Saturday, March 29, 2008

Why scoff at virtue?

The New York Times does one of those predictable stories in which advocates of chastity are covered in the anthropological journalistic style that was once the exclusive specialty of National Geographic writers describing the customs of paleolithic tribesmen in distant lands.

Such strange beliefs! Such odd practices! How exotic they are!

Except, of course, that National Geographic writers do not go out of their way to make the aborigines of remote Amazonia appear ridiculous, which is the entire purpose of a New York Times editor assigning a writer to cover pro-abstinence students at Harvard.

For some mysterious reason, the sophisticated sensibilities of liberals are profoundly offended if anyone remains a virgin more than a few weeks past the onset of puberty. The notion that anyone might remain chaste long enough to become a university undergraduate -- oh, the horror of it all! One begins to suspect that liberals secretly wish school boards would make sexual intercourse a compulsory requirement for high-school graduation.

In my own collegiate career, I was neither an advocate nor a practicioner of moral virtue, but my youthful decadence was strictly freelance. There was no campus club dedicated to defending my right to sneak a half-drunk Delta Zeta into my dorm room after visiting hours.

Unlike the sexualized 21st-century campus, universities back then did not have an official sexual dogma and there was no propaganda on behalf of any particular sexual group or preference -- unless you counted the marching band's high-kicking drill team as poster girls for heterosexuality.

I was part of the last cohort to matriculate before American colleges began crowding the calendar with such sexual themes as Herpes Awareness Week and National Dildo Day. That was before freshman orientation involved distribution of free condoms and discussion groups designed to convince 18-year-olds that, if they did not arrive on campus as hateful homophobic bigots, they should probably go ahead and "come out" as gay.

If students at Harvard nowadays feel compelled to organize a pro-abstinence group, it can only be because the atmosphere at Harvard is pervasively anti-abstinence, and the virgins feel like a besieged minority (and, given the notorious promiscuity* of Harvard girls, virgins surely must be few indeed in Cambridge).

Harvard is a mighty bastion of liberalism, so it is not at all surprising to discover that liberalism's contempt for pre-marital chastity is as entrenched at Harvard as it is at the New York Times.

What mystifies me is why no one ever thinks to ask the liberals, "What's it to you?" I mean, what is it about a Harvard pro-abstinence club that liberals find so threatening? Why would the New York Times commission a 4,800-word article on this dangerous phenomenon?

This isn't about abstinence education in public schools. These are Harvard students, arguably the most elite young brains in America. One presumes that kids with near-perfect SAT scores and 4.0 GPAs are smart enough to know the birds-and-bees stuff. Certainly there must be many student groups at Harvard dedicated to sexual proclivities more newsworthy than virginity. So why are the middle-aged editors of the New York Times so annoyed that these brainiacs have decided to keep their britches zipped? What prompts this unusual interest in the hymens of Harvard?

ADDENDUM: I really didn't want to go into the details of the New York Times story, but I want to make a point about this kind of social science voodoo:
In a follow-up study to a 1995 national survey of close to 12,000 students in grades 7 through 12, two sociologists, Peter Bearman at Columbia University and Hannah Br├╝ckner at Yale, found that while those who took virginity pledges preserved their technical virginity about 18 months longer than teenagers who didn’t pledge, they were six times more likely to engage in oral sex than virgins who hadn’t taken a pledge. They were also much less likely to use condoms during their first sexual experience or to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Disease rates between those who pledged and those who didn’t were actually similar.
The type of sociological survey data involved in these studies can never determine, with any degree of confidence, the prevalence of sexual activity -- by teenagers or anyone else.

It is a basic problem of studying human sexual behavior that researchers are compelled to rely on "self-reports." In other words, researchers can only report what survey participants say they do (or don't do, as the case may be). Survey participants might overstate, understate or otherwise erroneously report the number and nature of their sexual contacts. Since it would be unthinkable to follow people around and keep track of their sexual activity, it is impossible to know if self-reported data about such activity is accurate.

Furthermore, there is the problem of getting a representative sample for a sex survey. For example, uninhibited people are more willing to talk about sex than are people with prudish attitudes. Thus, in situations where volunteers are solicited to participate in a sex survey, the resulting sample will overrepresent "playas" and underrepresent Methodist librarians.

This is all to say that, whatever any research study might claim to show, for good or ill, about the efficacy of abstinence education should be taken with a very large grain of salt. Having been personally acquainted with a few sociology majors, I'd put an asterisk beside any study done by sociologists. (C'mon, people: Did you ever know a sociology major who wasn't as flaky as a buttermilk biscuit?)

Beyond all that, I think this either-or debate about abstinence education vs. "comprehensive" sex education is completely bogus. It's all about control of federal funding, and the obvious solution is to zero out all federal funding for sex education.

There's no real reason kids need to be lectured about sex at taxpayer expense. It's not like there is any shortage of sexual information out there. If a kid has a question about sex, all he has to do is put it into Google, provided the kid can spell the words ("Mom, how do you spell 'smegma'?"). Or go to Barnes & Noble: Lots of books there to teach kids the basics of reproductive biology, provided the kid can read.

Why would anyone believe that America's public schools -- which do an inarguably wretched job of teaching kids reading, math, history and science -- are competent to teach kids about sex? I say get the government out of the sex-education business and let kids get their information from the private sector.

* NOTE: Should anyone dispute my statement about the notorious promiscuity of Harvard girls, I am prepared to summon expert witnesses in my defense. These witnesses will testify that despite the unusually large proportion of lesbians among Harvard coeds, any fellow who cares to sleep with ugly undergraduates can always find at least a dozen hanging around the Cambridge bus station. My witnesses assure me that they can provide documented proof that prostitutes in Boston have been forced to drastically reduce their fees since Harvard went coed -- although some say Radcliffe girls were always competitive with local streetwalkers. And rest assured that these witnesses are all people of inimpeachable reputation, being graduates of such fine institutions as Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Columbia and Penn.

On expertise

James Poulos musters his considerable intellect in defense of the public intellectual, and Mariel Leonard comments:
To me, you can only claim to know best if you have direct expertise or experience in the matter. Otherwise, you're just a guy with an opinion, no matter how well educated, famous, wealthy, or good-looking you might be.
Intellectuals aren't necessarily anything particularly special -- there's no one school or subject matter that singles them out.
In this, Miss Leonard seems to be siding with Hayek, whose insights about the diffuse nature of knowledge are applicable beyond the field of economics, in which Hayek won the Nobel Prize.

If someone really knows something, if he has first-hand direct experience with the facts of a given subject, he cannot be influenced by (and will almost certainly resent) anyone who tries to impose their theoretical abstractions on him.

The diffuse nature of knowledge means that everyone knows something, but no one knows everything. It is inevitable that people who want to justify a particular conclusion will select and emphasize evidence that best supports their argument. But in the universe of facts, there may be contradictory evidence that is omitted from any argument, and so each argument on a disputed topic is naturally countered by opposing evidence. This is Forensics 101.

Expertise can be dangerous in this context when the credentials of the expert are cited as authoritative -- "How can anyone disagree with this distinguished scholar?" But even the most distinguished researcher does not possess infinite knowledge, nor do his credentials mean that his statements are guaranteed to be untainted by bias.

"Facts are stubborn things," John Adams wisely observed, and all of us -- whether plumbers or Ph.D.s -- ought to search diligently for solid facts and ought to be skeptical of any "expert" who claims that his credentials make his arguments unquestionable.

Starvation in Buenos Aires?

Just got off the phone with my 18-year-old daughter, who's attending college in Argentina and says, "People in Buenos Aires are starving." Maybe a bit overdramatic, but tax hikes provoked a farmer's protest that has led to shortages and rationing:
Protesters banged pots and blocked roads in several major cities across Argentina as the country entered a third week of demonstrations by farmers angry at new taxes imposed on agricultural exports by President Cristina Fernandez.
Shortages of basic foods, including dairy items and meat, are being reported across the country as the disruption spreads. The stand-off is threatening to cripple the country's most lucrative export trade, notably of beef, corn, soy beans and wheat.
Elected just five months ago to succeed her husband Nestor Kirchner, Mrs Fernandez went on national television to defend the tax increases and send a signal that she would not back down.
"I'm not going to submit to extortion," she said. "I understand the industry's interests, but I want them to know that I'm the President for all Argentines." The government has said it will not enter talks with the farmers while the disruption continues.
Farmers' leaders, however, have insisted that the increases of up to 45 per cent on the export taxes are intolerable. "We will continue to strike for as long as necessary," said a defiant Eduardo Buzzi, president of the Argentine Agrarian Federation.
Stick to your guns, Eduardo! Force the government to repeal those taxes. If that idiot president keeps going this way, Argentina will end up like Zimbabwe, where Mugabe's despotism has destroyed the economy. Somebody needs to send Christina Fernandez a few books by Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell.

Meanwhile, we're preparing to send a "care package" of food to our daughter, who reports that the shortage is "not so bad" at Universidad Adventista del Plata. She's 18 and doing her college sophomore year abroad in a full-immersion Spanish language program. Yeah, she's making top grades, and has promised to send me an e-mail report on the political-economic crisis caused by Fernandez's tax policy.

Video: Code Pinkos protest Karl Rove

A small, ill-organized and rather listless demonstration Friday at George Washington University:



What's weird is when the bullhorn-wielding "leader" of the protesters begins the familar "1-2-3-4" anti-war chant -- a left-wing Golden Oldie that dates back at least to the mid-1960s -- but begins it with the second half: "5-6-7-8, stop the killing, stop the hate." Left-wing dyslexia?

I regret that I wasn't recording later, when the Code Pinkos desecrated the old folk-gospel classic "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" with such idiotic anti-Bush lyrics as, "They'll bomb the whole world, if they can." Utterly tasteless.

Friday's blog about the Rove's GWU speech is here, and I also filed a report for The Conservative Voice:
Sen. Barack Obama's rhetoric against the Iraq war could prove a major vulnerability for Democrats should Obama win their presidential nomination, former Bush administration political advisor Karl Rove said Friday. . . .
Criticizing Obama's record in the Senate, Rove said, "Where has he taken a leadership role? What bill has he sponsored?" . . .
Inside the Harry Harding Auditorium, Rove's speech was twice interrupted by student protesters, including one who shouted: "Karl Rove is a war criminal! [Expletive] you, Karl Rove!"
"Must be an intellectual," Rove said, as the protester was removed from the auditorium by university police.
Will update later with photos from the event.

Is Hillary a cheap date?

She should be outraged by this insult:
Some Democrats terrified that their bloody primary campaign will doom them in
November are floating a consolation prize for Hillary Clinton: governor of New York. . . .
They want her to consider the option if she concludes after the April 22 Pennsylvania primary that she cannot overtake Barack Obama for the party's presidential nomination. Hillary Clinton, while fully committed to continuing her presidential campaign, was said to be open to discussing the idea, while Bill Clinton rejected it out of hand.
Via HotAir, where Allah speculates:
The bigger question is where this idea originated. Is it real, or is it the fevered imagination of the Obama oppo team?
My hunch: Bill himself concocted this idea, which is why the story comes with the assurance that Bill's already rejected it. Brilliant lie, expert media spin -- if it wasn't Bill, who else could it be?

Besides, who but Bill would dare breathe this insulting rumor that Hillary -- who still stands a slender chance to win the presidential nomination, despite the long odds against her -- would consider accepting this puny "consolation prize"?

She's already a popular and influential U.S. senator, an office whose perks and prestige exceed those of the governor of New York. Asking Hillary to trade the glamour of Washington for the drudgery of Albany? Oh, I'm just sure she was "open to discussing the idea."
No, this dishonest rumor had to have been concocted by Bill, with the expert media placement and timing to ensure that Hillary will be asked about it on the Sunday talk shows, thus generating fodder for the Monday newspapers, etc. A dirty trick, in other words.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Karl Rove -- live at GWU!

I'm at George Washington University where Karl Rove speaks tonight at 7 p.m. C-SPAN is in the house at the Elliot School of International Affairs, and will broadcast live when Rove speaks about the 2008 presidential campaign.

Expect updates later -- how much later, I'm not sure. Rove's speech is hosted by the GW chapter of Young America's Foundation, led by Sergio Gor. When Sergio and his GW crew throw down, it's always off the hook.

UPDATE 6:40 p.m.: The Code Pinkos are here! I was just out front of Elliot Hall, where the advocates of peace and impeachment were making a nuisance of themselves, bothering passing motorists by holding up their "wanted for war crimes" posters, etc. They did not seem to be making many converts. One guy driving past on E Street hollered from his car window, "Get a life!"

The arrival of the Code Pinkos was hailed by the GW YAF students as good news -- driving the Left crazy is pretty much their goal in life. I got photos but am not able to upload them right now. Stay tuned for further updates.

UPDATE 8:15 p.m.: I have criticized Karl Rove many times over the years; I especially dislike his advocacy of amnesty for illegals. That said, his speech tonight at GW was very powerful.

Rove really enjoys the sports-like spectacle of politics. He described the 2008 campaign as "a ball of laughs," and noted the irony that the Democratic nomination will ultimately be decided by super-delegates -- an elite "aristocracy," as Rove called them.

"For the first time in our lifetime, the convention will matter," Rove said of the Democratic contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, noting that Florida and Michigan would be unrepresented in Denver. "The last time we had conventions with 48 states was in 1956."

Rove credited Republican John McCain with "doing some very smart things," including touring the Middle East with Democrat Joe Lieberman. And while the mainstream media is "going crazy for Obamacans" -- Republicans who say they support Obama -- "the real story of this campaign is the McCainocrats," Rove said, referring to Democrats who support McCain.

Rove devoted much of his lecture to criticizing Obama's rhetoric on the Iraq war, which he called "more damaging than almost any other issue."

In a Q&A after the speech, Rove was asked about Julian Bond, the NAACP chairman who's been invited as GWU's commencement speaker. "Julian Bond is a hate-filled individual," Rove said. While acknowledging Bond's role in the civil rights movement, Rove said that Bond's anti-Republican venom is "beyond the pale and he ought to be ashamed of himself."

Rove's speech was twice disrupted by anti-war protesters, the first of whom shouted, "Karl Rove is a war criminal! F--- you, Karl Rove!" Rove ad-libbed, "Must be an intellectual," while university police hauled away the disrupter.

The second disruption involved a group of protesters who held up a "war criminal" banner while their leader read an "indictment" of Rove. The group was likewise hauled away (and will undoubtedly be seated as superdelegates at the Democratic convention, my GW student friend comments).

Now, off to the reception ... updates later.

Wow. Just wow.

Just got through reading the Times of London interview with Anita Thompson, which should be required reading for every Hunter S. Thompson fan.

Kudos to the interviewer, who must have pushed very hard to get such revelations about HST's final moments and about Anita's dispute with HST's son, Juan. It makes for a compelling article, but personally, I don't know that I could ask such questions of a grieving widow, much less commit the answers to print.

One reason I think every HST fan should read the interview is this quote from Anita:
“We had to make a living, so my job was to get him to write, and his job was to write so we could pay the bills. So there was tension there. We were always on deadline.”

Think about that, you ambitious young writers. Hunter S. Thompson was one of the most famous writers of his generation, and yet here he was in his 60s, "always on deadline" to pay the bills.

Previously: Notes on Gonzo.

Conservatives for Hillary?

After reading my Wednesday article in The American Spectator Online about Hillary Clinton's determination to fight to the end, reader Michael Tomlinson applauded:
That Hillary has the audacity to hope she can still win the Democrat nomination may offend effete Democrat elites, but as she knows they consistently backed losers or those should have lost so why listen to them. Obama is seriously damaged and a Muskie moment is not impossible. . . .
As a proud "tribalist" straight-ticket conservative Republican who wants to defend America from the threats without and within I'm enjoying the "catfight." I hope it lasts beyond the August Democrat zoo in Denver. I hope the vitriol trickles down into the ranks as the candidate's partisans begin attacking each other. Bill Richardson's knife in Hillary's back was sweet, but Carville's calling him Judas was even better. All I can say is more, more, more!
Mr. Tomlinson is by no means alone. Many conservatives are dissatisfied with the choice of John McCain as the GOP nominee, but this ugly feud between Obama and Hillary is the kind of intraparty squabble among Democrats we haven't seen since 1968. And Spectator reader A.C. Santore adds:
[T]he Clintons will not be done fighting until the last gavel of the Democratic Convention has banged, the doors are bolted and locked, and everyone has headed home.
Now we have George McGovern telling us that Hillary's a victim of sexism. And I don't think he's talking about Bill:
"I have a feeling that in this country where we're at today in our thinking, it's going to be harder to elect a woman than to elect a black man," he said to AP. "I wish that weren't true....I'd love to see Hillary as president."
Does being anti-Obama make McGovern a racist? Better yet, are Obama's supporters anti-Semites?
Barack Obama faced fresh controversy yesterday over the anti-Israel views propagated by his former pastor even as he was being welcomed to New York by Michael Bloomberg, the city's Jewish Mayor.
The disclosure of articles published by the Rev Jeremiah Wright's church newsletter threatened to overshadow his speech outlining his economic plans. The articles included a column by the Hamas leader, Mousa Abu Marzook, which asked: “Why should any Palestinian recognise the monstrous crimes carried out by Israel's founders and continued by its deformed modern apartheid state?”
(Via Memeorandum.) I am troubled that the Times of London felt the need to point out that Mayor Bloomberg is Jewish, as if only Jewish people would be offended that a Christian church would publish this kind of anti-Israel libel, written by a leader of Hamas, a notorious terrorist organization.

This revelation that Obama's church published in its newsletter a column by a Hamas leader could prove very damaging, even among anti-war Democratic voters. This crosses a line that even liberals ought to be able to recognize. It is possible to criticize U.S. foreign policy without resorting to reprinting terrorist propaganda.

So, to recap: The Democratic Party nomination battle comes down to Hillary's racist supporters versus Obama's sexist, anti-Semite, pro-terrorist supporters. Now all we need is a plausible accusation of homophobia . . .

UPDATE: Fake pledges of "unity" for the rubes:
They may bicker daily over issues, character and innuendo, but both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama appear to agree on one thing: Democratic voters will coalesce around a nominee and carry him or her to victory in November over Republican John McCain.
(Via Memeorandum.) This "Kumbayah" crap doesn't fool me for a minute. Hillary has spent her whole life working toward this moment, she believes herself to be entitled to the Democratic nomination, and she feels betrayed that so many of her ex-friends are now supporting Obama. She will neither forget nor forgive such betrayals. Bill Richardson had better watch his back. (Say, whatever happened to Kathleen Willey's cat?)

And if Hillary wins? The other day, I spoke to one analyst who predicted that if Hillary beats Obama for the nomination, there will be riots in major cities across the country. A bit too dire, maybe, but something to think about.

UPDATE II: Anita Thompson is a Hillary supporter:
The Clinton campaign is trailing so far behind the money game, it's grim. I even contributed to her campaign from my microscopic savings account just to make some effort to compete with all the cash flowing in to Obama. He is totally rolling in dough, and I doubt it's coming from his grandma in Kenya.
Like her late husband, Hunter S. Thompson, Anita is left/radical in her politics. Of course, it's hard to know where the Freak Power candidate for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colo., would line up in this Hillary-Obama grudge match, eh? Either way, I'm sure he'd enjoy the show.

(Background: I've been a big HST fan for 30 years, met Mrs. Thompson in September, and reported her reaction in November when she felt HST was being targeted by unfair posthumous criticism.)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cheaper than a mortgage

Sean Hackbarth explains why book sales go up during recessions:
Instead of buying expensive dinners, vacations, and cars people hunker down in their homes. Things like DVDs, music, and books become relatively more valuable. Consumers see a bigger bang for their buck with something that gives them 2, 3, 4, even 10 hours of entertainment . . .
Less-expensive paperbacks are chosen over more-expensive hardcovers.
Ah, but what about less-expensive hardbacks, Sean? Did you know that as of today, you can order Donkey Cons: Sex, Crime, and Corruption in the Democratic Party at Amazon.com for a paltry $10.47?

Talk about about getting a "bang for your buck"! Donkey Cons has got lots of sleazy Democratic sex scandals (bang) and bribery (bucks). Ted Kennedy! Barney Frank! Alcee Hastings! And of course, everybody's favorite unindicted co-conspirator, Frank Murtha! The gang's all here ... oh, did I say "gangs"? Yeah, you'll also learn about the connection between gangsters like Lucky Luciano and the Democratic Party.

If you're concerned about inflation, unemployment and the housing crisis, what could be a more enjoyable diversion than Donkey Cons, a 228-page romp through the corrupt history of the Democratic Party?
UPDATE: Clicking over to Amazon just now, I saw one of those Amazon reviewers who slammed the book in a totally bogus manner. To wit:
Many reviewers have mentioned the book is heavily footnoted, which it is. However, if you go to the back of the book, you will discover that the book division of a tabloid magazine is one of their favorite sources.
WTF? I have no idea what this clown is talking about. Just to give you a sample of how Donkey Cons is actually sourced, let's turn to page 238 and look at the sources listed for Chapter 3:
  • 1. Theodore H. White, The Making of the President 1960
  • 2. Christopher Matthews, San Francisco Examiner
  • 3. David Greenburg, Slate.com
  • 4. Amity Schlaes, Townhall.com
  • 5. Mazo and Hess, Nixon: A Political Portrait, 1968
  • 6. Peter Carlson, The Washington Post . . .
. . . and so forth, down the list of 45 endnotes for a 16-page chapter -- reputable writers and sources, sometimes with multiple sources cited for a single note. Where that idiot's claim about "the book division of a tabloid magazine" came from, I honestly don't know. What I do know is that I checked his other reviews and found he gave a 5-star review to a scaremongering book about global warming, which gives you an idea where he's coming from. He also makes one of the most common bogus criticisms of Donkey Cons, to wit:
[W]hile I didn't expect this book to be balanced, I did expect, at a minimum, that the authors would acknowledge that both parties have skeletons to hide. From this book, you would expect that the Democrats are fleecing everyone, while the Republicans are clean as snow, which is not the case.
That is just a damned lie. In Chapter 2 of Donkey Cons, on pages 30-33, we list the names of every single member of Congress convicted of felonies or punished for ethics violations from 1975 through 2005. There were 15 Republicans compared to 46 Democrats, and all are named in the same chapter. It is simply a fact that, during this 30-year span, Democrats in Congress were about three times as likely as Republicans to become involved in serious crimes or ethical scandals.
Ever since Donkey Cons was published, Lynn Vincent and I have had to deal with this stupid and dishonest charge -- "Yeah, but what about the Republicans?" -- even though we've repeatedly pointed out where the corrupt/criminal Republicans are named in the book. Not to mention the fact that the book's final chapter deals extensively with the role of Republicans (and Democrats) in the Abramoff scandal.
As I've often said over the past two years, if someone wants to write a book about corrupt Republican, nobody's stopping them. But if anyone goes to the trouble of actually counting the crimes and scandals and making an honest comparison between the two parties, they won't be able to avoid the conclusion we reached in Donkey Cons, namely that the Democrats are far worse when it comes to corruption.
So please order the book. If we can sell out the hardback edition, maybe we can talk them into commissioning a paperback edition -- and then we'll be to add an updated afterword, talking about such fun Democratic scandals as Eliot Spitzer and Kwame Kilpatrick.

Yeeeeee-haw, comrades!

The most awesome music video ever:



I'd like to thank my friend Robert H. Knight of the Culture and Media Institute for turning me on to the emotionally provocative sound of the Leningrad Cowboys and the Red Army Choir performing the Redneck National Anthem.

Given my deep ancestral and cultural ties to the Heart Of Dixie, this video made me want to lift my Bic lighter aloft and holler, "Freebird!"

Man, it's hard to blog with tears in my eyes . . .

Barr bandwagon rolling?

More news about Bob Barr's potential Libertarian presidential campaign:
On a presidential run, Barr said:
“There’s been a tremendous expressed to me both directly and indirectly on the Internet. I take that support very seriously, and I think it also reflects a great deal of dissatisfaction with the current candidates and the current two-party system. So it is something, to be honest with you, that I’m looking very seriously at.”
Barr said a Libertarian candidacy would essentially be an extension of the Ron Paul campaign.
“Ron Paul tapped into a great deal of that dissatisfaction and that awareness.
Unfortunately, working through the Republican party structure, it became impossible for him to really move forward with his movement. But we have to have …. a rallying point out there to harness that energy, that freedom in this election cycle,” Barr said.
He gave that interview to an anti-war Web site, where it was picked up by blogger Jason Pye before being reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This hacks me off, because I've known Barr for about 10 years, and first met him about 1996, while I was working at the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune when he represented the 7th District in Congress. I've hung out with Barr in Orlando, Fla., and Washington, D.C., and I wrote the first news story about the Draft Barr campaign.

So my feelings are hurt that, when Barr wants to make news, he doesn't think of giving me a call. Maybe he's mad because of my growing friendship with Bill and Hillary.

PREVIOUSLY:

Worst poll story ever

Chuck Todd of NBC never supplies the basic head-to-head numbers in this story, and instead begins by jumping into the statistical underbrush:
As expected, one of the two major Democratic candidates saw a downturn in the latest NBC/WSJ poll, but it's not the candidate that you think. Hillary Clinton is sporting the lowest personal ratings of the campaign. Moreover, her 37 percent positive rating is the lowest the NBC/WSJ poll has recorded since March 2001, two months after she was elected to the U.S. Senate from New York.
The poll was conducted Monday and Tuesday this week by Hart-McInturff and surveyed 700 registered voters, which gives the poll a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percent. In addition, we oversampled African-Americans in order to get a more reliable cross-tab on many of the questions we asked in this poll regarding Sen. Barack Obama's speech on race and overall response to last week's Rev. Jeremiah Wright dustup. . . .
On that issue specifically, 32 percent of voters overall said Obama "sufficiently addressed the issue," while 26 percent of folks believe he needs to address the Wright controversy further; 31 percent did not see the speech or had no opinion.
Hey, Chuck: Ever hear of something called an "inverted pyramid," pal? And since we're online, can you please include hotlink to the poll survey, so I can see the questions and responses myself?

The bigger question: Can't anybody write a straight, simple news story anymore? Does every story have to be an "in-depth analysis," with all kinds of subtext and nuance? Just report the freaking news.

Big theory, bad thesis

Two guys from an online magazine succumb to cyber-hubris:
If 1960 was the year that TV displaced radio as the main platform for political persuasion, then the 2008 primary fight between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton may go down in history as the moment when the Internet ended the dominance of television.

This is not true. Whatever the numbers of people who follow political news via the Internet, the number who follow the news via TV is many, many times larger. The nightly news broadcasts of the three major networks drew an average combined audience of 25 million during November 2007. Nothing online as yet has that impact, that reach, that authority.

By the way, this is my major complaint with certain Republicans who claim that the existence of Fox News has rendered the "Big Three" networks obsolete and irrelevant. Bill O'Reilly reaches an audience that is only a fraction of Brian Williams' audience; network news is therefore still very relevant in terms of its power to shape public perception.

Far be it from me to disparage the political significance of the Internet. But the Internet -- at least as a vehicle for political news -- is essentially an elite medium, one that chiefly reaches hard-core political junkies. And I don't say that to disparage hard-core political junkies. I am merely trying to make clear that a link at the Drudge Report will not, by itself, drive a political story into the wider public consciousness.

A lot of the "inside baseball" political gossip that gets kicked around on blogs is utterly unknown to 90% of the American voting public. About 110 million Americans voted in 2004. Where is the online political site that reaches 10 percent of that electorate? Nowhere.

The two guys claiming that the Internet has "ended the dominance of television" offer as their supposed proof the fact that Barack Obama's YouTube.com videos have garnered a total of 33 views. They then provide the datum that Obama's most popular video has gotten 3.9 million views, and that Obama's top 10 most popular videos average 1.1 million views.

What these numbers actually tell us is that there is a hard core of Obama-crazy YouTube-watchers -- totalling aboout 1 million -- and that Obama's most popular video has been seen by a total viewship (which surely includes many repeat viewers) about 1/6th the size of the network TV audience. So much for the end of TV's dominance, eh?

Jon Henke, blogger and Internet communications strategist, says that the major impact of blogs is that they reach "the eyes of the influentials." Which is to say that blogs are read by such people as news reporters, editors and producers. Blogs (and other online media) are a means of reaching the people who publish newspapers and magazines and produce TV news. An online story can only have real impact if it is picked up by those Old Media outlets, which provide truly mass communication.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spectator's 'hit job' on Obama?

James Fallows calls it "disgusting":
[T]he Hillary Clinton campaign is circulating a hit job from the American Spectator, this is simply disgusting. (Marc has just confirmed to me that indeed the article came in an on-the-record email from Phil Singer, the Clinton campaign spokesman.)
That the Clinton family would dignify the American Spectator, of all publications, is astonishing to anyone who was alive in the 1990s.
That they would bless this attempt to paint [Obama adviser] Merrill McPeak as an anti-Semite is grotesque.
Whoa, hold on there, Mr. Fallows! Let's take a look at what is actually in the AmSpec column by Robert Goldberg:
The interviewer asked McPeak: "So where's the problem? State? White House?"
McPeak replied: "New York City. Miami. We have a large vote -- vote, here in favor of Israel. And no politician wants to run against it."
Translation (as if it's needed): Jews -- who put Israel over every American interest -- control America's policy on the Middle East. . . .
McPeak also claims that a combination of Jews and Christian Zionists are manipulating U.S. policy in Iraq in dangerous and radical ways: "Let's say that one of your abiding concerns is the security of Israel as opposed to a purely American self-interest, then it would make sense to build a dozen or so bases in Iraq.
"Let's say you are a born-again Christian and you think that Armageddon and the
rapture are about to happen any minute and what you want to do is retrace steps
you think are laid out in Revelations, then it makes sense. So there are a number of scenarios here that could lead you in this direction. This is radical...."
Radical, indeed -- but the radicalism is in McPeak's conspiratorial worldview. You almost expect him to start jabbering about the Trilateral Commission and the Bavarian Illuminati.

Whatever there is that's legitimate in McPeak's analysis of U.S. Middle East policy is undercut by his rhetoric, which sounds too much like the crackpot stuff you'd find in the arguments of any Hamas apologist. I was particularly offended by McPeak's suggestion that all pro-Israel Christians are premilliential dispensationalists who derive their geopolitics from old Hal Lindsey novels.

Thus, Goldberg's Spectator column can hardly be called a "hit job," and there's no reason why the Clinton campaign shouldn't be circulating the column. Fallows histrionic reaction is not justified.

By the way, I have to say that I was disturbed when I saw the Memeorandum entry linking the words "disgusting," "Clinton" and "American Spectator." For a moment, I was worried they were talking about my article.

What about Bob?

Ralph Z. Hallow of The Washington Times reports:
Former Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia is considering a third-party presidential run — a bid that could steal support from Republican John McCain and potentially offset the damage Ralph Nader"s candidacy is predicted to have on the Democratic candidate.
Mr. Barr, a House Republican impeachment manager during President Clinton's administration, yesterday confirmed his interest in running as a Libertarian but said he is unwilling to talk about any "polling we may have done or may do, not at this point."
"There is great deal [of] dissatisfaction with the candidates for the two major parties, particularly among conservatives, but also a great deal of Internet and other support for a candidate like Ron Paul who advocates libertarian and true conservative principles," said Mr. Barr, who is now a Libertarian.
(Hat-tip: Jim Antle) Hallow asked pollster John Zogby about the potential impact of a Barr LP candidacy:

"In this election cycle, where red and blue states can get realigned, where race and gender are wild cards, it won't take all that many votes in some states to mix things up even further," Mr. Zogby said.

Indeed. Barr has name recognition and media savvy, and if he captures some of the enthusiasm (and fundraising) that the Ron Paul campaign generated, he could be a factor. As I reported in February:
One supporter said Barr could become the "heir apparent" to Paul, whose campaign raised more than $30 million. In a Friday message to supporters, Paul -- who was the 1988 LP candidate -- definitively ruled out a third-party White House run this year.
Another pro-Barr activist who is familiar with details of the record-setting online fundraising operation for Paul's campaign said the Texan's donors are primed to shift their contributions to a Libertarian candidate "who's got a real chance" to win in November.
"They're ready to go," said the Internet activist, who said he'd been trying to persuade Barr to seek the LP nomination since last fall. "It's very logical -- that's what's next."
If so, then the electoral calculus could become very interesting.

Hillary and me

Monday, Bill sent an e-mail calling me "Dear Robert," and then yesterday, Hillary Clinton decided to hang out with me:
Asked Tuesday if she was feeling pressure to get out of the race, Mrs. Clinton answered, "The most common thing the people say -- it happened here, it happened last night, it happens everywhere I go -- is, 'Don't give up,' 'Keep going,' 'We're with you.' And I feel very good about that, because that's what I intend to do."
That's from my report for The American Spectator on Mrs. Clinton's "Solutions for America" rally in Greensburg, Pa. Of course, you should read the whole thing. I also blogged the event for the Spectator, including this after-action report:
Barely an hour ago, Hillary Clinton was less than 10 feet from me -- me, two dozen other reporters, and no fewer than seven TV cameras on hand for a post-rally press conference.

It only lasted 15 minutes, but we were so close. And immediately afterwards, when I logged on and checked my e-mail, guess what I found in my inbox?

Yeah: "Dear Robert . . ." from you-know-who.

Can I charm 'em, or what?

UPDATE: I realize that some skeptics, like Sean Hackbarth, might accuse me of exaggerating the emotional bond that Mrs. Clinton and I formed during our moments together in Pennsylvania. But strange things were happening in Pennsylvania yesterday. And besides, maybe I . . . misspoke. I'm only human, after all.

UPDATE II: This video proves it. Notice at the 29-second mark, where she looks over to her right and gives me a big smile:

Oh, that little minx . . .

UPDATE III: Don Surber joins the scoffers:

Question: Does Hillary have a crush on Robert Stacy McCain?
Answer: He thinks so. Mrs. Clinton keeps sending him e-mails. Don’t break his heart by telling him this, but she sends everyone those e-mails.

Yeah, Don. Go ahead and laugh, but today I got an e-mail from Chelsea. Those Clinton women, they just can't resist me, I tell ya . . .

Monday, March 24, 2008

My new BFF, Bill Clinton

Preparing for Tuesday's trip to see Hillary at a "Solutions for America" event in Greensburg, Pa., I RSVP'd at HillaryClinton.com, providing my e-mail address as requested.

Hillary's husband must be minding the Web site nowadays, because next thing you know, I got the following personal e-mail from the former Leader Of The Free World:
Dear Robert,
You and I both want Hillary to win. So let me be frank about the challenge our campaign faces right now. It couldn't be any simpler than this: we cannot be competitive politically unless we are competitive financially -- and right now we are at a financial disadvantage. The Obama campaign is already spending more than $1 million on an aggressive ad buy in Pennsylvania. . . . .
Despite the spirited support from Hillary's best supporters, including you, we are still being outraised and outspent by the Obama campaign. He outspent us by more than $10 million in February alone. Let's close the gap so Hillary can win in Pennsylvania, keep on winning, and be our next president. . . .

Just like Hillary, you've worked hard to get us this far. We cannot let up our efforts now and let this race be decided by a shortfall of funds. One thing I know for sure about Hillary -- if we give her the support she needs, she will never let us down, not as a candidate and not as president. She'll work just as hard for you in the White House as she is on the campaign trail. Let's match Hillary's efforts with our own.
Contribute to help us raise as much as we can by midnight tonight. I appreciate everything you are doing for Hillary so much. Let's keep working and winning.
Sincerely,
Bill Clinton

You know, Bill, it's that "sincerely" that makes all the difference. That means so much, coming from you. And I'm sincerely glad to know how much you appreciate everything I'm doing for Hillary.

UPDATE: Monday night in Uniontown, Pa., Hillary campaigned with "coveted superdelegate," John Murtha:

U.S. Rep. John Murtha, an Iraq war critic, stumped for Hillary Clinton in Western PA Monday evening, in his first campaign appearance since endorsing the senator last week.
Murtha was one of two of the coveted superdelegates – the other was DNC committeeman Pat Maroney from West Virginia -- to endorse the New York senator after a long, post-March 4th drought.

While I'm neither coveted nor a superdelegate, Bill Clinton did call me "Dear Robert." And he did it sincerely.

UPDATE II: This reminds me of the time I was under sniper fire in Bosnia. Sorry, I "misspoke."

UPDATE III: I'm now in Greensburg, at the campus computer center. Got linked by Sean Hackbarth at The American Mind. Sean sincerely doubts my "Friend of Bill" credibility.

P.S.: Because of my Pennsylvania trip, I probably won't be blogging Tuesday.

The Hillary crisis

Hillary Clinton today issued three statements (one, two, three) on the housing crisis. Something tells me that somebody spent the weekend huddled with her pollsters.

Meanwhile, the blogosphere is feasting on the Hillary crisis, especially the suggestion by Clinton-backer Evan Bayh that Electoral College votes -- not actual delegates -- should determine the Democratic Party's presidential nominee. TNR's Christopher Orr comments:
Apart from that convenient fact there's pretty much nothing to recommend this method--either Democrat is all but certain to win states such as New York and California (and, yes, Connecticut) and to lose states such as Texas (and Utah). But then, describing reality really isn't what these exercises are about, is it?
At HotAir, Allahpundit notes that the Clintonistas haven't exactly been noted in the past for their staunch advocacy of the Electoral College. Bayh's suggestion may signal desperation afflicting the Clinton camp since Vandehei and Harris declared Obama a lead-pipe cinch for the nomination.

Yet with Obama stumbling over race and religion, and polls showing Hillary way ahead in next month's Pennsylvania primary, Team Clinton marches grimly onward. Tonight, there's a rally in Uniontown, a suburb of Pittsburgh and Tuesday, there's a "Solutions for America" meeting in Greensburg.

Mapquest says my house is "155 mi – about 2 hours 43 mins" from Greensburg, Pa. Because of my profound interest in Mrs. Clinton's campaign, I've decided it's worth the drive, especially since The American Spectator has generously agreed to help me meet the challenge of rising fuel prices. Talk about "Solutions for America"!

Detroit follies

In Chapter 8 of Donkey Cons, Detroit is cited as the ultimate demonstration of how the Democratic Party's urban policy has devastated America's inner cities. Now the mayor of Detroit adds a new wrinkle:
Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a one-time rising star and Detroit's youngest elected leader, was charged Monday with perjury and other counts after sexually explicit text messages contradicted his sworn denials of an affair with a top aide.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy also charged the popular yet polarizing 37-year-old mayor with obstruction of justice and misconduct in office. Kilpatrick, who was to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon, could face up to 15 years in prison and be expelled from office if convicted. . . .
Former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty, 37, who also denied under oath that she and Kilpatrick had a romantic relationship in 2002 and 2003, was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice.
(Via Memeorandum.) When President Clinton needed some extramarital passion, he got it on with an intern. When Gov. Eliot Spitzer wanted a little side action, he hired a prostitute. The mayor of Detroit hired a chief of staff to satisfy his needs.

The pathetic thing about Kilpatrick is that Detroit is a city that's been circling the drain for years. If there is any hope that Detroit can recover from years of misgovernance, it will require leadership that's totally devoted to recovery. Instead, Kilpatrick spends his time pursuing his own personal pleasure.
UPDATE: Don Surber notes the "Name That Party" factor in the Associated Press coverage. I guess the AP feels that party identification would be redundant. Sex scandal, abuse of office, perjury, obstruction of justice -- of course he's a Democrat!

Justice Sunstein dissents

Ubiquitous liberal legal scholar Cass Sunstein takes a shot at Clarence Thomas:
"Mr. Constitution" votes, too much of the time, in a way that fits with the twenty-first century views of the conservative wing of the Republican Party. My own empirical studies, with Thomas Miles of the University of Chicago, show that in administrative law cases, Thomas is the most partisan member of the Court, with Justice Stevens a close second.
(Via Memeorandum.) Hmmm. So Justice Thomas (a) considers himself a strict constructionist and (b) votes with "the conservative wing of the Republican Party." Why does Sunstein see this as some sort of conflict? Isn't fealty to the Constitution a fundamental principle for conservative Republicans? And who is Sunstein -- a predictably loyal Democrat -- to talk about being "partisan"?

My annoyance with Sunstein goes back to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when the University of Chicago law professor made a pest of himself by arguing that Bill Clinton's perjury and obstruction of justice didn't qualify as "high crimes and misdemeanors."

Over the past decade, Sunstein has continued to pop up like Arnold Horshack -- "Ooh! Ooh! Mr. Kotter!" -- every time there is any legal/political imbroglio that might possibly merit a New York Times op-ed column. The editors of The New Republic probably gave Sunstein a blogging gig just to handle the overflow.

Note to Obama and Hillary: If you get elected, please appoint Sunstein to the next opening on the Supreme Court. Maybe that will keep him busy.

Obama's glass house

Doesn't stop him from throwing stones:
Sen. Barack Obama, whose campaign has sharply criticized the role of outside political groups in the presidential race, has benefited more than any other candidate from millions of dollars in independent political expenditures, records show. . . .
The political arm of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and other independent groups have spent more than $7.1 million directly supporting the Illinois Democrat's bid for the presidential nomination, campaign records show. . . .
Citing money from "big interests," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe wrote in an e-mail to supporters last year, "Outside groups are in the process of pouring more than $3.2 million into Iowa to support Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.
"Barack has repeatedly spoken out against the work of these outside groups, and this campaign does not accept any money from Washington lobbyists or PACs," he wrote.
For some reason, Democrats will never admit that labor unions are "special interests." Nor will Democrats ever do anything about the pervasive corruption of labor unions. So long as those corrupt unions keep footing the bill for the Democratic Party, no Democrat will ever criticize them.

Fisking the L.A. Times

Patterico is the all-time champ of busting the Los Angeles Times, and now he does it again:
The L.A. Times saves space on its Sunday front page for a hit piece on John McCain. The main thrust of the piece is to say, in essence, “Nyaah, nyaah, John McCain said that Iraq would be a cakewalk, but it wasn’t.”
Lots of people got Iraq wrong, but the LAT really is taking a cheap shot here. If they're going to hit Crazy Cousin John, I wish they'd hit him on immigration, tax cuts or campaign finance. But since his positions on all those issues are liberal, he gets a pass on those.

A good blog week

Nothing is more boring than blogging about blogging, but just for the record, this past week was pretty good for The Other McCain.

Back in January and early February, right after I left The Washington Times and resumed private blogging, I got some links from Hot Air and Michelle Malkin that drove some really good numbers, plus an Instalanche on Feb. 9. So my January total was 5,335 visits and my February total was 11,708.

An auspicious beginning, but then I left for two weeks in Africa. I didn't do much blogging immediately after I returned, so traffic slumped and didn't really pick up for a while. The 30-day Sitemeter shows that after getting 202 visits on March 4, I didn't cross the 200-daily-visits threshold again until Monday, March 17, when I got 208. But in the past week, with links from Ace of Spades, Jawa Report, and Don Surber, things got jumping:
  • 3/18 -- 320
  • 3/19 -- 154
  • 3/20 -- 580
  • 3/21 -- 303
  • 3/22 -- 554
  • 3/23 -- 418
So, for March 17-23, that's a seven-day average of 362 daily visits. Not that Instapundit's going to be begging me for links or anything, but averaging over 300 dailies is decent traffic for one guy blogging about politics, prostitutes and Natalie Portman.

OK, enough boring blogging about blogging. How 'bout some Paris Hilton?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Glenn Reynolds, notorious hater

You've got to love the spectacle of sockpuppeteer Glenn Greenwald laying a ridiculous guilt-by-association smear on Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, especially because of Insty's brutal comeback:
I know it's hard to get your mind around the idea that multiple pseudonymous writers might actually be different people, but . . . .
Ouch. If nothing else, the Obama candidacy seems guaranteed to generate a lot of absurd fingerpointing about racism.

Greenwald's baseless accusation against Reynolds appears to reflect the current consensus among liberals: Because Obama's association with Rev. Wright exposes him to accusations of racism, we must deflect attention from that issue by accusing his accusers of (racist) bad faith.

This "accuse the accusers" mode of defense will be familiar to anyone who followed the Lewinsky scandal saga: Paula Jones was a lying slut, Monica Lewinsky was a crazy slut, Ken Starr was a puritanical fanatic, the whole thing was a vast right-wing conspiracy, et cetera. All of Clinton's accusers were, in some way, alleged to have unworthy motives -- and the malign motives of Clinton's accusers, it was implied, were worse than perjury and obstruction of justice.

Of course, if Hillary somehow manages a miracle comeback to steal win the Democratic nomination, liberal fingerpointing over alleged racism will be replaced by liberal fingerpointing over alleged sexism. And no one in the MSM will even notice the tactical shift.

Whatever sins Instapundit has committed, at least he has not crucified Obama. Not yet, anyway.

UPDATE: Linked by Don Surber. Thanks, Don.

UPDATE II: Meanwhile, Obama won't stop digging:

Understand this, something else that has not been reported on enough is despite these very offensive views, [Rev. Jeremiah Wright] has built one of the finest churches in Chicago. This is not a crackpot church. Witness the fact that Bill Clinton invited him to the White House when he was having his personal crises.

At this point, if I were Obama's advisors, I'd tell him to avoid discussing the Rev. Wright controversy, and certainly he shouldn't be trying to justify or defend him. Continued discussion of the issue only brings it more attention and keeps the controversy alive.

'A rather startling error'

Megan McArdle (now recovered from her bout with vertigo, one hopes) catches TNR's Jamie Kirchick confusing Irish Catholics with (historically Protestant) Scots-Irish.

Kirchick committed this ethnic error while trying to explain why "Barack Obama leads John McCain by only 49% to 42% in Massachusetts, the bluest of blue states."

If, as Kirchick implies, ethnicity is everything, well . . . far be it from me to suggest there are any racists among Massachusetts voters. (Although somebody might want to ask Rev. Wright what he thinks.)

The more likely explanation for the Massachusetts poll result is this: It's only March!

Normal people don't pay attention to politics in March. Those people in the Massachusetts poll probably have only the vaguest notion of what policies Obama and John McCain stand for. So to read those numbers and conclude that McCain has made inroads into "Kennedy country" is just silly. Come November, Massachusetts will land reliably in the Democratic column.

About the '70s

Little Miss Atilla links my post scoffing at the idea of this year's Democratic convention will replicate Chicago in '68 with Ross Douthat's rumination on how Hollywood's anti-war, anti-Bush agenda has spawned a revival of "the paranoid style" in movies.

This "paranoid style" -- especially denoting films with suggestions of malign conspiracies involving government -- Douthat associates with the 1970s.

While I don't have the leisure to engage Douthat's larger point (which is a very large thing, indeed), I would caution against the tendency to overgeneralize about eras. Not everybody in the Roaring Twenties was zipping around in a Stutz Bearcat, guzzling bathtub gin, and dancing the Charleston with a flapper. Likewise, not everybody in the '70s was in a post-Vietnam depression, snorting coke, and hanging out at Studio 54.

Particularly because Douthat is very young (about 27), I am a bit leery of his sweeping generalizations about things that happened before he was born, so excuse my nitpicking:
The Oscars that had gone to The Godfather (1972) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) went to Chariots of Fire (1981) and Gandhi (1982) and Out of Africa(1985). Eighties Hollywood was still grappling with the Vietnam War—in Platoon(1986) and Full Metal Jacket (1987), among other films—but the rumpled liberal
truth-seekers who raced, wide-eyed, through the thrillers of the ’70s were increasingly replaced by the likes of Tom Cruise dogfighting with Russians in Top Gun (1986) or Patrick Swayze leading his “wolverines” to victory against Soviet invaders in Red Dawn (1984).
Where to begin? OK, the Academy Award for Best Picture can only be awarded to films released in a given year. The fact that there was nothing like The Godfather or One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest released in 1981, '82 or 85 does not mean that the Academy was rejecting what it had formerly celebrated. And Douthat's a bit selective with his '70s Oscar-winners: The patriotic Patton won in 1970 and Rocky won in 1976.

While Platoon won Best Picture in 1986, it's kind of silly to mention Red Dawn in this list, since it was not nearly as successful as the super-blockbuster Top Gun. (The reputation of Top Gun has suffered because it's been so widely imitated, but it was far more influential than the anti-war flicks of this era.)

Oh, and Out of Africa is one of the most wretched films ever made. A girlfriend convinced me to take her to see that. Tedious beyond words, and I've never thought Meryl Streep was attractive.