A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Truth Doesn't Hurt But The Evidence Does

I met two people yesterday. One told me she couldn't believe that we had seen snow in Columbus last Saturday, because yesterday was so pleasant and warm. The other told me she couldn't believe that yesterday was so warm, after all, it had snowed only last Saturday.

I think that both were suffering from a malady common to our fine country, an inability to process evidence in search of truth. It is Spring in Ohio. You can have warm days and snowy days in Spring in Ohio. I have been in Ohio, off and on, for over fifty years. During all this time we have been having both snowy days and warm days in Spring in Ohio. Neither of my acquaintences seem to be able to process the evidence they encounter to reach a true conclusion: It is an Ohio sort of Spring and there is nothing objectively "unbelievable" about any of its manifestations.

In talk about the weather this is a mere harmless handicap, like an annoying outbreak of acne after eating too much chocolate. In politics it is more serious, rather like leprosy.

My good friend the Anchoress has sworn off directly addressing my "liberal rants" to cultvate A Personal Resolve To Be More Balanced. In the comment section of that very fine post, I had this to say, and it seemed to be so pertinent to why and how I blog that I copy it here:

I try to reason as carefully, closely, and validly as I can, but I would be perfectly content for anyone to ignore my opinions, discount my premises, or disagree with my conclusions, if they are willing to genuinely engage the source material that I quote as evidence.

I do sometimes wonder why so many people find evidence to be "unbelievable" in politics. The pollster George Gallup has summarized the evidence about the country's reaction to the Schiavo affair as follows:

Public opinion data on the Terri Schiavo case have consistently shown that the majority of Americans were in favor of the removal of her feeding tube, and that large majorities were opposed to government intervention in the case. Americans indicate that they would want feeding tubes to be removed for a child or spouse if they were in a situation similar to Schiavo's. One apparent consequence of the case: About 7 in 10 Americans who don't have living wills say they are now considering getting them.

Many people who were on the other side of that issue apparently find this to be "unbelievable". After all, if you go to the anti-abortion publication LifeNews of April 1, 2005, they report on the matter as follows:

However, a new Zogby poll with fairer questions shows the nation clearly supporting Terri and her parents and wanting to protect the lives of other disabled patients.

After dilligent search of the Zogby website, and everything that Google could come up with on zogby schiavo, I found absolutely no primary evidence of this supposed Zogby poll anywhere but on LifeNews. Perhaps I missed something, but I don't think so.

And, as the Anchoress said:

I haven't seen these Zogby poll results anywhere but at LifeNews and on the blogs. If anyone else has seen 'em on tv, let me know, ok? I'd like to give what my son Buster calls "mad props" to the MSM outlet that actually reports on this poll.

Other than a vague reference to Fox News, thirty comments later, no one has taken her up on the offer. A Google search of fox news zogby schiavo also turns up nothing and the only transcript I could find has no reference whatever to Zogby.

I think a reasonable man would come to the conclusion that LifeNews simply made the story up.

Why? It puzzles me, too. But I think unquestionably that those who oppose "the culture of death"--which apparently means abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, stem cell research, birth control, use of condoms for the control of HIV, and, occasionally, but not always, the death penalty for crimes--are not content to be merely morally right in their own eyes, but need to pretend that any evidence suggesting that their views are not in a majority is simply "unbelievable", even to the point of manufacturing contrary evidence, or reporting such evidence second-hand without the most elementary attempt to confirm it.

That the Anchoress did make such an attempt is the sort of thing that makes me one of her big fans.

It is amazing how uncontrovertable evidence can get folks dander up. Michelle Malkin and Wretchard over at The Belmont Club are up in arms about the Pulitzer awards to AP photographers covering the Iraq war. Thus Wretchard:

Since news by definition shows the truth one would expect the insurgency so lovingly depicted in these AP photos to have triumphed. But since that never happened and prospects grow dimmer by the day, the Pulitzer should be awarded instead for Poetry, since according to the Greeks history is reserved for things as they are but poetry may deal with things as they should be.

The award of the Pulitzer to this disgusting series of photographs should be welcomed by posterity. Fifty years hence people can look back at the work of people who called themselves journalists and judge.

To which I had the pleasure of replying:

As an ex-photographer myself, I would say that photography has one great advantage in war over all other media, which is this: it forces armchair generals and johnny-comes-marching-home cheerleaders to confront what war actually means. Unfortunately, as a culture, we actually look at photographs less and less. And when we do, we usually look only at things like the eye-candy close-up of the Marlboro smoking marine which decorated the New York Post.

Why not rest content with that, friends? It is the image of the war you think you're fighting, and the one which your media partisans have assured will penetrate the public consciousness deepest. Since most of the AP pictures will be seen by almost no one, the issue of giving them a prize is moot.

A gentleman with the handle of "truepeers" had this question for me:

JM, you're a real hoot; pray tell what does war actually mean?

And this was my reply:

It means lots of dead and maimed people. People with names, faces, and families. Which is what the photographs show, and which is what honest photographs of war have always shown since Timothy O'Sullivan turned his wet plates on the bloated and stinking bodies of Gettysburg, up to Eddie Adams close-up and personal Viet Cong street execution, and Nick Ut's screaming napalmed children running on a Southeast Asian road.

This clearly offends the taste of those who, in most cases, have never seen a dead human body outside of a lead and velvet platter, made up with cosmetics, under soft pink lights, surrounded by the cloying scent of flowers. Since the people who started this war have largely never been in a uniform, except to play at war in fighter airplanes over Texas ("I had other priorities," right?) I strongly suspect that most of them have never seen a dead human body in any other context either.

Have you? I doubt it.

It also means lots of people--with names, faces, and families--whose lives are shattered irrevocably by the sight of dead and stinking bodies, by months of chronic fear that they might become one, and by the knowledge that they, themselves, are responsible for making a few of them. This is the sort of thing that kept my own father the thrall of regular nightmares of combat on Saipan for fully thirty years after. And this was in "the good war".

That's what it means, Mister. Own it.

But I suppose all these people will continue to find the evidence "unbelievable". Spring Snow is one of the most exquisite things on earth, and a warm spring day means the cherry trees will be blossoming soon.

In old Japan, where they used to live with the prospect of violent death daily, it was said that you had to think of life as being as temporary as the cherry blossoms, and to go to your death with the abandon of cherry petals dropping in the wind.


Blogger The Anchoress said...


And I fixed the link when you complained about it! :-)


And, you misunderstood my meaning. I never said I wasn't going to debate you anymore...(I find I have less and less time for it, though) I simply meant...I was gonna try to be less ummm...of a "glittering holy terror" when I do it! :-) Balance, man, Balance! :-) And my comments had nothing to do with any perceived fault in you, but in MYSELF! :-)

GOtta run.

2:09 PM  
Blogger The Anchoress said...

Dangit! THIS is the Zogby link!


2:09 PM  
Blogger Joseph Marshall said...

Anchoress, if you look at the bottom of the link, it merely quotes LifeNews. Nothing in the Zogby website has any primary evidence from Zogby himself that such a poll was ever taken.

Once again, all roads lead back to one source, which apparently has information nobody else possesses.

2:20 PM  
Blogger The Anchoress said...


and yet Zogby posts it on their site issuing NO DENIAL at all.

How ODD, don't you think?

Are you saying that it is NOT POSSIBLE that these poll results, being distasteful to the MSM would not be suppressed? We saw CBS and the NY TIMES suppress a poll last year that showed Bush making gains over the summer. We see this, only this week:

Well, from what people have written in, it looks as though CNN and USA Today did suppress the results of their own gay marriage poll. Nobody’s been able to find a report on this poll from either CNN or USA Today. Poll expert Gerry Daly is not sure whether the poll can be treated as definitive or not. But he does suspect that a similar poll would have been touted by the media if the results had shown a strong uptick in favor of gay marriage, instead of a shift against it.

Apparently, when a poll shows a significant shift in public opinion, media outlets can either treat it as a big story, or dismiss it as a fluke. That leaves plenty of room for bias. But I suspect this case is even worse than Daly thinks. I doubt the folks at CNN or USA Today bothered to rationalize suppression of their own poll with Daly’s statistical argument. My guess is that they simply saw the results and knew that a story would have helped the side they were rooting against. Either way, this looks to me like an egregious case of media bias.

The msm has so destroyed its credibility that it is no longer simply "cynical" to distrustful. It is prudent. I have a difficult time believing that Zogby (by no means a right-wing org) would post those results on their site if they were untrue, no matter what the source.

8:30 PM  
Blogger Joseph Marshall said...

Well, Anchoress, this is a logical matter as much as anything else. Negatives are unprovable, so I cannot prove such a poll does not exist.

But it would seem to me that the burden of proof is on LifeNews to show evidence that it does exist with concrete answers to questions like Who comissioned it? Who was sampled for it? What were all the rest of the questions? How did LifeNews get hold of it since nobody else seems to know anything about it?

Zogby has only a small operation and makes his money from the publicity his polls receive, particularly when they have unexpected or contrarian results.

So if Zogby intentionally posted the story, I can't see for the life of me why he would hide the poll. That would be a perfectly clear invitation to the blogosphere foxhounds to start baying on your trail.

He wouldn't make any money, I should think, out of that kind of publicity. CBS News didn't, neither did CNN.

Also, somebody had to be polled. If the poll exists there must be at least scores of people who got the questions. I participate regularly in Zogby Online and I don't remember seeing it. So who did he sample?

And why wouldn't they come forward, particularly given their alleged opinions, if a hue and cry were raised about Zogby suppressing the results?

Zogby would know this perfectly well, so, if the story is true, when it broke, what would Zogby gain by not putting the poll on his own results page?

Since the story appears in "Zogby in the News" which is an obvious cut and paste from a clipping service, I suspect that nobody bothered to read it closely before posting it, or didn't think it was worth the trouble of denying.

Moreover, if there really was some nebulous conspiracy to keep it hidden, LifeNews could perfectly well explode it. And it would be clearly in the partisan interest of LifeNews to do so.

If they already know so much about this poll, why have they not presented it in its entirety with sample sizes, degrees of confidence, and so forth? This is what a Zogby client, like Reuters, always does.

And, unless they commissioned it, which means they would own it and could do anything they pleased with it, how did they come by it?

As a matter of simple logic, I think the questions need to be addressed to LifeNews first and Zogby later.

11:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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5:56 PM  
Blogger CenterUniverse said...

Very cool blog, I enjoyed it a great deal.

2:43 PM  
Blogger CenterUniverse said...

Poll's are actually very useless in determining the actual opinions of a minority or majority, as polls do not get taken by everyone.

Its highly possible for polls to be one sides, or more sided with one way over another, in an unequal manner.


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1:38 AM  

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