A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

My head just might explode!

Aye! Carumba! I turn on the News at 9 and here the following things in rapid succession:

First off, the (supposed) skew in that poll is not 7%. First, you remove the 5% of other (which is usually an unintelligible or unreadable response) leaving 95%. Now you can approach the reaminder two ways: split it three ways (which is what you seem to be suggesting, since your complaint seems to be based around the poll showing fewer Republicans than Democrats). So each of the Repubs, Democrats, and INdependents should be 31.67%. Thus At 35% and 25%, the sampling would be 3.33 % off, which is less than half of what you were claiming, and approximately the MOE of the poll.

Which doesn't make much sense to me, since I see no reason to expect 31.67% democrat, 31.67% republican and 31.67% independent. Independents are irrelevant-- the point is that given studies like this and the obvious trend in the last decade to elect more republicans, I see no reason to think that the % of self-identified democrats or republicans shouldn't be equivalent or nearly so, not seperated by 7 percentage points in favor of democrats. Indeed, if you factor out the Others and Independents, the skew is even more striking. Let's dump the 50 Others from our pool of 1007 and the 32% of Independents from our pool, leaving 635 individuals that identify themselves as one party or the other and might reasonably be expected to answer most of the poll questions along party lines. Of the remaining pool--635 remember-- 352, or 55.4%, of respondents identified themselves as democrats, compared to 283, or 46.6%, identifying themselves as republican. A skew of 8.8 and well beyond the MOE of the study. Ain't statistics grand?

And yes, I know the questions I proposed were biased-- my point was that the question that actually WAS asked has an inherent bias against republicans rather than being value neutral. By way of comparison, I offered alternatives that were clearly biased against democrats. And not having the word filibuster is also prejudicial as that is the term the argument has been framed with in nearly every piece I've read on the dispute-- that's what people associate with the argument, should we or shouldn't we get rid of the filibuster. Leaving it out, takes the whole thing out of context and leaves people with some sort of theoretical "should we change the rules" question rather than asking the actual question they want studied.

Finally, while filibusters have been in use for nearly 200 years, they have never before been used to stop up and down votes on sub-Supreme Court nominees, and only once for a Supreme Court nominee. And changing the rules on cloture is certainly no new addition to senatorial conduct, either, no matter how many times the democrats call it the nuclear option. But whether the democrats are justified in their use of the filibuster (I don't believe they are-- if the nomination makes it out of committee, the nominee should be, and always has been, allowed an up or down vote) was not the point. The point was that the question was misleading, but touted as significant despite this, by the Washington Post and ABC News.

Ackphblllt! Sorry, hairball. Too much nashing of teeth, I think, and holding my brains inside of my ears probably didn't help. All right, I'm off to sleep. Could be light blogging over the next few days. On the plus side for some, I hope to use the time to do some writing.


A New Punching Bag

Troy feels I have rather overstayed my welcome at the Media Bias Bashing Hotel for Sideline Snarkers. He may have a point. Low hanging fruit, mayhaps. So, I need a new topic to wail and moan and nash my teeth about. Any ideas? I'll fulminate on it this evening and get back to you guys, but suggestions are always welcome.

In the meantime, the four-year-old's question of the day: "Do you float in heaven or do you just have feet?"


People from Connecticut

I am pleased that Rodney, the misplaced Vikings fan, is considering moving closer via a move from Connecticut to Michigan. That would be cool as Rod is a good guy despite his delusional support of the Minnesota Vikings. For those who don't know (and probably don't care) Rod is a pharmaceutical type scientist sort of personage for Pfizer. Which makes me wonder just exactly what those guys are ingesting over lunch when he posts this:

And while i am at it... us scientists are starting to feel the whole Librarian, writter, Mr. I know how to spell elite Nazi-like bias..whoops i am sure i have well exceeded my Nazi quota for the day..year whatever..sorry won't happen again maybe... not everyone knows how to spell and write good and stuff ya know....
Say what? Anybody got any clue what Rod is trying to say here? Troy, Jim, you've known the guy longer than me, any guesses? Particularly puzzled by "us scientists are starting to feel the whole Librarian, writter, Mr. I know how to spell elite Nazi-like bias...." I mean, yikes. Still, he may have a future in journalism.


Washington Post Poll

The previous entry is parody, of course. It is meant to ridicule the latest Washington Poll which is presented with the following lede:

Filibuster Rule Change Opposed

As the Senate moves toward a major confrontation over judicial appointments, a strong majority of Americans oppose changing the rules to make it easier for Republican leaders to win confirmation of President Bush's court nominees, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Which information they derive from this poll. If you take a little closer look at it, you might begin to suspect that there are some problems here. Start with question 901, for example, waaaaaaaaaaaay down on page 16, where 35% of respondents think of themselves as democrats, 28% think of themselves as republicans, 32% as independents and 5% as some sort of other. So, why exactly is there no mention that this "strong majority of Americans" they polled was skewed 7 percentage points higher for democrats than republicans when recent studies indicate nearly a dead even split between the two parties or a slight edge for republicans?

Next, take a look at the actual question (36, which is after 34, but before 32 for some reason) asked to get the lede: "Would you support or oppose changing Senate rules to make it easier for the Republicans to confirm Bush's judicial nominees?" Now, maybe it's just me, but I don't see the word filibuster in there. Oddly, too, that while nearly every other question has a range of options (strongly oppose, somewhat oppose, somewhat support, strongly support) this one is a straight oppose or support. The phrasing is nice, too, since it seems to imply that supporting the rules change would somehow rig the game in favor of the republicans and Bush.

Just as a thought exercise, what do you think the split would have been had the question been asked thusly: "Would you support or oppose changing Senate rules to make it harder for Democrats to subvert the judicial nomination process as it has been implemented since Colonial times?" Or perhaps, "Do you think it is reasonable for a simple majority to be sufficient for judicial confirmation, and should Senate rules be changed to reflect such majority decisions?"

One final criticism of the poll (there are others, but heck, I'm getting sick of typing). Check out question 13: "Who [shouldn't it be whom?] do you blame for the recent rise in oil and gasoline prices - (other oil-producing countries) , (U.S. oil companies), or (the Bush administration)?" That's it. Those are your choices. Increased demand from China, India and other countries is not an option. Wasteful use of gasoline in tanklike SUV's and hemi-powered trucks is not an option. It's either OPAC's fault, Exxon's fault, or Bush's fault. No need to look any further or any deeper than that.

If there isn't bias in the media, than there's a bunch of morons in the media. Quite probably there are a bunch of biased morons in the media. Any way you slice it, it's pretty pathetic in my opinion.


Poll finds Bush only slightly more popular than Satan

LL News Line: Sources within Libertarian Librarian have reason to believe that a new ABC/CBS/BBC/QWERTY news poll will show President George Bush to be only slightly more popular than the devil himself. A high administration source within the ABC/CBS... well, you know, has confirmed for Libertarian Librarian that Bush received only a 5% favorability rating compared to a 3% rating for Lucifer, consumer of all souls*. The source speculated that the reason for Bush's huge unfavorability rating was due to the War in Iraq, his efforts to reform Social Security, his inability to say the word nuclear, and those big honkin' ears of his.

*1500 people responded to the following question: Who would you rather have over for dinner, Jesus, Mother Theresa, Pope John Paul II, George Bush or Satan? Margin of error is +/- 4%.



My last posts on "grade" inflation in sports and the presence of incredible stupid people in college had some interesting responses. On top of that, comes this email from an English professor here at UW-Parkside:

The Advancement of Learning

The institutional equivalent of grade inflation for students is nomenclature inflation. Our peer institutions, once state teachers colleges, then state colleges, are now state universities. On our own campus, we are so old that we can remember when there was only one vice chancellor and no provost, when there were no institutes or centers with directors and associate directors, when Communication was Speech and the Sports Activities Center only a Physical Education Building.

Reviewing our own program recently with the nearest available dean, we have had pointed out to us that we at the Institute of Institutional Prose are not keeping pace with the institution as a whole. We are therefore proud to announce our intention of changing our name to the Institute for Advanced Institutional Prose, a title which will suggest to all our similarity to the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton. As with similar changes, no actual change in function is anticipated. The change will become effective as soon as we have used up the high-grade stationary we ordered with our current title.

Which started me wondering-- where does it end? When everyone is getting As and Bs and a C is considered a poor grade, how do you evaluate who is actually doing well? Ceratinly it isn't hard to tell those that are doing poorly-- they're the ones with the B- or Cs-- how do you tell which of the As are real As and which would've been Bs in years past? Or does it even matter any more?

I was on a search and screen committee for a position here at UWP last year, and I can tell you that the transcripts of the candidates received barely a glance from me-- as long as the candidate wasn't getting Cs or worse and had taken the right sorts of courses, whether they had a 3.3, 3.5, or 3.8 did not matter to me because those scores no longer mean anything. So, is this a good thing or a bad thing?

The bad part of it is that the really good students get lumped together with the pretty good students. There is less reward for students to really excel-- you can get the same A for doing a good job that you can get for doing an outstanding job. This inflation of grades would seem to be leading to the lowering of expectations for our students-- which to me seems to be quite a serious problem.

On the flip side, there could be a certain freedom to grade inflation-- the focus is off of grades as the be all and end all of the process, since nearly everyone is assured of an A or B anyway, so both the teacher and the students can focus more on actual learning. I hope this is what is happening, that without the pressure of "acing" a class, that all of the students are absorbing lots and lots of knowledge. But that would seem to put a lot of faith in human nature to want to excel without any sort of benefit for doing so. How likely is that?

When currency inflates, and it inevitably does unless the issuing country is just in horrible economic shape, you eventually eliminate the smallest denomination (pennies are going to go away sooner or later folks-- they've already disappeared from tax forms) and, if necessary, add a higher denomination. Or print more of that higher denomination. The US could print more Benjamins, for example, and less Washingtons. Of course, with the advent of credit, the whole concept of hard currency is losing relevancy, but you guys get the analogy.

So, maybe we need a new grade? Can't really pick something that comes before A in the English alphabet, so maybe we need to borrow a letter from the Greeks? The new, best grade possible is the Alpha. Given only to the truly outstanding students.

What do you guys think?


Monday, April 25, 2005

Aye carumba

I taught a graduate level course a few years back, and it was quite surprising to me how many graduate students not only couldn't write well, but could barely write at all. There were some great papers, and the majority of the students were engaged and thoughtful and wrote effectively if not spectacularly. But some of them... aye carumba! It made me wonder how these kids got into grad school in the first place.

Unfortunately, I think I know-- by comparison to some of the undergraduates at our universities, these guys look like rocket scientists. I had a question today while I was on reference desk that just stunned me. Guy has me come over to the computer he's working at and asks me what the message on the screen means. He's in the online registration web site, and he's trying to sign up for Psych 101. The message says, "This course has been taken previously and may not be repeated for credit." Or words very close to that effect. What do I say to that? "It means that since you already took that class, you can't take it again."

"Oh. Really?"

"Yes. You might try talking to the department to see if they can make an exception, but you're not going to be able to register online for that course."

"I can't register for it now? I want to take it again to get a better grade."

"No, you can try talking to the department, but unless they say it's okay, you can't take the course."

"Oh. Okay, thanks."

That's not word for word, but it's close. How'd this guy get into college in the first place? It makes you worry for the future of the country.

Are you ready for some Football!

Well, okay, it's just the draft, but heck we sports nuts have to hang our hat on something as the dog days of summer approach. I have to say that while I question the wisdom of the Packers taking a QB when the defense is so pathetic, getting a guy that was talked about as a top 5 pick, maybe number 1 overall, with the 24th overall pick is hard to pass on. No pun intended. Collins seems a reach in the 2nd, but so was Nick Barnett a few years ago, and he's been pretty good. So we'll see.

But, I do have to question all the draft grades out there, by all those sports pundits. This guy, in USA Today, for example, found only four teams had a bad draft (one of the Green Bay, woot!). Don Pierson, of the Chicago Tribune, passed out 18 B's and 4 A's-- two-thirds of the the teams got an above average grade! Seven teams got C's (average) and only three teams actually had a bad draft! Wow, these guys are good. Meanwhile, this yahoo (hah!) rated the 16 NFC teams and determined that 15 out of 16 of them had above average drafts! The Packers had the worst draft, according to Mr. Robinson, and they still got a C. Presumably, when the AFC grades come out, there will be 10 D's and 5 F's to balance out the incredible drafting done by the NFC.

Still, my favorite of all the grading dufuses is Pete Prisco of CBS Sportsline. He gives out 6 A's, 19 B's, 6 C's and a D. Which probably isn't any worse than Yahoo boy Robinson, EXCEPT that Prisco, at the start of the column, maintains that he is grading the draft stringently! He gave 25 out of 32 teams a B or better-- above average-- and he's being stringent? Yikes-- imagine the grade inflation if he was feeling lenient.

At least Prisco does note that you really can't accurately grade a draft for at least three years. Not that this stops him from trying, mind you. I am encouraged by the fact that nearly all of the "experts" feel that Green Bay had an average to below average draft-- that almost certainly means that we had a great draft.


Sunday, April 24, 2005

Avast ye scurvy dogs!

I will admit, there is something about the words 'avast' and 'scurvy' that really do roll nicely off the tongue-- or the keyboard. Good to see the blog is still here after reading this in the comments section to Friday's last post. Man, and you guys wonder why I seem a little leery of liberals these days. But I digress. TC does have a blog of his own, you know. Check it out, why not-- after all, he even acknowledged that I (might) be a thoughtful conservative. Hard to find those, you know-- most coservatives are too busy praying to Jesus and having their brain altered by the Karl Rove mindbeam to actually think. Much like most liberals are too busy committing treason and having their brain altered by the George Soros mindbeam to actually think.

Such helpful little pigeonholes, yes? No thought required! Merely imply (or state outright) that you are much smarter than the other guy, and of course that's the case because he's a conservative/liberal. Voila! Instant pundit (not to be confused with Instapundit, whom I do think is thoughtful and mostly balanced). Bleck. Which wouldn't be the end of the world if it were just us bloggers doing this, but it's not-- as is often the case, I find that James Lileks (whom TC is not fond of, if his one link is any indication) nails it.

Not sure why I chose to post this evening except to reassure you all that the mutiny has been put down ruthlessly. Temporary Costello is set to be keel-hauled at dawn, and in the meantime, he is being forced to listen to the Sean Hannity and Michale Savage. Poor blighter.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Rock on brothers (and sisters?)

Spirited debate all 'round. Excellent. Threads going on Schiavo (still), media bias (I made a convert!) and what temporary costello's permanent name will wind up being! Rock on, and to TC's protestations that all I leave you blokes to work with is logic and analysis, I say, "Phaw! There's always humor, irony and the well-timed snark."

I find the balance of viewpoints being expressed to be quite invigorating. Greg and John out there on the right side of things while Troy, TC and Jack (where are you dude?) are weighing in from the left. I'm hanging out more in the middle enjoying the show. Only one complaint-- no women! We need more women (any women, actually). That's it! I'm starting an affirmative action plan for my blog. Greg, get Sarah to post. Troy, TC, Jack, Jim, John (my goodness--Jack, Jim, John? Never noticed that before), you guys must know some women, right? Get 'em on board. Let's get the female perspective on these issues. Heck fire, maybe I'll try to get my sister and cousin involved.

In the meantime, I leave you for the weekend with the following "Oh THAT Ivory Tower" observation. It's been just over a month since UW-Whitewater paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $15,000 to bring Ward Churchill to their campus for a little chat, and apparently UW-Madison doesn't want to get shown up in the 9-11 nutbag race. This past Monday, they brought David Ray Griffin to campus for a talk entitled "9/11 and the American Empire: How Should Religious People Respond?" Your tax dollars at work for those of you living in Wisconsin.

In case you are unfamiliar with Mr. Griffin's work, and most non-nutbags are (yes, that's perjorative, ad hominem and not very nice but sometimes you just gotta), he believes that the Bush administration at least knew about the 9-11 attacks ahead of time and may well have been complicit in them. He also believes that it wasn't a plane that hit the Pentagon, it was a rocket, possibly as part of a failed military coup (break out the bananas boys, its Junta time!). To get a feel for his views and those of people who agree with him, you can check out these sites. To get a feel for why I think Griffin and those who agree with him are flaming paraonid nutbags, other than plain common sense, you can go here.

But regardless of whether you think Mr. Griffin is a loon, or "America’s number one bearer of unpleasant, yet necessary, public truths," the fact remains that his is an anti-administration, radical perspective. Fine, universities can handle radical perspectives, even celebrate them-- but aren't they supposed to be open to... how shall I put this... OTHER viewpoints? I went here and tried to find the counterbalance to Mr. Griffin. Suprise! No luck.

So, here's the question/though for the weekend:

Wouldn't it be better for our country and the world if our universities actually lived up to the creed put forth by the UW Board of Regents more than 100 years ago that "Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere we believe the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found."?

Thursday, April 21, 2005


For those that care, and there are a few of you, I will hopefully be adding more to the Artemus fiction line this weekend. This past week has been spent, in part, doing some outlining since I actually sort of need to know where I'm going to make it all fit right. I am a somewhat particular writer in that I hate doing revisions-- so I want what I write to be as close to the final product as possible.

Folks other than TC, Troy and John-- interesting discussion going on in the comments section of the various bias posts. Join in-- the more the merrier. Folks that are TC, Troy and John-- play nice boys. I encourage discussion, disagreement and spirited debate-- let's keep the ad hominem crap to a minimum if not a non-existence. Anyone on the left side of the political spectrum have a response to my contention that a preponderance of liberals in journalism IS sufficient evidence to conclude a liberal bias in said journalism?

Peace out (to unabashedly steal a tagline from a Marine Corp friend of mine.)


Bias, bias and more bias.

I'm sorry, but the distinction between what Howard Dean said and what the memo written by a mid-level republican senate staffer wrote escapes me. The important passage in Dean's comments:
"We're going to use Terri Schiavo later on," Dean said of the brain-damaged Floridian who died last month amid a swarm of political controversy after her feeding tube was removed.
The important passage in the memo:

This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats.
And what Dean said is less offensive because he was merely referring to the Republicans' crassness? So, as long as one side is crass and insensitive first, it's okay for the other side to be as well? Maybe that's what Dean is thinking, and maybe Troy and TC as liberals feel that those are the groundrules and democrats have to "fight fire with fire" and while I respectfully disagree, this is not the point. The point is that the media, a purportedly neutral observor and commentator, is treating the original "crime" much harsher than the subsequent "crime." Troy's reason for that is that the follow up crassness is less offensive than the original. I'm not really sure how. The original said this is a "great political issue," the latter that we're going to "use Terri Schiavo." Perhaps Dean meant to say, "We're goint to use the Republicans ridiculous power grab in the Schiavo case aginst them." But that's not what he said. Perhaps the aid that wrote the memo meant to say, "the Schiavo case just exemplifies the Democrats' unwillingness to stand up for life and that can be useful to us." But that's not what was written. Does the media somehow know that Dean meant to say "we're going to use the Republicans ridiculous power grab..." while the staffer meant to imply that they should politicize Schiavo's case? Please.

Both individuals imply that their party should use Schiavo to their political advantage. In one case, the media ripped on the party, in the other they have yet to do so. Indeed, the only places that have even mentioned Dean's comments so far are the L.A. Times and the blogosphere. I'll keep checking at least through next week to see if there is a lot of (any?) media condemnation of Dean's comments. That should be enough time for them to respond as, for the record TC, Dean made his comments on Friday, April 15, not Tuesday, April 19, and they were reported in the LA Times on Saturday, April 16. If there is, I'll let you know and apologize for jumping to conclusions. If there isn't, will you guys at least consider the possibility that the huge perponderance of liberals in the media might, just might, have an unbalancing effect on their coverage?

Also, please bear in mind that while the original crassness was a memo meant to only be seen by Republican senators and written by a senatorial aid, the subsequent "it's okay for us to make an issue out of you making it an issue because you started it, nyah" was voiced by Howard Dean, the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, former Presidential candidate, and former Governor of Vermont. This would seem to more than outweigh the fact that the original "crime" was not his-- Dean should know better, and his office is far more influential than that of the originating talking points memo that received so much media condemnation.

Try this exercise: Imagine after the Matthew Shepard murder in 1998, the Democratically controlled congress (yes, I know it wasn't-- we're imaging, remember?) rammed through a bill that made it illegal for straight people to go to gay bars. This law is later overturned as unconstitutional, but after the fact a memo meant for Democratic senators is discovered to have the phrase, "This is a great political issue because Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Republicans." There is much hue and cry about the crassness of this and how terrible it is to politicize such a tragic situation. A month later, the chairman of the RNC publically states that, "We're going to use Matthew Shepard later on," and there is no media commentary to speak of.

Would that still be okay? Would that still be the media just being smart enough to "see through" to what is really happening?

Troy, TC, for all you go on about my "incredible bias" and shortsightedness, I'm the one openly condemning both parties. I think the Republicans were horribly out of line with their legislation, and I think Howard Dean and, to the extent he represents the Democratic party as the Chair of the DNC, the Democrats are horribly out of line with their intention to make the Schiavo case an issue in '06 and '08. So, who's bias is clouding their vision?

Regardless, none of this answers my original question. If the vast majority of journalists have the same biases, the same world view, why wouldn't we expect that the news reporting would be slanted to reflect those biases and that world view? If everyone reading and writing here ABOUT bias is incapable of rising above it (not necessarily the case, methinks), why would people writing about other things and not even thinking of their own biases be more able to do that very thing?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

More Bias in the media

Just to pile on a bit. One measure of bias is to look at how the media handles similar controversies when they are created by liberals as opposed to conservatives. My current case in point relates to the Terri Schiavo controversy. When a "talking points" memo from a mid-level republican senate staffer was discovered to include the phrase "great political issue" there was a fair amount of hue and cry from the media. Editorials in papers across the country decried the Republicans for their crassness and the situation was hashed over in the nightly news for a few days.

Now, along comes Howard Dean, newly selected head of the DNC. In Saturday's LA Times, Dean is quoted as saying, "'We're going to use Terri Schiavo later on,' Dean said of the brain-damaged Floridian who died last month after her feeding tube was removed amid a swarm of political controversy." A search through the Proquest Newspaper database I have at work, which yielded a dozen or more editorials condemning the Martinez memo on Schiavo, yielded precisely none condemning Dean. I will keep scanning for editorials condemning Dean in the next week or so, but I'm not holding my breath that any will be forthcoming.

Granted, we're again talking editorials here, but the editors are the people overseeing the reporters, right? So, I find it interesting that newspapers merely "report" that Dean says that Schiavo will be a campaign issue while editorilizing at length about the bad old Republicans for even thinking about making Schiavo a campaign issue. Personally, I think both parties should be ashamed of how they handled, and continue to handle, Schiavo's case, but if the media is going to take one party to task for "grandstanding" as Dean puts it, shouldn't they also take the other party to task for doing precisely the same thing? Often times bias is as clearly demonstrated in what isn't written as it is in what is written.

Bias in the media

Some intersting point, counterpoint on my Snark Club post in regards to the media, but while I invite you to read the entire thing, I want to highlight a few things temporary costello says because... well... I think he wants it both ways. In his first posted comment, TC makes the following observation:
Which I believe was one of Jack Montag's main points. In your review of the Journal's supposed bias, you view the articles through your own preconceptions. If I performed the same review, my results of left/right/neutral are likely to show the Journal editorial page as far more right leaning than yours. But since neither of is is objectively neutral (and we both have freely admitted it) what purpose will such a review serve, except to reinforce our own preconceived notions?
This point was made to illustrate how my review of bias is affected by my own bias. Fair enough. The point, then, is that we view all things, and interpret all things, through our own preconceived notions. So far so good, and I generally agree with this argument, though I think people making a conscious effort to be objective will do a better job at it than those who don't, and I think that hearing other viewpoints on various topics and issues helps to keep preconceived notions from becoming mantra.

Right. Now, in his second comment in the same thread, TC states the following:
First of all, the idea that the media has been liberal for decades is simply a strawman (another mythical creature that roams the Internets). Where is the evidence? Simply pointing out that the majority of journalists are self-identified as liberal isn't enough, that does not necessarily mean that the news reporting itself follows that pattern. For every instance of articles being slanted leftward, you can find rightward examples. I have seen several cases in the Journal where the right leaning ownership has dictated the placement and editing of news articles. Data is not the plural of anecdote.
This directly refutes what he wrote above. If everyone is influenced by their preconceptions, why is the fact that the vast majority of journalists are liberal not sufficient evidence of a leftward bias in media? Are we to assume that journalists are the only humans on the planet able to set aside their own preconceptions and be entirely objective? Why wouldn't the news reporting follow the preconceptions? Certainly if the vast majority of journalists are liberal, they probably aren't bumping up against a lot of alternative viewpoints in their newsrooms or alternative perspectives from their editors. Which leaves self-policing. I think a lot of journalists try to be objective, and I think many succeed in being reasonably neutral in their reporting, but come on. The fact that most journalists are self-identified as liberal IS enough to conclude that news is probably slanted to that viewpoint-- why should we think human nature is suspended for news coverage?

But on top of that, there are a myriad of examples of this bias in news reporting. The Eason Jordan and Rathergate examples being merely the most egregious of recent months. TC states that for every example of leftward slant in the media, he could cite an example of rightward slant. I find this terribly hard to believe. So, don't spend time on your blog, TC, spend it on mine. Send me a sampling of all those rightwardly slanted news articles to me, and I'll post it here in its entirity. My email is libertarian_librarian@hotmail.com. I would particularly like an example where a network news anchor aired a story on a democrat or liberal with material that was never vetted and that he or she had reason to believe was fraudulent.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Benedict XVI

As a Catholic by association, I admit that the selection of a new pope has been intriguing. When John Paul II was chosen back in '79, I was all of 10 and probably wouldn't have cared too much even if I had been Catholic. The AP calls Ratzinger "rigorously conservative" and notes that he is a controversial figure in his homeland of Germany. Andrew Sullivan, who is and always has been Catholic, goes further, labeling him "The Grand Inquisitor" in reference to his former position as the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which was the Office of the Holy Inquistion prior to 1908. Sullivan believes Ratzinger's selection to be the start of a major effort to neuter or eliminate the reformists in the Church.

It seems safe to say that Ratzinger is conservative and against most, if not all, of the reforms favored by the majority of clergy in the U.S. No female priests under Benedict XVI, methinks, and I doubt the sexual abuse scandal will get the proper airing it deserves. Both of which are unfortunate. Ratzinger is also an accomplished pianist. Though whether he prefers Beethoven or Mozart depends on whether you are reading the NY Times report or the AP's.

For a slightly different take on the new Pope's biography, you may wish to go here, and for a different perspective on Ratzinger's orthodoxy, you should probabaly read this. And through it all, remember that the Catholic Church is a global community, one that must respond to its adherents in South America and Africa and Asia as well as Europe and America.

14 Types of Spam

I've been getting a lot of spam lately. Not just on my personal hotmail account, but also on my work account. So, the delete link gets a workout. But I have noticed a tendency of the work spammers to have some rather unconventional "names" on the spam originating accounts. Many are quite amusing. So, I wrote down my spammers' "names" for a week, and the results are as follows:
  • Wedging I. Convection
  • Goliath C. Hanger
  • Conventional H. Pyrotechnics
  • Kookaburra A. Trailing
  • Synched O. Oversampling
  • Tuna O. Breech
  • Lawrence G. Junkyard
  • Thicket E. Rochester
  • Mews Q. Narcissus
  • Mingus I. Drubbing
  • Abash O. Centenarians
  • Vehicles I. Honcho
  • Overtone R. Lela
  • Carcasses S. Superiors
  • So, which one is your favorite? I'm rather fond of Kookaburra A. Trailing, but I do like Carcasses S. Superiors and Conventional H. Pyrotechnics as well. Wedging I. Convection sounds... painful, I guess, and Goliath H. Hanger sounds like a pornstars screen name. I'm not a big fan of the ones that have actual names in them, like Lawrence G. Junkyard. Tuna O. Breech is good, too. A fine Irish lass, Ms. Tuna O'Breech. Very sad the way the mean lads in the village taunt her with nicknames like Fishgirl and Chicken of the Sea.

    And I'm Back

    Sorry, rather busy the last few days. What better way to come back, though, than to announce that we have a new Pope. Just heard the word. We don't know who he is yet, though.

    A while back, Jack and I and a few others, were discussing whether elected officials deserved respect simply because they were elected-- regardless of whether you voted for or against them or didn't vote at all. The consensus was that the office of an elected official deserves respect regardless of who currently occupies that office. The President of the United States is always due respect, even if you disagree with every policy that a particular President espouses, and even if you despise the man in the office as a person. Clinton and Bush pretty well sum that argument up. Regardless of what you think of Clinton or Bush, there is a certain respect due to them because of the office they occupy.

    The consensus was also that monarchs and other non-elected regents and/or heads of state are not due such respect. They have no mandate beyond that which they generate for themselves, as their position is entirely a result of lineage and has nothing to do with merit. This is particularly true if the head of state is not from your country. Which is to say, that for the English, Queen Elizabeth garners a measure of respect and venerance because she is the symbolic head of their country. Not so for citizens of other countries, though I suspect that most people would feel some sort of awe or veneration in her presence simply because of the weight of history that she carries on her shoulders.

    But what of popes? They are elected, sort of, but it certainly isn't democratic, or even representative of the Church, given that the U.S. had over 10% of the delegation, but American Catholics constitute only 6-7% of the total number of Catholics worldwide. Is the Pope due respect and reverence simply because of the office he occupies? I think he is, in part because there is an election of sorts, but more so because of the weight of history and responsibility he carries on his shoulders. To be the leader of over 1 billion people is... impossible for me to imagine, really, and I doubt the Pope himself thinks of it in those terms very often, but still....

    So, what do you guys think? Is the Pope due respect simply because he is the Pope?

    Thursday, April 14, 2005

    Follow Up on Mae Magouirk

    An article in Tuesday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution states that Ms. Magouirk has been airlifted to the UAB Medical Center in Birmingham where her heart condition will be treated.

    So that's good.

    Now THAT'S What I'm Talking About

    Temporary Costello has a very well-argued response to my recent posts on Snarkiness and bias in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial page. How well-argued, you ask? Well enough that he has convinced me of... well, I'll tell you after I post it here in its entirity:

    Actually, I thought John's remarks were meant to be a snarky comment on the supposed 'situational ethics' that all us bad old libruls embody. Our interpretations of his comments differ; which goes to show that the observer does indeed, have an impact on what is observed; even if only by the interpretation.

    Which I believe was one of Jack Montag's main points. In your review of the Journal's supposed bias, you view the articles through your own preconceptions. If I performed the same review, my results of left/right/neutral are likely to show the Journal editorial page as far more right leaning than yours. But since neither of is is objectively neutral (and we both have freely admitted it) what purpose will such a review serve, except to reinforce our own preconceived notions?

    Although admittedly, in the second installment you do admit that the results are not showing as far left as you expected. It is to your credit that you admit that it is not the result you have expected.

    But further, I have two issues with you Jourtinel experiment. I have been reading the Journal since before the great merger/assimilation, and my interpretation has been that the paper has been weakened considerably by its loss of clear viewpoint, in trying to appeal to a wider range of opinion. so again, as a liberal, I have viewed the paper's skewing rightward with dismay. As I'm sure, you view the loss of the more right leaning Sentinel. But is either of these viewpoints valid? we are, after all talking about the editorial page.

    The editorial page of a paper whose market is the largest metropolitan area in the State, which is decidedly more lefty based on the voting patterns. So based on market forces, the Journal is only responding to the patterns of its market, if left leaning editorials occur slightly more often than right leaning ones.

    Which kind of leads to the second issue. I do not understand why it is to be viewed as a problem if a newspaper professes to have an editiorial slant. I understand, of course, that if this bleed over into the news reporting side of things, it can be a problem; but analysis of the news reporting is not being presented. (I have seen the Journal allow its reporting to be biased by the Ownership; but the instance I have in mind is evidence of a rightward bias; we'll leave it for another day)

    I know one of the next arguments will be that the area needs to be served by a conservative voice; that there needs to be balance. However, I've noticed that the lack of balance in something like talk radio never seems to bother the people that decry bias in the print media. The question is, why is the rightward slant of talk radio simply evidence of the free market working, but when the result is a leftist orientation, it is bias that needs to be eradicated?

    A long comment to some short posts, but hey, you asked for it right?

    And by the way, I applaud your attitude towards the snark. In my opinion, Montag was not being intentionally snarky, but as you surmised simply trying to push some buttons. especially in the comment about basketball; I think he actually does feel that way about most sports. For myself, I promise to try to keep comments more constructive, and certainly not personally insulting.

    Unless Jack gives me another straight set up line like that one.


    Now, here's where you convinced me-- I think you are correct that my analysis of the editorial page is somewhat pointless. It is, by definition, opinion. If every single opinion given were liberal, there would be an issue, but I do think that most of the Crossroads section is balanced. And yes, that's through my own perceptions and biases-- my favorite pair of glasses. That's all we have to work with, after all, which is part of the problem with Jack's snark, and with the rest of your arguments. Everybody has biases and preconceptions-- acknowledging them and trying to factor them into your analysis and thinking on a subject is vital to keeping an open mind and to incorporating new perceptions and analysis into your world view. The alternative is to ignore those biases, pretend they aren't there, and let them color all of our perceptions without realizing that this is what is occuring.

    Which is an important distinction in looking at the rest of TC's argument. I do not think the case for talk radio being imbalanced to the right (it is) is equivalent, or even all that similar, to the case for the Main Stream Media (by which I mean all major newspapers and news agencies, network news, and magazines like Time and Newsweek) being biased to the left. The reason why, is that talk radio makes no secret of their bias or pretense to being fair and balanced. If you're listening to Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, there's no question of the perspective they're coming from, and you can adjust your own reactions accordingly. Same thing with Air America-- you know where Al Franken is coming from, so don't be surprised when he has an anti-Bush slant on most of his topics.

    But the Main Stream Media... well, they still reach many more people than talk radio, and they do maintain the pretense of being impartial. They maintain some sort of extra credibility because they are NEWS agencies, don't you know, and they don't have any biases or agendas. Or, if they do, it's just in their personal lives and doesn't bleed over into their work where they are wholly impartial and rational and without emotional or experiential influence.

    Which is just crap, pure and simple.

    It might be reasonable and doable in an environment that encourages impariality, dissent and a diversity of opinions, but the staff of the major media news outlets are heavily weighted to the left these days, and such an environment no longer exists. Instead the NEWS (as opposed to editorial commentators, an important distinction as TC points out) media seems to feed in on itself in a monstrous echo chamber effect and then be surprised when alternative media outlets-- blogs, Fox News, talk radio-- present a picture other than the one everyone else is presenting.

    So, TC, you're right-- on the editorial page, the MJS can say pretty much whatever it wants. I must change the criteria, and examine the news portions of the MJS if the analysis is to have much meaning. In the meantime, I will leave you all with these egregious examples of bias in the MSM. For I still whole heartedly believe that most of the MSM is heavily tilted to the left-- though I'm willing to entertain arguments to the contrary. Especially if they are as thoughtful and well-argued as TC's.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2005

    Snark Club

    The First Rule of Snark Club is that there are no rules in Snark Club. The second rule in Sn... err... CRAP! All right, I'll admit it. I have no idea if John's comments on my Snarky post are just snarky/tongue in cheek, or if he really thinks I'm a mean 'ole autocrat kickin' sand in the face of my readers. All five of them. Actually, I do have an idea, but I'm not certain-- so I'm posting this just in case.

    You can be snarky. You can be ironic. You can be iconic, laconic, lackadaisical, whimsical or musical for all I care. The one thing you can not be is a Troll (i.e., rude person who uses personal insults and invectives to try and belittle others at the site and/or start flame wars with them). All I meant to say with the Snark Sightings post was that my hope for this site is to encourage people to get beyond the one-liner and actually engage each other with... well... logic and analysis and humor and all those other things that seem to have gone the way of the dodo in politics and many other spheres in our modern, hyper-connected world.

    Snarkiness can be funny. It can be thought provoking. It can be literary. It can even, apparently, be some guy crashed out with a stuffed bear. Though I prefer this picture of a sleeping snark, personally. What it should not be is the only, even principle, way of expressing yourself. That's all I was saying.

    The second rule of Snark Club is that Snark eggs are quite tasty when fried soft with a little salt and pepper.


    More Librarian Geekitude

    But at least this time the animals are real (click on Dogs of Wisconsin Libraries). Well, okay, not always (click on Balloon Dogs). On a more serious note, this is an interesting list, I think. Steinbeck still makes the cut! For a longer view of history, this is also a fascinating list.

    Plus, if you're interested in Wisconsin history, and really, who isn't?, then do check this site out. Check out the entire Wisconsin Historical Society site while you're at it. Great stuff.

    Jourtinel Bias Tracker

    Okay, time for round two of examining the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Sunday editorial section, Crossroads, for bias. Round one results are here, and yes Jack, this week's results are also through my favorite pair of glasses-- namely the one's I can actually see with. That was a bit snarky. Sorry. At any rate, there were once again 13 articles (I wonder if that will be the standard, and if so, when, if ever, we will see variations), and by my rough estimation, three were conservative, five were liberal (including both JS editorials), and five were neutral or not applicable. The two week total then:

    Conservative articles: 6
    Liberal articles: 11
    Neutral/Not Applicable articles: 9
    The letters were more balanced this week, with four conservative, five liberal (four of which supported a beer tax), and one neutral. Two week total for letters:

    Conservative: 5
    Liberal: 11
    Neutral: 4

    In general, I am finding that the Journal Sentinel to be more balanced than I expected. With the exception of their own editorial essays, which are four for four on being liberal, there is generally a good balancing of positions, with many issues providing opposing viewpoints right next to each other on the page. Take away the four JS editorials, and the balance is six conservative, seven liberal, and nine neutral/not applicable. So, really all we need to do is get more conservative voices on the actual JS editorial board, and the newspaper won't be too badly skewed left.

    Now if only I had any confidence the same was true of the BBC, NY Times, and network news agencies. Not to mention the Associated Press.

    Monday, April 11, 2005

    The Masters and other sports happenings

    It's been written about in plenty of other places, but I do just have to say that Tiger's shot on the 16th yesterday was one of those truly spine-tingling sporting experiences. I also have to say that Chris DiMarco's performance over the final 18 holes Sunday was remarkable-- to come back from a 41 on the final nine holes of the third round that morning and to post a 68, while playing with Woods... remarkable. Just great determination and focus. One of the talking heads kept going on and on about Woods' greatest strength being his mental toughness and focus-- crapola. Maybe over the course of his career, I'll give you that, but Sunday afternoon, DiMarco was a whole lot more focused and far tougher mentally than Tigger.

    DiMarco ground, and ground, and didn't let up, ever-- and Tiger blinked. Twice. Anyone ever remember Tiger Woods bogeying BOTH of the final two holes of a golf course, much less doing so with a two shot lead at the Masters? Anyone willing to say that a focused, mentally tough player hits his ball long on 16 and misses the fairway on both 17 and 18? No way. Fortunately for Tiger, he is such a phenomenal player that he was able to escape despite his mental errors over the final three holes. And I think the break before the playoff allowed him to recapture that focus and toughness we normally associate with Woods. But he wasn't more focused or mentally tougher than DiMarco over the final nine on Sunday at Augusta.

    And while the 162-0 dream is gone, the Brewers won their home opener today, and are tied for first in the NL Central, boys and girls! Woohoo! 160-2, here we come!

    Snark Sightings

    From the Oxford English Dictionary: snark n. An imaginary animal. snark v. To find fault (with), to nag.

    So then, a snark is an imaginary animal that likes to nag and niggle and fret about others. And I believe I have one reading my blog. Goes by the imaginary name of Jack Montag, and he most certainly has been in a nagging, niggling, nettling mood of late. Here's a roundup of some recent snarkages from Mr. Montag:

  • This is about basketball, right? It's hard for me to imagine caring this much, but there are things that I'm passionate about, too, so I guess I need to try substituting basketball in my thoughts about family, sex, rock and roll, etc. Then maybe I'll get it. [In response to my string of posts regarding March Madness]
  • Much to do about nothing much. [In response to my contention that Sandy Berger destroying classified documents and then lying about it was a big deal]
  • All seen through the deeply colored lenses of your favorite glasses? The very act of observing something, changes it, right? I would submit that you cannot truly see bias, because you see it only from your point of view. [In response to my post on bias in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
  • When does the soul leave the body? [In response to my post about Mae Magouirk]
  • Now I should add that Jack kicked in some interesting, and detailed, thoughts on the heaven/TMNT thread and the Hitchhiker's movie thread, although the latter of those is a bit snarky, too, in my opinion. 'Course, maybe I'm wearing my overly-sensitive glasses.

    At any rate, I bring this up not so much to be pissy with Jack, but rather to mention that I'm not sure what purpose snarkiness serves. The comments annoyed me quite a bit, initially-- particularly the one about Sandy Berger-- and while I think perhaps the snarkiness was meant to push my buttons to the degree of getting me to rant some more, I don't think they were intended to actually offend me. Though, initially, they did. I mulled them over in my head, and knowing Jack as I do, decided that he was just trying to push my buttons, and maybe even help me, in an odd sort of way, to formalize my own thinking and conclusions on these matters. But it was probably good that I did not respond immediately to any of the comments, as my response would likely have been just as snarky, and quite probably either defensive or mean spirited. Perhaps both.

    It's easy to be snarky. To be on the sidelines, picking and snipping and focusing on this bit or that bit. I do it all the time, I must admit. Snarking often makes the snark seem clever (Ah, excellent riposte, 'ole man), they don't take much effort (all four snarks highlighted above amount to one average length paragraph), and they generally allow the snark to assume the moral high ground. Whichever party is not in power at a given time in U.S. history is likely to be chock full of snarks-- because it's easier to snark away from the edges of power than it is to have substantive debates about important issues. And, of course, some people just love to snark no matter what, so there are plenty of people on the other side of any issue ready and willing to be snarks-- myself included.

    At any rate, here at Libertarian Librarian, let's try to rise above snarkiness. By this I don't mean that no one line responses are allowed, or no irony, satire or sarcasm will be allowed. Rather, that there be a bit more substance behind those things. Snarkiness is not a be all and end all itself. Dialogue, remember? Hard to have a dialogue with a snark-- he's too busy being snarky to really engage himself in the conversation. And knowing Jack, indeed, knowing nearly everybody that's reading this stuff, I'd much rather have an intelligent, well-reasoned, even passionate, argument or debate with him, or any of you, than I would a snarkathon.

    Who knows, could be contagious. Pretty soon, the snark could be on the endangered species list. That'd be nice, don't ya think?


    Friday, April 08, 2005

    On a lighter note

    The Brewers just tied the Cubs in the top of the ninth, 3-3 on an Overbay double! Woot! Carlos Lee up with a chance to give the Brew Crew the lead. Come on Brewers-- lets win this one and keep the 162-0 dream alive!

    Crap. Lee flied out. Well, shut them down in the bottom half, and lets play some bonus baseball, boys!


    And while we're at it-- ponder this, too

    Interesting discussion here at Libertarian Librarian, and six million other places, about the Terri Schiavo case, mostly revolving around that invisible and oh-so-hard-to-define line on when life is no longer life worth living, who has responsibility for that decision, and what each of us would choose in that situation. Okay, here's a new one. The goal posts have been moved-- this woman is apparently not in a permanently vegetative state and has a living will saying she does NOT wish to be malnourished to death. Yet that is apparently what is happening.

    Think on this quote, from the woman who had 85-year-old Mae Magouirk admitted two weeks ago:

    "Grandmama is old and I think it is time she went home to Jesus," Gaddy told Magouirk's brother and nephew, McLeod and Ken Mullinax. "She has glaucoma and now this heart problem, and who would want to live with disabilities like these?"
    I'm not a big fan of the slippery slope argument-- you can make it on both sides of nearly every argument, but in this case... well, it certainly didn't take long to get from persistent vegetative state to just plain old, did it? In the Schiavo case, though I disliked the result, the system worked as it was designed to work. In this case, it seems to be F'in up pretty spectacularly. Hopefully, that will be corrected in the near future, or Ms. Magouirk will likely pay for it with her life.

    Something to ponder over the weekend

    So, last night, out of the blue, my four-year-old son starts asking me all these questions about heaven. I'm guessing they talked about the Pope dying in his pre-school class. Here are some of his questions:
  • Is there sun in heaven?
  • Do people have houses there?
  • Are there toys? Because if there are toys, I hope they have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I don't have any of those.
  • What is great-grandpa doing in heaven?

    It's amazing where these types of questions can lead you when you discuss them with a child. The answer to the last question went something along the lines of, "Well, I'm guessing that great-grandpa is probably growing plants. That was one of his favorite things, growing things." To which he naturally replies, "So, you have to eat things in heaven?" Leaving me... where? "Well, yes, I guess so. But even if you don't have to eat in heaven, I think great-grandpa would be growing things because that was something he loved to do."

    And on. It was both fun and charming and difficult-- how to explain some of the coneptions I have of the after-life to someone with only four and a half years of life experience. I recommend it to everyone.

    Which leads to this: in light of Terri Schiavo and the Pope dying in the last few weeks, how do you picture the afterlife? What's heaven like-- and do you think everyone goes there? Most importantly:

    Do they have Mutant Ninja Turtles there?
  • Thursday, April 07, 2005

    The tenth anniversary of the Jourtinel

    Milwaukee used to be a two newspaper town, the Milwaukee Sentinel and the Milwaukee Journal. Of course, they were owned by the same company, Journal Communications, Inc., so the two papers were often hard to distinguish from one another, except that the Sentinel came out in the morning, and the Journal in the afternoon. In 1995, Journal Communications decided to end the pretense that the two were autonomous entities and merged them into one paper-- the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, or Jourtinel for short.

    Happy anniversary Jourtinel!

    Here's my anniversary present to you-- I will be doing occassional, random surveys of your coverage to see if the liberal bias is as bad at the Jourtinel as I suspect it to be. For the sake of simplicity, I will mostly be looking at the Sunday editorial section, known as Crossroads, with the occassional highlighting of particularly bad, or particularly balanced, examples elsewhere in the paper. As we look at Crossroads, bear in mind that last fall O. Ricardo Pimentel, the Editorial Page Editor, formed an advisory board from members of the public who volunteered for the position. The intent of the advisory board was to help ensure that the editorial coverage was even-handed and representative.

    Okay, so first up, last Sunday's Crossroads section, which contained twelve articles and ten letters to the editor. The twelve articles are as follows:

    Front page:
  • "We owe it to our families to talk now about what we would want," Ellen Goodman
  • "Laws must be obeyed, but legal system must be consistent," Cal Thomas
  • "Serendipity often determines if death is natural," Anne Applebaum
  • "Brookfields' battle latest in municipal mayhem," John Gurda

    Page 2:
  • "100 dead trout and a modest proposal," Melissa Scanlan

  • Page 3:
  • "Bush's covert PR effort doesn't differ all that much from FDR's," Mordacai Lee
  • "The Bush administration spins, and journalists slack off," Kansas City Star Editorial Board
  • "Syria's bad-guy role can spoil U.S. script in Mideast drama," Senior diplomatic correspondent of USA Today

    Page 4:
  • "A federal jury confirms: This game is still rigged," Gregory Stanford
  • "Social Security reform about more than repair," Patrick McIlheran
  • The editorial board's recommendation to vote for Elizabeth Burmaster for Superintendent of Public Schools, to vote for the Racine school referendum, and to vote against the Waukesha school referendum.

    Page 5:
  • "Enact a cap on damage awards," Sally Pipes
  • "How about capping medical errors?" Michael Saks

    Page 5 also had the Letters to the Editor, which broke down this way:
  • On Terri Schiavo, four letters ripped Bush and/or Congress, one ripped Jesse Jackson, and one was in favor of the attempts to circumvent the judiciary.
  • The other four were on scattered topics, with one ripping Bush's energy programs, one arguing that papers aren't liberal just because 70% of all journalists consider themselves to be liberal, one arguing that the proposed $1 tax on cigarettes in Wisconsin is a terrible idea, and one trying to make some sort of point on cloning and failing miserably.

    The score then?

    The Jourtinel did a good job on the Schiavo case, presenting a liberal (Goodman), conservative (Thomas) and neutral (Applebaum) viewpoint. The counterpoint on medical malpractice (Pipes and Saks) was also balanced. Stanford's (liberal) bashing and condescension toward a recent ruling against former Milwaukee police chief Arthur Jones was balanced by McIlheran's (conservative) thoughtful piece on Social Security. The Gurda piece on Brookfield, and the non-point pollution pieces are fairly neutral, though I'd say skewed slightly left, with no counter-argument presented.

    Which leaves the Page 3 pieces, two of which are critical of Bush and his policies, and one of which is fairly neutral, but has a negative headline, and the letters which are heavily skewed to the left. Add on to that the board's endorsement of Burmaster-- a wholly owned subsidiary of the WEAC (the teacher's union)-- and their support of the referendum in Racine (thankfully shot down despite the Jourtinel).

    Not to worry, Troy, I won't generalize from this one example. I think I'll do this every week, actually. Should be interesting. The total by my accounting (which I will grant you is biased by my own impressions and predispositions):

    Conservative articles: 3
    Liberal articles: 6 (Including the Burmaster endorsement)
    Neutral/balanced articles: 4

    Separate category for the letters:

    Conservative: 1
    Liberal: 6
    Neutral: 3

    I am using Conservative/Liberal/Neutral as catch all categories. A Conservative article could be pro-administration, pro-conservative viewpoint, anti-Democrat, or anti-liberal viewpoint. Liberal articles are anti-administration, pro-liberal viewpoint, anti-Republican or pro-Democrat. Neutral articles are, well neutral-- possibly because they deal with issues separate from politics, or because they attempt to present a balanced picture of the situation.

    Clear as mud? Good.
  • Wednesday, April 06, 2005

    23 Days to the Guide!

    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy comes to the big screen on April 29, and I have to admit I haven't felt this mix of apprehension and expectation about a film since The Fellowship of the Ring. That turned out to be marvelous. Hopefully, the Guide will as well. The production/cinematics of the thing look marvelous, and though I don't know most of the cast, since they are primarily British, they do look the parts-- and having John Malkovich and Alan Rickman can't be a bad thing. Watched the trailer and was slightly surprised at the large quantity of explosions it contained, but I am heartened by the fact that Douglas Adams was working on the screenplay prior to his death.

    After doing a bit more research, I am also encouraged by this interview with Garth Jennings (director) and Nick Goldsmith (producer). Somehow, they do seem to fit with the Douglas Adams mentality, and there is something appropriate about a first-time director and producer heading up the project. A "name" guy like Spielberg would bring too much "glitz" and well-worn techniques to the thing. The Hitchhiker's Guide is zany, it's irreverent, and it's different-- I think these guys get that. I am also encouraged by the fact that they feel the movie needs to have a "different feel" to it, and that it will not be CG driven.

    On the Importance of Records

    Okay, I'm an archivist. Some folks, indeed many folks, when first confronted with that fact respond with, "Um... okay. What's an archivist?" Fair question. An archivist is someone who preserves the historic record. We save, in some ways shape, history by determining what materials to preserve, what materials to destroy, and how to provide access to the materials we select for preservation. Archvists generally come to the profession with either a history background or a library background. Often, with both. Anyway, we believe what we do to be important because in a free and open society, it is important not only to preserve history, but also to make it as transparent as possible. There is a need to preserve the records of the early Republic, of the actions of slave owners during the Civil War, of the diaries and journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and, most especially, of our elected representatives throughout our history. The victor may get to write the history, but archivists try to make sure that the writing is reasonably accurate and reflected by the record.

    It is important in a free and open society for our government to be accountable, and the best way to keep the government accountable is for the records of goverment operation to be 1) maintained and b) accessible to the citizenry. There's a reason paper shredders are so popular with folks who know they've been naughty and are about to be busted for it-- the record is damning. "Follow the money," goes the famous line, but following the money is only possible if there is a record of where and how the money traveled. Even classified records must be maintained, because some day they may not need to be classified, and then it will be important for us to review them.

    I bring this up because I find this to be just totally outrageous. $10,000 and NO JAIL TIME? Are you kidding me with this crap? Sandy Berger deliberately stole classified documents, purposefully destroyed them, and then lied about it to federal authorities! ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS CRAP?!

    Seriously, folks-- records are important, and records at this level are very important. What Berger did stinks not only of cover-up and corruption, it stinks of a huge disregard for us and for the foundation of our society. Berger thumbs his nose at ALL of us, Clinton laughs it off as "good 'ole, Sandy," and the mainstream media barely mentions it. As usual, James Lileks sums up my thoughts on the subject quite nicely:

    The whitewash continues, somewhat. Berger's defenders note the Justice Department's carefully worded conclusions: There was no evidence Berger was "trying to conceal information when he illegally took copies of classified terrorism documents," as The Washington Post put it. Investigators decided he'd taken them for "personal convenience ... to prepare testimony." (Apparently it's not so bad to steal the Constitution if you have a quiz on American history the next day.)
    Read the whole thing. And please believe me when I tell you-- records are important, and this should be a big deal. To all of us.

    Some more thoughts on bias

    I saw this post, and it got me to thinking. It's usually pretty easy to find bias, on either side of any issue, that is out front and fairly easily discerned. What's much harder is to find the bias evident in what is NOT reported, or what is NOT presented. The link above is a good case in point-- just looking at those photos, it's easy to think, 'Yeah, those are all good photos, I can see why they won the award.' It's only if you step back from the photos and realize what's NOT there, photographs of the reconstruction, photographs of schools reopening, photographs of the soldiers playing with Iraqi kids, that you realize that these photos are also a form of bias. Certainly all of the photos selected are good, but there are only two reasons why they don't include many, some would say any, positive images: 1) The selectors chose not to include any, showing either explicit or subconscious bias against the U.S. military and the War in Iraq, or 2) No "real" journalists took any, showing a tremendous amount of bias on the part of the AP photographers. I say "real" journalists, because it seems that lots and lots of other people, mostly our soldiers, have no such problem finding positive images from Iraq.

    Tuesday, April 05, 2005

    And so the madness fades

    With a mighty heave-ho, that 3 won't go, my dream NCAA bracket goes down in flames. How do Luther Head and DeRon Williams miss four wide open threes with the game on the line? Sigh. Oh well, it was a fun run while it lasted. I was the highest scoring person who picked the final game wrong, which is worth, um, well, nothing actually.

    It was a fun game, though, and I was pumping my fist like Tiger Woods at the Masters when Illinois was making their run. They just couldn't quite get over that hump-- if they had managed to take the lead, I think the game was theirs, but they just couldn't quite get that last basket to break Carolina's back. Give both teams a lot of credit-- Illinois for scratching back from a 13 point half-time deficit, and Carolina for not folding down the stretch after watching that big lead slip away to nothing. Two great teams putting the exclamation point on one of the most memorable Big Dances of my lifetime.

    In other sports news-- the Brewers are in 1ST PLACE! Woot, we're heading for the pennant, bay-bee! Cy Young for Sheets, Rookie of the Year for Hardy, Cirillo for MVP! Okay, okay, I'll settle down now. But it was nice to see a little offense out of the Brewers, and getting an opening day win is always a good thing.

    Monday, April 04, 2005

    More on that bias stuff

    Troy busts me a bit in regards to my recent posting on bias. To wit, the irony of me ripping on those making sweeping generalizations in a post where I make a sweeping generalization. To quote the man from Minnesota (no-- he's not a Vikings fan):

    Well, I am glad that you just rationalized your viewpoint based on a couple of morons. I personally don't care enough to know who James Wolcott or Lee Siegel are, but apparently, they are so awful that anyone who reads them has to become a Republican. Funny, I use the same argument for being liberal by saying that Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly are moroms. What happened to those comments about bias? In this media-heavy world, you can always find someone to make you feel better about your opinion. Just don't be so smug as to use these morons to say that the other side is stupid.

    Fair point, though I don't think I've ever said the other side is stupid. Actually, I try not to take sides, though I do think that the Main Stream Media (MSM) is heavily biased to the left. But Troy's right-- in this media-heavy world you can always find someone that agrees with you or makes you feel superior about your beliefs. I guess, in that particular post, I wasn't so much trying to claim that most media, particularly the main stream media, is stupid, or even slanted to the left, so much as to illustrate two particularly egregious examples. Maybe I was just venting about morons, and both of them happened to be liberals. At any rate, there are lots and lots and lots of other examples of liberal bias in MSM, and there are some counter-examples as well-- particularly in talk radio which is undeniably heavily slanted to the right, Air America not withstanding.

    So, what's the point? Well, I suppose the point is to find a variety of viewpoints on the important issues, weigh the evidence, and then make up your mind. Don't gather all your info from newspapers, or TV, or one or two blog sites. This is the age of information-- don't settle for one source, or even two. And try not to fall into a rut, unless you now a cantankerous chap from Minnesota who'll call you on it.


    Friday, April 01, 2005

    OTIT: Bias in book blurbs

    One of my responsibilities as a librarian is to select new books for the collection. In particular, I select, in conjunction with the appropriate faculty, history, geography and environmental science books. Periodically through the year, I'll receive pre-release notices from various publishers, as well as reviews from a variety of sources on forthcoming or recently released monographs. Today, I received a bunch of pre-release notices from Nova Science Publishers, Inc. including one for The Global War on Terrorism: Assessing the American Response, which is described as follows:

    The signal events opening the global war on terrorism were the attacks of September 11. The world media began to focus on one of the terrorist groups, as-Qaeda, a well-funded terrorist organization headquartered in Afghanistan or Pakistan with offshoots in many countries. American has turned out to be the primary target of al-Qaeda. America's first response was the attack on Afghanistan and the establishing of a puppet government. Next America attacked Iraq under the guise of a response to terrorism although no connection has been proven or even alleged except by hardcore neocons aligned with certain elements in the Washington power establishment. This new book pierces the veil of disinformation with frank assessments of the progress or lack thereof of the war on terrorism.

    Wow. Now remember-- this isn't a coffee table book or a mass market publication. This is supposed to be scholarly. Yet we have such lovely catch phrases as "establishing a puppet government," and "this new book pierces the veil of disinformation with frank assessments...." Fair and balanced, one suspects, is not a phrase considered by the editor or authors except, perhaps, to belittle Fox News while they go along on their merry little government ripping way. My favorite, though, is "Next America attacked Iraq under the guise of a response to terrorism although no connection has been proven or even alleged except by hardcore neocons aligned with certain elements in the Washington power establishment."

    Okay, first of all, the attack on Iraq was not solely "under the guise of a response to terrorism...." It was about WMD's, it was about Iraq's refusal to abide by UN resolutions, it was about liberating the people and establishing a democracy in the Mid-East. And yes, it was also about the fact that there were connections between Iraq and terrorists, including, but not limited to, al-Qaeda operatives. But I mean, really, could we break out any other tired old liberal canards against the war in Iraq?

    Oh wait, yes we can. Because we also have the rest of the sentence, "...although no connection has been proven or even alleged except by hardcore neocons aligned with certain elements in the Washington power establishment." Well, this is just wrong. The 9-11 report stated there was no cooperation between Saddam's Iraq and al-Qaeda, but there definitely was a connection. And beyond that, al-Qaeda is only one terrorist group-- there are plenty of others, and at least some of these were directly supported by Saddam. We are not at war with al-Qaeda. We are at war with terrorism. Anyway, I love the last bit most of all, where there are shadowy references to neocons and "certain elements in the Washington power establishment." I mean, come on. Could we make the executive branch of the United States sound any more menacing or full of subterfuge? What a perposterous bunch of puffery.

    The most interesting thing about the blurb is that it's a publishers blurb-- they want you to buy this book for your library. Now, do you suppose it's just possible that the blurb is phrased that way because they're trying to appeal to a particular audience? Say, a heavily liberal faculty base that was mostly against the War on Terror in the first place? Nah, that can't be-- universities are for the free expression of all viewpoints. Right?


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