and A Chance for Some Presidential Politics

Senator Snowe (R-ME) and Senator Dorgan (D-ND) have introduced the Internet Freedom Preservation Act. Interestingly, although neither is on the relevant Committee, both Barak Obama and Hilary Clinton are co-sponsors. While not exactly pandering (both co-sponsored the Snowe-Dorgan network neutrality bill last year when it was a lot riskier to do so), does anyone doubt that their decision to come out strongly in favor of NN this early was influenced by the popularity of this issue with the netroots?

Meanwhile, where the heck did Inouye go? And has anyone talked to the new members yet?

Some reflections on the new bill, and on the new politics network neutrality, below . . . .

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