Friday, April 16, 2010

Polling Redux

A good friend of mine, Hank Pyro, wrote an article on opinion polls at his now defunct website. It got some attention and nolanchart asked Hank to repost it on their site. We tried to post it here but the charts and graphs don't post right and it takes too long to troubleshoot. We are linking to with a few disclaimers. Nolanchart cannot handle special characters (quotation marks and apostrophes.) It is a distraction but you can get the gist of it.

The article was written prior to Hank's discovering Scott Rasmussen. Prior to Rasmussen, all public consumption polls were bullshit. Post Rasmussen, all public consumption polls not named Rasmussen are bullshit. Odd, but polls frequently favor the candidate endorsed by the pollsters. Case in point, "The Boston Globe" had Scott Brown trailing Martha Coakley (whom they endorsed) by 15 points about two weeks before their election.

Which brings us to the state of the art of political polling. I believe the pollsters are underselling the demise of the Democrats. Rasmussen is great but not all of his polling is for public consumption. He gives freebie snapshots. I cannot justify paying for his expertise.

Larry Sabato is a rival/chum/friend of Rasmussen. I thought Rasmussen had linked or posted some of Sabato's numbers but now I can't find those links. But here are Sabato's predictions:

Sabato has the Indiana Senate race in a toss-up. Rasmussen has the Dem trailing three Republican candidates, two by double digits and one of those by eighteen points. From my correspondents in the Hoosier State I get the distinct impression that the Democrat is in big trouble.

Sabato has the GOP picking up 7 Senate seats and 27 House seats. Usual disclaimer, if the race was held today. But I think the Dems are in worse shape than that, especially in the House. In the coming weeks we will point out some Democratic soft spots that have not been acknowledged.

My First Tea Party

For most of my life I have been less than passionate about politics. I probably would have been more enthusiastic about the subject if I did not believe that politics is usually an exercise in futility. And for sheer spectacle, I could find dozens of activities that were more interesting.

But desperate times bring desperate people. Talk radio has replaced song and news sites have replaced spectator sports. I cannot remember the last time I watched a movie on DVD. It has been about a year since I attended a movie theater and about a year before that for my prior visit. But politics is still a new obsession for me.

I should not be surprised when I encounter an apolitical or unintersted person, but I am surprised. On March 31 at a few minutes before 11 PM I conversed with a co-worker, a nurse, about matters vaguely political. She surprised me by her comment, something to the effect that this country needs another tea party.

Knowing that this nurse was not particularly interested in current events, I asked her if she was familiar with the Tea Party movement. She had not even heard of it. This is a woman whose other job is at the Veteran's Administration and who sometimes forwards emails that one might expect from a VA employee. Recurring themes of patriotism and the decline of patriotism, the fate of veterans, the screwing of America. Emails with which I endorsed the sentiment, but not always the veracity. She was unaware of what is perhaps the biggest ongoing news story of the past year. I pointed her to Youtube and tea party protests. Her jaw dropped.

The next day I was conversing with a lady friend of mine. I asked her if she had heard of the Tea Party movement. She knew nothing about it. Nada.

These two events made me determined to attend a tea party. And of course, it seemed like a good place to sell a few bumper stickers in what has become a saturated market. Being that Sarah Palin drew over 10k in Boston the day before and the movement seemed to be snowballing, I arrived at Concord, New Hampshire more than an hour early for a noon rally on the State House lawn.

In a word, it was disappointing. I was expecting at least a thousand people and I had braced myself for larger numbers. I expected counter-demonstrators and lots of news media. It was a bright sunny day. The stars hidden in that big blue sky were aligning themselves. Or were they?

I would say that the crowd was about 100 people until noon when it doubled in size. By 12:30 it might have reached 300 people. This is a rough estimate by an untrained eye but it includes political candidates and their entourages, hucksters (t-shirts, bumper stickers) and advocacy groups. The actual crowd of unaffiliated protestors was probably about 150 people tops.

The plan was to sell a few bumper stickers, flirt with one of those chubby Libertarian chicks, eat a liesurely sandwich in God's sunshine and whisk myself away to an even livelier tea party that evening. I ended up swapping a few bumper stickers and gave a few away gratis. The chubby Libby Gals were not packing heat so that fetish went untriggered. It was a rained on parade minus the rain.

The sparse crowd did allow me to chat with candidates, probably much longer than they wanted to. They all gave me that Reagan meets Hinckley look but after I asked a few questions, they seemed to be at ease. I cannot tell you a lot about Ovide Lamontagne except to say that he is friendly, personable, cordial and charming. In other words, he laughed at my witticisms. I will be voting for him in the primaries for US Senate.

I also chatted with Peter Bearse, candidate for Congress. He is a Harvard man but I don't hold that against him. He holds a Phd. in economics and is infinitely smarter than that lame-brained social worker who now holds the office. Oh, and he majored in math as an undergrad. A Congressman who can add numbers? We can dream, can't we?

As Mr. Bearse managed to work Ronald Reagan into his own description, I asked him how a fiscal conservative could link himself to a president who ran a deficit every single year of his administration. He replied that it was essential for Reagan to re-establish our nation's defense that had been "left fallow for years."

I will vote for Mr. Bearse in the primaries.

That was my first tea party.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why I Am Posting This Video

I am talking to a friend on the phone and I reference Hank Johnson and he had not heard this. If this had been ANY Republican...EVERYONE would have heard about this. My friend is still on the line as I post this.

I am getting good at multi-tasking.

Simplicity Revisited

If I tried really hard I might establish a media niche for myself as The Simplicity Guy. That is, I would be dragged out of mothballs and limoed to a studio a few times a year to restate the obvious: The primary bias of our news media is simplicity. I would be The Simplicity Guy with all the perks that accompany title. Never mind, that my message could be reduced to one sentence and I would share screen with airheads who are slaves to the maxim. I would still cash in. Hey, "The Peter Principle" could be expressed in one sentence but that didn't slow book sales.

At this point I recycle a prior post. Read it if you like and I won't rehash my position on the subject.

I contend that there exists a dominant moral orthodoxy that is more persuasive than the religious orthodoxies it has supplanted. The new ethic can be called Media Orthodoxy. It is promoted by media members in good standing and those members are devout practioners of the moral code. Other religions might have trouble reigning in dissidents but the Media Orthodoxy is still overwhelmingly staffed by the faithful.

Media Orthodoxy is premised on simplicity. This cannot be overstated. As ridiculous as it might sound, profound social change can be jump started by the simple reduction of syllables. Case in point, homosexuality.

In the 1960's vice squads patrolled places where people met for same sex contact. Arrests were made. Careers were ruined. There was public humiliation and sometimes even suicide. ] "In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. The American Psychological Association Council of Representatives followed in 1975." (Source is Wikipedia with all the usual disclaimers.)Less than a decade later, GRIDS (Gay Related Immuno Deficiency Syndrome) was renamed AIDS, sodomy was decriminalized and a theme of acceptance permeated the media.

What changed? Perhaps nothing more significant than the quinto syllabic "homosexual" giving way to the monosyllabic "gay." Could it be that simple? Yes it could. The curtain is pulled on the linguistic magic bullet in all of its luster and splendor. In the realm of persuasion, simple is good, simplistic is better.

Before we leave the topic gay acceptance, let us remind ourselves that the cause has endured some setbacks in recent years. The military still bans homosexuality and same sex marrriage has not become the law of the land. There might be a simple explanation for these insurmountable hurdles. In an effort to inject an absurd level of political correctness into the conversation, proponents of gay rights often use terms like "gays and lesbians." In the words of Homer Simpson, "Dohhh!."

I promise I will address media bias, media orthodoxy and the bias for simplicity over and over and over. But for now, let's make it current. The word of the day is "regulation." The Democrats might have stupid voters but their leaders are some of the sharpest minds on the planet. They apply focus groups to isolate favorable words. "Regualtion" has been field tested.

One of the problems with the aforementioned word is that it has positive connotations. We all want to regulate the weight of our bodies, the heat in our homes and the speed of our cars. Regulation can be a good thing. But it also possesses tremendous capacity for euphemism. When Obama talks about regulation, he means control. It is one thing to regulate speed by setting the cruise control mechanism to 65. It is quite another to regulate speed by compressing the offending item into a cube. Given Obama's lust for control, most of his regulating will be heavy handed.

Applying guerrilla linguistic tactics, we should be careful how we counter the pleas for enhanced regulation. Deregulation is the opposite of regulation, isn't it? Not so fast. The extra syllable gives the control freaks the phonetic high ground. It also allows Obama to soften his real ojective: control for control sake.

Let us fight the euphemism and jettison one or two syllables in the process. Don't say regulate. Say control. Don't promote deregulation, but do fight take-overs and power grabs. Think small. Go viral.